4 Email Marketing Rules American Apparel Followed in The Worst Way


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email marketing rulesThere’s a hurricane heading for the East Coast of the United States, you are a marketer for one of the country’s biggest brands; what do you do? If your answer was to plan communications for any required store closures, unfortunately, despite your good nature, you are wrong. The correct answer was, apparently, to build an email marketing campaign around the impending disaster.

As most people in the path of hurricane Sandy were stocking up on food, filling their bathtubs and preparing for flooding, American Apparel sent out a marketing email. The mail advertised a 36-hour sale on their website, with 20% off for anyone in the storm hit areas who entered the code “sandysale” at checkout. The tagline on the ad was “In case you’re bored during the storm.”

The response wasn’t a flood of sales. Instead, customers who received the email took to social media to criticize the brand. People were outraged that a brand could make light of such a potentially tragic event. For most people who read the email, it felt like American Apparel wanted to make money while people were in critical danger. That obviously wasn’t their intention, but you can’t reference a life-threatening event without people making that connection.

The funny thing is, American Apparel actually followed all the basic email marketing rules.

Be Topical

This isn’t quite an email marketing rule, but it’s a great tip. If you can create a campaign around a topical event, something that people are already talking about, you have a great chance to be successful. Whether it’s in an email or on social media, topical content works because it’s shareable. If your content fits in with conversations your customers are already having, they’re more likely to drop it in.

An unwritten addendum to this rule should state that the topical event shouldn’t be a life-threatening potential disaster. Most of you probably knew that already, but American Apparel obviously need it included in their email marketing rules.

Be Funny

Many marketers are aspiring comedians. We try to throw in a joke wherever we can. For good reason too. Funny content has that same shareability, and it’s more likely to stick with a prospect. If you see something funny, you automatically warm to the source of the joke and you want to share it with others. It makes sense for email marketing campaigns to be funny.

There’s just one thing. They should actually be funny. There are many who believe that in comedy no subject is taboo if your joke is funny. Suggesting people might be bored in a disaster area where people are likely to die, that’s not funny.

Simple Message

The most important of email marketing rules is to keep your message simple. People scan emails they get from their friends; they’re unlikely to search for the hidden meaning in a marketing email. Your email marketing content should be right to the point and easy to understand.

American Apparel’s email fit the bill perfectly. The message was simple; if you’re in the storm you get 20% off. It was communicated well in clean white on black. The problem was the message itself. If made light of, and sought to make money from, a natural disaster. You need to have good message first, no matter how simple it is.

Expressive Image

Images also play a huge part in all marketing campaigns. The email marketing rules say that a bold, expressive image will make your mail standout. The target is to include an image that will grab attention and help relay your message. American Apparel could easily argue that their mail did that. The mail displays a map of the US, with the affected states highlighted in red. It’s very clear who’s involved in the sale and the image recalls the news images advising people of the areas at risk of damage.

Which, in case you didn’t spot it, is the problem. The image looked just like the news reports warning people of impending danger. The email actually reminded the people it was trying to reach that they were in danger. That’s not the way to generate sales.

There are many email marketing rules that marketers follow whenever we create a campaign. They are designed to help you to find the best message, to build the best campaign and to generate the most sales. The thing is, rules lie this are only a guide. Even if you follow them to the letter, you can still get it badly wrong.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Eoin Keenan
Media and Content Manager at Silicon Cloud. We help businesses to drive leads and build customer relationships through online marketing and social media. I blog mainly about social media & marketing, with some tech thrown in for good measure. All thoughts come filtered through other lives in finance, ecommerce, customer service and journalism.


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