Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Marketing, De-evolution Style!

Friday, 22. October 2010 by Gavin Handley

Last week I received this fan email, from new wave band Devo. I went on-line and checked out what they were up to. Turns out they’re launching a new album.  Here’s a great example of an awesome 80’s band leveraging 21st century technology.

The Spud boys have always understood how to leverage themselves and their message through great marketing. With the launch of their first album in 20 years, they recently created focus groups . Of the many things they surveyed, one question asked respondents to choose which songs should go on the album. Another question asked, “What color [of power domes] makes this musical group feel more effective?” They embraced current feedback and have now relaunched themselves. You’ll see their stuff on all the mainstream social networks you can think of.  Clearly this was their intention, as you’ll see in their tagline, “Devo is Everywhere.” Fitting that as the band who espouses futuristic predictions, they would be the ones to embrace new technology. Check out this tongue-and-cheek  video chronicling their relaunch campaign. It’s as unique as Devo.


Even my 3 year old daugher is a fan of Devo since they are featured on one of her favorite shows, Nickolodeon’s Yo Gabba Gabba!

I’m so excited about their comeback, I know what I’m going to be for Halloween already!

Time for a facelift? – Newsletters

Wednesday, 29. September 2010 by Gavin Handley

Had the same newsletter template/design for 12 or more months? It is a good time for a facelift. Here are a few reasons why.
- It’s a good opportunity to do some in-depth analysis on what is working and what is not. If a section of your newsletter is not performing, yank it or change it up in the template. If anything, your readers will appreciate a fresh look. 

- It goes without saying from best practices point of view you should always be adapting your emails to contend with image rendering issues etc.

- From a design stand point, try and keep it simple but aesthetically pleasing, and don’t be afraid of white space. It will clearly define your content.

Once you have your new template, now is the time to optimize your newsletter. I think all e-marketers struggle with how much is too much, or too little! Each month I suggest selecting a section of the newsletter and do an A – B test, example, if you have top 10 tips:

1) Version A- Feature 1 tip with a CTA to all 10 tips

2) Version B- Feature 3 tips with a CTA to all 10 tips

This is a great exercise, depending on the content I found anything from a 20% lift in click-through to a 20% decline.

Change is good – here is the header image layout for Gallery Exposure, that was tested well over 4 years:

Animated gifs

Friday, 10. September 2010 by Gavin Handley

As a self-confessed Home & Garden TV addict, I think this email from Bed Bath & Beyond is a great example for how to use animated gifs. And what a great way to feature a partner product, like Sherwin-Williams in this example, that truly compliments your own. Although the email is a little busy I think the objective is achieved – inspiration! This variation in color palette definitely motivates me to give my bedroom a make-over.

Using animated gifs is also a great opportunity to have an A – B test, from my experience we saw a 10 – 15% lift in revenue over the standard HTML version. Of course you don’t want the novelty to wear off so don’t over use this option and make sure to keep it relevant to the product you are selling. Animated gifs is still well supported by most email clients.


We want your vote!

Monday, 30. August 2010 by Gavin Handley

Want to showcase more products/product designs in your emails?  

It is always a challenge for a marketer and designer to create an email that the business requires to showcase a number of new products/designs. One great solution is to leverage the poll/vote functionality that most ESP’s provide; the benefit in this is you don’t only get to showcase what you want but you also get the customers feedback and future targeting opportunities.

 Another thought is to use this type of campaign as a teaser to the bigger event and give valuable feedback to product marketers and designers on what products to feature in the new product launch.

I am really surprised I do not see marketers leveraging this existing technology more.

I have not used one myself but there are a number of different poll apps available for FaceBook that would give you a similar result and may even increase your fan base!

Here is a campaign I ran at Kodak Gallery using this functionality:

I don’t like list rentals.

Thursday, 27. August 2009 by Anna Billstrom


This has come up in a few conversations on EmailRoundtable, and in a conversation between me and @LorenMcDonald, and I thought I’d put my thoughts here. I don’t like list rentals. But to elaborate, let’s talk about the various ways of (in)organically acquiring email addresses:

- For a fee, you use another company’s email systems to send your email. It’s on their system, but they send your content. All links in email go back to your site.
- Some companies sell their lists. So they actually hand over part of their customer base. You insert into your system and drop the email.
- Some companies share part of a newsletter with you, so you can insert a form, and acquire sign-ups.
- Some companies do back-end overlays of data models, to determine who in your company list, fits the model and is thus a good fit for some kind of segment.
- Some companies specialize in giving you extra data on your email list. So I have the email, they will tell me the email’s favorite flavor of ice cream.

