Barack Obama’s recent email on the campaign trail reflects a few themes in email marketing:
– Transparency (showing that the donation site is an secure link, instead of hiding it in HTML)
– Writing for Gmail- leveraging access to AdWords, and working with the severe HTML restrictions
– Writing email content as a web page- taking advantage of intertextuality

The fact is that people are viewing their email on free web hosts, such as Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. That means a loss of control, to a degree, for the email marketing designer, but it also means that you are entering the world of rich hypertext context. In the example below, Barack Obama’s team has leveraged this very nicely. Unfortunately mentioning Hilary Clinton gave her a link, but the topical links halfway down refocus the ads.

obama_email.JPG

The use of text-only (for the main message) can be very strategic. It saves time and energy on developing an HTML campaign that works in each browser. It ensures readability in an ever-increasing atmosphere of image suppression. Gmail renders text-only emails well, as there’s nothing to screw up, and shows the abstract offset nicely in the inbox.

It’s personalized, and it’s easy to forward while retaining the original format. This is nice to consider since the tendency for political fans is to forward onto their own mailing lists- viral marketing that was leveraged so well with Howard Dean. KISS, essentially, has many things going for it in the political world. Also, for fundraising programs sometimes too fancy means a misdirection of funds.

SEO techniques are in play here. This means that someone worked on the content to give it a focus that would play well with AdWords SEO methodology. I’m no SEO expert, but simple messaging and focus in the email content helps ensure that the AdWords are appropriate.

I like how “transparency,” a main theme in this message’s meaning, dovetails nicely with a clean, open email design, too.

Email Standards Project

November 28, 2007

It seems that the guys at Australia-based Campaigner Monitor are officially carrying the torch for email marketing design and implementation.  I for one couldn’t be happier, and think they are doing a fantastic job with their new initiative.

It’s called the Email Standards Project; its aim: to create a universal standard for email design, akin to the existing universal Web Standards that every web designer adheres religiously to, so that we can all code faster, easier and better HTML emails that will work across all email clients.

The email client environment is similar in many ways to the current web design environment:

“Hey, my __________ looks great when viewed in/on ___________, but looks like total garbage when viewed in/on ____________.  What gives? Argh. Damn you Billy Gates.”

If you design websites or email campaigns, you’ll fill in the blanks above with ‘website/email’, ‘Firefox/Outlook 2003’, and ‘IE6/Outlook 2007.  All web designers have been there and cursed in the general direction of IE6, and most email designers have been there and cursed in the general direction of Lotus Notes.  I have the privilege of cursing both, which is why the Email Standards Project is like a breath of fresh air.

The Project has already done 1 ‘acid test’ on the most common email clients out there, with results that won’t surprise any email marketer, but will definitely give a fantastic, comprehensive, and useful insight into what exactly doesn’t work in which client, and why.  Have a look by visiting the homepage at http://www.email-standards.org. Outlook 2007, which I wrote about back in January, is definitely no surprise with a rating of ‘poor’ due to its use of MSWord as its rendering engine, but the depth of analysis the ESProject goes into is amazing.

I’m so full of support for the Email Standards Project that I’m including their badge on my blog from now on.

Keep up the great work guys!

We all love Easter Egg or scavenger hunts.

The Globe & Mail (one of Toronto’s biggest newspapers) have announced a new website promotion that should tickle many a reader’s fancy.

They’ve hidden $1000 CAD per day on their website for the next 50 days; all you have to do is answer a daily question that’s taken directly from a current story, feature or article on their site from that day.

Digging around looking for the answer means you get exposed to their advertisers, their other current promos, and obviously their content.  It’s a simple, fun, and likely effective way to increase their web traffic as well as their average time spent on their site.

I received this notice in an email marketing campaign,  proving once again that when delivered at the right time and with the right content, email marketing works like a charm.  What’s more, after clicking the email, I land on a pretty simple but effective landing page that pushes what seems to be their top 4 content sections in order to drive further click-thrus to their site.

Not bad all around, except 1 thing they’ve overlooked – missing out on some free promotion by failing to add a ‘tell a friend’ link on either the email or landing page.  Oops.

Check it out at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/1Kaday/

Much to my dismay, after trying to get my own Free Email Marketing Templates page dugg on Digg (and getting a measly 3 diggs), I saw Campaign Monitor get way up there on the first page of Digg with their page of 30 free templates.  Great for them.

