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Email marketing: Winning holiday creative, part 1

We’re all about to take the big plunge into the frenzied world of holiday season 2013, and most brands have already plotted their cross-channel marketing road map from Thanksgiving into the New Year. Projections for this year's holiday sales range from grim to grandiose. Data from Baynote suggests that holiday spending will be up 11% from last year, while a Wall Street Journal article predicts that this will be the worst holiday season since 2009.

One thing is certain, however: making a great first impression with early holiday email sends is essential to laying the groundwork for meaningful customer relationships all season long - and beyond. Customers know that they’ll hear from brands more often over the next couple of months, and they’ll be on high alert for marketing creative and strategy that adds value to their holiday shopping experiences.

As the season begins, it’s helpful to reflect on email creative that started last year’s holiday season off right – and to give your brand’s plans some final consideration.

Early holiday highlights from 2012:

Burton: The best use of social media on Thanksgiving

I love how Burton's copy offers thanks in a sincere tone without needing to even mention the Thanksgiving holiday itself. The photo speaks to the holiday in a way that feels very true to the brand, conveying warmth and forgoing the sales pitch. The social call-out also demonstrates a nuanced grasp of customers’ relationship with Facebook: just including the logo and a question is enough to tell subscribers that Burton wants them to post on the Burton Facebook page. Finally, the inclusion of local store info is a smart move on the day before Black Friday, reminding subscribers where they can get into the Burton store.

LOFT: The cheekiest Black Friday email                                                                              

This email creative has its risks – it doesn't offer a clear message if the subscriber doesn't click. However, the irony of the phrase “This is huge” in tiny font, the “OMG!” preheader and subject line, and the enthusiastic simplicity of the solid pink background all contribute to creative that stands out in the very cluttered Black Friday inbox.

STA Travel: The most fun Cyber Monday teaser

I’m a sucker for a cute cartoon robot, but I also like the way that STA Travel builds anticipation with an elusive first touch email, and then follows up later with a familiar creative and some great travel discounts.

The takeaway

From Thanksgiving Thursday through Cyber Monday, your customers will get bombarded with digital marketing touchpoints through every channel, and email marketing still delivers some of the best holiday ROI. Set the right tone by taking one last creative assessment of your holiday kickoff emails. Ask yourself: does this email capture the  relationship that we want to build on throughout the season?

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