I’ve avoided using the marketing terms for the above processes as that’s a completely different discussion.

Issues to think about if you consider any of these options
What’s the email’s provenance? How did the consumer give their permission? The minute you use that email, you are potentially a spammer, if you are unaware of how it was given. And check back a few generations.

Whatever route you take, will the customer understand the relationship? The email I used to opt-in to Zappos emails, and suddenly I’m getting Gap emails. Does that make sense? Don’t underestimate the consumer. They know how they interacted with your company. It doesn’t take a lot to be considered spam.

Are you giving over more value than what you’re being provided? If I give 100K emails to a datafarm, I need to understand that I’m providing them with value. They only exist by the customers they have, and the lists they get.

As Loren McDonald says very well in his post, If Someone Says Buy A List One More Time…”

After all, marketers who ask about buying lists could just be asking, “How can I build my list quickly, and where can I acquire email addresses?” Unfortunately, there is no easy way to build a good list quickly. If there were, presumably we’d all be doing it.

Here’s the truth: In the email world, you can’t buy legitimate email addresses. You know those $399 CDs with 50 million email addresses? Most of the addresses are probably harvested or gathered in some less-than-stellar manner. Many are probably either out of date, converted to “honeypots” by ISPs looking to trap some spammers, or otherwise undeliverable. The owners of those addresses certainly haven’t given you permission to email them.

There are many methods of increasing your email list, “organically,” a term I use just to say, it’s part of the normal process of business. It varies by company and organization, and it’s largely to do with getting out the word that you have interesting mailing campaigns, that you make it a priority to take email addresses at F2F events, strategic parts of your site, at the cash register, etc. Viral campaigns are great, and parternship marketing.

For clients who have explored the acquisition routes above, I have never seen one of them that has exhausted the organic methods. Lifecycle, “triggered” emails are probably the most unsung hero in acquisition channels. It enhances the relationship, it is targeted, and personalized, and 24×7. But it’s a little tricky to execute. I think marketers go the “easy” route by back-end data models, because it’s something they understand, whereas lifecycle emails are not one-hit-wonders but slow growth. Still, when you compare cost and response rates, lifecycles win every time. Web 2.0 companies understand this- their emails are short, text-only (or with maybe 1 image) and triggered according to user activity on their site. They notify you of social relationships- and they create a stickiness. Unfortunately retail and consumer goods haven’t launched onto this as much, they’re still in the image-heavy, HTML one-drop-a-week world, barely inching up from the “cart abandonment” email campaigns. They can go there, and some are trying, but it’s a hard row to hoe.

Reading on the topic
How to Grow A List ClickZ
Email list rental may fall out of favor DM News. Great quote from Julie Katz at Forrester:

“We saw it coming because renting names from a list can be very risky for a marketer,” says Julie Katz, analyst at Forrester Research. “Those people don’t necessarily have any affinity with your brand. Also, if the names are bad, you could get caught in a spam trap and it can ruin your reputation.”

Bulk email lists: good or bad? by Mark Brownlow on Email Experience Reports

Tea party, or note card? Social Marketing & Email Newsletters

Tuesday, 17. March 2009 by Anna Billstrom

A colleague of mine recently was very excited because they were going to get a lot more hits on their blog. They were promoting it in an email newsletter. They had actually gotten the marketing department to agree to the first paragraph of the email and the subject line, for an advertisement of the blog. This was their third announcement of the blog, to lukewarm results. Initially a hundred or so hits on the blog (from 100K or so email list). And very few stuck around.

The problem, I see, is that beyond the initial announcement, and frequent mention saying “check out our blog,” there is no reason to have a goal of moving an email list to a blog reader list, or seeming to communicate that to your readers.

For example, your sister likes you to call her when you have news, your aunt likes a nice note card, while your grandmother would be perfectly happy if you saved it up for the monthly tea party. It’s the same news- that you’re imparting- but they all want to know in different ways. If you want the best results, you’ll cater to their preferences. The blog is just one way of communicating. It’s more like the tea party (than the notecard, or the phone call) to carry this metaphor out.