However, more interesting than the templates on offer was the comment section on Digg (seriously click and go read them, they’re a good laugh), or more specifically the sheer hatred towards HTML emails vs text-only emails.  It seems that about 75% of the Digg community are so against HTML email campaigns arriving in their inboxes that they’d rather gouge their eyes out with a rusty spoon than receive them.  Why?  Among the reasons cited were trojans and virus infections, size, lack of necessity, spam filters, and so on.

This might be a broad stereotype, but I’ve known developers/techies that abide by the ‘HTML email is the devil’ rule, and insist on using Courier font, 10 point, text-only at all times (Luc, if you’re listening, that’s you), and they seem to rule the Digg comments section.  However it raises the interesting point of unsub and open rates, seeing as if the Digg community (all 1 million and growing) feel this way about HTML email,are they the only ones? If more people feel this way, and refuse to open an HTML campaign, then how many email marketer’s efforts are going out the window?

It’s an aesthetic thing, to make and receive HTML campaigns.  I like to design nice-looking HTML campaigns, but ones that will work in most email clients and hand-coded so they make it past strict filters.  But it really would be interesting to see a controlled experiment pitting a nice-looking HTML campaign against a nice-looking TEXT campaign (they can be done artfully), and declaring a winner.

As for you, which are you? Do you despise HTML emails, or love them? Why? Share!

I haven’t noticed a banner ad for a really, really long time now, so I was pretty impressed when I came across the newest series of ‘Get a Mac’ banner ads by Apple. It’s a great use of the 728×90 real estate and Flash, and of course the Mac Ad sense of humour draws you in and makes you want to watch it again, and click.

Examples below, which have been reduced from the original 728×90 size to a 468 size, to fit on my blog and website (carbongraffiti.com)

(Ed: I’ve since tried to find a live version with no luck… sorry).

MacAd1

MacAd2

If you’re strapped for time and need to send an email campaign ASAP, don’t have the resources to design a campaign from scratch, or are just plain lazy, visit www.CarbonGraffiti/emailmarketing/emailtemplates.html now to find 10 hand-coded HTML templates ready-to-use. Simply replace the copy with your own, make a few image tweaks (curse you, Outlook 2007), host the images on your server, and send away.

All templates are hand-coded in HTML to ensure maximum compatibility (on most email clients, especially Outlook 2007 in all of its non-CSS-and-Microsoft Word-rendering glory), and images are included in the downloadable ZIP file. Email Marketing Best Practices such as ‘Can’t view this email properly’, Forward and Subscribe buttons, CAN-SPAM compliance and minimal use of background images and/or CSS are adhered to, wrapped in simple and actionable designs.

All templates are free to use, with link-backs and attribution most appreciated.

New Website Launched!

May 14, 2007

Finally, the new and much improved CarbonGraffiti v 3.0 website has launched. This new version’s highlights include a better, cleaner look, improved functionality, and [much] more emphasis on both the work portfolio and blog posts. Come back soon for upcoming email marketing campaign templates (to be open source, of course), continued email marketing and online marketing blog posts, and much more.

I’ve since moved to the UK (hence the large gap between this and my last post) to be with the love of my life and fiancée. Officially, my new location is Brighton, East Sussex, UK, for the next 5 months at least. Leaving the online marketing job I had in Montreal for the past 4 years was tough but invigorating, and I’m now looking forward to seeing what the online and email worlds are like here in England. To experience it I have to find a job first though…

If you’re an email marketer based in the UK, take note.

As of January 1st, all UK-based email marketers are required to comply with new legislation that insists every company include specific regulatory information on their websites, business emails, and outbound email marketing campaigns.

As noted in The Register’s article written by Out-Law.com, UK-based companies must include their company registration number, place of registration, and registered office address in the aforementioned areas due to an update made to the original legislation of 1985 entitled the ‘First Company Law Amendment Directive’.

From an email marketing perspective this affects UK-based email marketers in the same manner that the CAN-SPAM act affects all North American-based email marketers today. It’s great news in winning the war against spam, by effectively putting a face to the name of a sender, but it also means that failure to comply with the new regulation in the UK could result in dire consequences and legal action against your UK company from an irate recipient of non-permission-based email.

So heed the warning UK marketers, and look into having your up-to-date registration information displayed on your websites, business emails, and most importantly your email marketing campaign footers!