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  • January 18, 2008

Season Finale: Christmas 2007

A look back on seasonal trends, email activity and standout B2C marketing:

Start to finish: The first reference to Christmas was in mid August by Hallmark. The final reference was on Jan. 31 from Barnes & Noble.

First references: Instead of doing a distribution curve of holiday emails like I usually do in Season Finales, this time I’m giving you a chart indicating when 108 of the top online retailers made their first reference to Christmas or the holidays in an email (excluding the “Christmas in July” campaigns). The most popular days for first references were Nov. 13 and Oct. 18, followed by Nov. 1 and 2 and Oct. 25. On average, retailers’ first references to the holidays came 58 days before Christmas.

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Most interesting emails: This holiday season two of the most interesting email campaigns involved incentivizing actions, instead of sales. Neiman Marcus ran clickthrough sweepstakes starting with a Nov. 13 email with the subject line “FREE GIFT WRAP ON THE BIG 100 & A chance to win one + FREE SHIPPING AT ANY PRICE.” In this email, Neiman Marcus incentivizes subscribers to clickthrough the email, giving them a chance to win one of the gifts on their Big 100 Gifts List. I hadn’t seen a sweepstakes for clickthroughs before. It’s a cool idea, and really easy for people to enter since there are no forms to fill out. Later in the day, Neiman Marcus followed up with another email in which they announced the name of the person who won the clickthrough sweepstakes. They also set up the expectation of another opportunity to win the next morning.

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In a Nov. 19 email, Old Navy launches a wish list sweepstakes campaign, incentivizing people to create wish lists by offering them a chance to win everything on it. To sweeten the pot, they also threw in a chance to win $10,000. The excellent thing about this sweepstakes is that it has consumers actively exploring Old Navy’s products and discovering products that they might like. That’s got to be one of the stickiest sweepstakes that a retailer can run. On the downside, entering this sweepstakes opts you into the email programs of all four of Gap Inc.’s brands—Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Piperlime—unless you uncheck a pre-checked box. That’s a risky way to build your list (see Nov. 20 AM Inbox).

During the holidays, it becomes imperative to clearly communicate your shipping deadlines. In that regard, I think that Sports Authority laid out their deadlines most clearly with this graphic from a Dec. 17 email.

Noteworthy trend: There were several retailers this year that sent out emails with season’s greetings subject lines that had promotional messages inside, with just a little season’s greeting topper. So what seemed like a soft sell email from the subject line was actually a hard sell email. Approximately 10% of the largest online retailers sent non-promotional Christmas greetings this year, and Ralph Lauren was the only one to send a video greeting.

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Cool tool: OfficeMax used a cool twist on send-to-a-friend technology in a Dec. 11 email. In it, OfficeMax incentivizes subscribers to send a $30-off coupon to a friend. When you send it to a friend, the email’s subject line says “____ has sent you a gift of Savings‏” and is personalized with the sender’s name. The sender can include a message that shows up at the top of the email along with a message from OfficeMax saying:

You received this email from a friend who is an OfficeMax customer. You will not receive additional emails from OfficeMax as a result of receiving this message. If you would like to receive OfficeMax emails directly in the future, please sign up now.

The message is slightly different from the original message, so it’s not a true forward. On the downside, if it were more of a true forward the friend would have been able to send the coupon on to their friends. As it is, the message received by the friend doesn’t include a way to forward the savings along again. That’s a bit of a missed opportunity, cutting the viral process short.

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Standout subject lines:
Crate & Barrel, 10/22 — What holiday tables are wearing...plus Free Shipping
RadioShack, 10/28 — The holidays are just around the corner. Fortunately, so are we.
OfficeMax, 11/19 — Deck Your Desk with Style and Savings
KB Toys, 11/30 — Hot Toys Still in Stock
RedEnvelope, 12/6 — Excuses don't make good gifts
Harry & David, 12/9 — 12 Gifts Your True Love Will Appreciate (More Than Birds, Milkmaids, Pipers, etc.)
RedEnvelope, 12/18 — Missed ground cut-off? We'll upgrade your shipping for free.
Lands’ End, 12/18 — Procrastinators rejoice! Christmas STILL ships free

Subject lines that stand out for the wrong reasons:
Abercrombie & Fitch, 12/18 — Don't Get Scrooged! Order By Noon Tomorrow.
The logic here is a little twisted. Who’s doing the scrooging? And how does buying a gift for someone keep you from being scrooged by others? I think what they meant was “Don’t Be a Scrooge! Order by Noon Tomorrow.”

J. Crew, 12/3 — Give diamonds (get free shipping)
This email is about argyle but some people—thinking that it was about diamond jewelry and not interested in buying jewelry or buying it from J. Crew—probably didn’t clickthrough to find that out. J. Crew was clearly trying to be creative, but it seems so straightforward that it probably just mislead subscribers.

Lillian Vernon, 11/14 — Don't Even Get Dressed! Free Shipping Online
I believe the idea is that you don’t even have to get dressed to take advantage of these holiday deals, but Lillian Vernon doesn’t carry the subject line through to the body of the email.

Read previous Christmas Season Finales: 2006

Read previous posts about Christmas emails.
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