So, why are people not really sticking around on the blog, from the email list? Assume the blog is fine- the main problem I see, is that those people really like emails, not blogs. They’re getting invited to tea parties, when they’d rather just get a notecard in the mail.

What you want to do is get NEW people to the tea party that are ALREADY into tea parties. Viral, social marketing – what I call “community work” – attracts those who are already into that method of communication. What you need to do is read other blogs, bring content to the attention of other readers (already into blogs), and promote on communities, thread discussions, social networks, etc., the cool content of this company. It’s a lot harder work than simply sending a note to your email list, over and over again, that there’s a blog. But the potential payoff is huge- a segment of new, interested prospects.

I see this on a larger scale- new technologies coming out, like Twitter- and marketing groups thinking they have to change or educate their existing mailing list. Mostly, because they had to train themselves. So, assume there is already a large segment of potential users who already understand this medium. Don’t take my word on it, check: and search for your brand.

Blogs can be simply another marketing channel, and the effort shouldn’t be to convert people to social media, but to find new customer segments, using social media.

From Free to Paid

Monday, 02. February 2009 by Anna Billstrom

Don't Spam
I taught a quick session on “Don’t Spam: Lifecycle Email Marketing Strategies” at She’s Geeky, an un-conference. I went over some basic studies on email marketing behavior, common intervals, and the common life-cycle vs. promotional arguments. I asked folks what was going on in their organization. It seems that, due to the economy, email vendors are turning off free services to their non-profit and other “Cinderella Deal” clients.

For one of my audience members, the choice was to simply go to another vendor. I told her about a few (Constant Contact, MailChimp, MyEmma), and we discussed improvements to her current fundraising schedule. Her non-profit would have to pull in more funds to cover the cost, so it was an unpleasant reality.

For another audience member, the email was so tied in with the online services, that it would be a fundamental shift to change vendors. For a struggling start-up that uses email as a functional part of their application, not just as a marketing channel, I can see the frustration.

What to do? For many Web 2.0 companies and start-ups, start with keeping a fully tested suite of templates that degrade properly across email clients, and hosting your own IP for sending mail (note: with a clean bill of health). In my experience few outsourced email providers (ESP) can handle the demands of truly robust online service company. This is beyond transactional and lifecycle emails, and should be managed by web developers that understand email and can work with the functionality of email. Especially if it’s core to the business, it shouldn’t be outsourced, and not for a fee. I have a suspicion that the “free” was used to reel in the client just so at this point in time the client would have no other option but to continue for a steep fee.

Shipping Monday, Tuesday… Wednesday? Last Minute Retail Review

Monday, 15. December 2008 by Anna Billstrom

It’s a hectic time in any retail email marketing department. The rule of thumb was that 12/21 was the last ordering date online if you wanted items to ship by Christmas, but since that falls on a Sunday, 12/18 is the recommended online shipping deadline. Therefore we have a 3-day lead-up in emails to push orders online. Here are a few examples of this year’s emails, wins and flubs. (Note: for a list of 250 companies and their shipping offers: Holiday Shipping Deadline. As usual taken with images off.

Toys R UsArt.comRed EnvelopeSchug WineryCricket MagazineDiscovery StoreBack to Basic ToysGap

Toys R Us
(2344 unread) AT&T Yahoo! Mail, anna_billstrom
Toys R Us consistently misses the boat on images-off rendering, with no alternative text, teasers, or HTML tables and treatments with colored text. They also don’t certify the email which would avoid the entire problem. With no teasers before the add-to-address-book reminder, this is a big corporate email campaign boo-boo. The only alt-text is below the preview fold, too. So doesn’t matter what size company you are- even the big guys miss it.

(2345 unread) AT&T Yahoo! Mail, anna_billstrom
This campaign captures every best practice: teaser text before the inbox message, branding, and the offer is in alt. text, and no spacer images cluttering up the layout.

Red Envelope
Gmail - Save 25% on Orders over $100! Personalized Gifts Cutoff Extended until Tomorrow -
Red Envelope used to be as bad as Toys R Us, but they’ve really cleaned up their act. Nice use of font sizes and color to promote branding even in images-off environments. Branding could be bigger.

Cricket Magazine
(2347 unread) AT&T Yahoo! Mail, anna_billstrom
Everything is great here, except no branding. I like the hinting at new products- that promotes clicking and accepting images. Not enough retailers are tempting us, bringing us more into the experience. (technically a publisher, but nice techniques.)

Schug Winery
Gmail - Christmas shipping deadline -
Pretty good in all the respects- branding, messaging and images-off design. A little jarring and not really in step with a usual very classy design, but still manages to get the message across. Nice to see Mom & Pops hit all the bases.

Discovery Store
Gmail - FINAL DAY: Dec. Deals | 50% OFF + FREE SHIPPING on Blue Planet! -
I was disappointed to see this from the Discovery Store. Usually their images-off design is on par with Dell. So subtle to distraction, and the branding should be more prominent. Nothing seriously at fault, but still.

CW Kids
Gmail - Prices Starting at $9.99 - Stock Up on the Staples! -
It was hard to write this because I couldn’t find the branding! Companies really have to step up on the branding in their emails, for images-off. This is more a business question- why stock up on staples, during the holiday season? Last thing I’d want to give my niece is a set of t-shirts. So, uninspiring content, and no branding. Check Gap below for tips on how to do it.

Back to Basic Toys
Gmail - Finish Your Shopping With $5 Flat Shipping Plus 10% Off -
Wow. Use of color, and alt-text, but to uneffective ends. The branding is barely there, the toys are below the fold, and the odd use of green in the middle… I can see some valiant efforts but it falls apart.

(2342 unread) AT&T Yahoo! Mail, anna_billstrom
Just a quick note that certified email means that your message renders this prettily.They could have sent it without images, as it’s mostly just text, but it works: nice branding, dominant message, pleasant color combination.

Man Page for Twitter

Monday, 27. October 2008 by Anna Billstrom

A manual page for Twitter… which is my favorite form of explanation, written for a newbie on SF WoW, thought I’d repost here.

hey! <-- everyone in the world sees it if they go to the web site, my followers see it in their feeds

@jfouts hey! <--- that everyone can see, it's unprotected but she
may read it more prominently as it's got the @ in it that signals it's
a "response"

d jfouts hey Janet <-- sends a "hey Janet" to janet fouts, no one else
can see it but her. She may get it on her email or see it in twitter.

(Pretend you setup protection on your account)
Hey! <--- only those that follow me see it

@jfouts Hey! <-- only the 200 or so people I follow sees this, and
Janet sees it as a response

d jfouts Hey! <--- same as before, only she gets it

I didn’t know where else to put this- technically not about email at all, except perhaps in the direct message sense! Thanks Janet for letting me use you as an example!

Email Review: Kiva

Wednesday, 06. August 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Here is the email:

Kiva enables the Western internet user to get involved in microlending in third world countries. I’ve given Kiva gifts to family and been a Kiva lender for 5 months now. The email is one of the few I’ve received. Mostly I get little text-only transactional emails when a lender makes a payment (about once a month). This “Kiva Staff” email is very rare.

The challenge for Kiva, to me, is to visually leverage their entrepreneurs. This letter- about a young man that has an internet shop in Menin, Nigeria- could say so much by using a still photo as a link to the video, which is what that they have on the website.

More importantly- they need to address any possible confusion with the prolific Nigerian email spam, since their email could easily be scanned or grepped as that. The single-spaced letter, with no graphics, and rambly writing really connotes that. So I’d format it professionally and include graphics of the entrepreneurs. I’d also leverage some quotes from Bill Clinton or Oprah on the service to add credibility.

There is some hidden personalization, which reminds me of Dylan Boyd’s recent post on Email Wars: “When Personalization Goes… Odd,” regarding Ben & Jerry’s. They do the work of looking up my funds, but they hide the information below the long rambly letter (which, admittedly, I did read all the way through!). They should highlight that at the top with first name personalization to signal to me that they have provided news I, individually, may be interested in.

If their goal is to reach out to lenders to increase lending activity, they should definitely brand their email visually and include photos of entrepreneurs, as well as highlight the personalization efforts. It will increase email opens, reads, clicks, and of course, site engagement.

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