How Companies Can Stop Making Their Emails Dreadful

As Professor Kane said in our first lecture, the email Reply All button was the original social media. Most of the time, we open emails from companies for a coupon code or a particularly clever subject line. However, emails can also be used to surprise and engage fans with a longer message than social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram would allow. Additionally, emails bring the message straight to the consumer’s inbox and isn’t as time sensitive as social media feeds. It also doesn’t require any effort on the consumer’s part to look at your social media or even be on social media.

For my pop culture apparel brand 1950collective.com, we dubbed our email subscribers as “1950 Insiders”. While “insider” traditionally holds the connotation of exclusivity, it actually means power within the One Direction fandom (the majority of our customer base). An insider is a trusted source that fan accounts recruit. These fan accounts can have anywhere from 100K to 1.2 million followers and somehow score inside knowledge on where One Direction is at all times. These accounts then create applications for fans to be “insiders” for them and even hold interviews (yes, it’s that serious). The chosen insiders then get the inside knowledge from the account, go to the said location to confirm if One Direction is there, and have the possible chance of meeting the band. This seemingly insane process is what keeps fan accounts reliable and credible and has become a coveted position for fans.

By positioning our email subscriber list as a coveted and powerful membership, we engaged fans and created an audience we could market to. Additionally, we’ve received hundreds, if not thousands, of messages/Tweets/comments/emails from girls our age asking how they can start their own apparel brand. We knew that there would be no way for us to address this via comments or Tweets, and creating a blog required driving traffic to the blog page. We thus further leveraged our 1950 Insider email list by offering personal start-up advice every now and then to our Insiders. The advice was known as “Angshiki’s Corner” (Angela + Nishiki, my co-founder) and was sent sporadically so Insiders had to open and actively anticipate our emails. By offering this advice, we’ve been able to build an email list of over 10,000 subscribers in just 2 months. This also allows us to have 10,000 potential customers to constantly market new products and sales to since they’re already opening our emails to check for Angshiki’s Corner.

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As you can see, by sending out these types of emails, we’re able to brand ourselves and create our voice as “your helpful big sister” and ensure that we’re unintimidated by possible competitors. While the advice may seem basic, we’ve been told it’s helpful to these girls since they don’t have resources on entrepreneurship at their middle schools and high schools, and Googling this information seems too overwhelming.

Additionally, the core of our brand is empowering young women and men through our Feminist products and by donating 10% of our profits to women empowerment organizations. By encouraging other teens and young adults to build their own start-ups, we’re reinforcing our core branding and also differentiating ourselves from our competitors who often do not even answer their followers’ basic questions about shipping, products, etc.

Email subscriber lists can be used as branding tools beyond just product promotion and sale announcements. They can capture an active audience and remind consumers why they fell in love with a brand in the first place — and extend that relationship beyond a buyer-consumer relationship. We hope to keep building deeper relationships with our customers and empower them to build their own empires.

What’s your favorite company that sends quirky emails? Comment below!

11 comments

  1. Angela, thanks for sharing this awesome post. I loved how you related the topic, to one of the best insights we have learnt in class: The social media revolution beginning with the reply all feature. When I think about email marketing I think about companies pushing themselves to customers by spamming inboxes with unsolicited emails. I think about companies overdoing it, and about consumers which have developed resilience and reluctance to these companies. But after I read this interesting read, I felt that emails can be very effective and as you said can sometimes help develop brands. Moreover they can strengthen perceptions in peoples minds too. I really liked the tips you gave; about companies understanding the market and entry implications. I enjoyed reading about your personal experience and loved how you shared with us a personal insight. The screenshot was very helpful too. Finally, as an answer to your last question- IllyCafee used an effective email marketing campaign few years back, which I totally loved. Check it out.

    1. @hobballa Thank you! I agree, consumers have become extremely resilient to unsolicited emails and our goal was to make sure any content we send it is going to be well-timed, engaging, and not just bearable but valuable. I’ll definitely check out IllyCafee, thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Hi Angela, since our first class discussion on email and the framework it helped build for future social media sites, I have thought a lot about powerful email strategies that exist today. I think your company’s use of email is effective and really helps build a personal connection with your user base. I especially agree with your comments about having your own voice. I think this is so key with any successful email strategy. Although this has come up a few times on the class Twitter feed, I think Skimm’s daily email is an excellent example of effective emails who have their own personal voice. The Skimm writers recognize that world news and politics can be complicated and overwhelming. Their simple, humorous, succinct voice helps readers get a grasp on what is going on in the world. Skimm writers don’t assume their reader knows whats happening and helps explain issues in a way that doesn’t leave their reader feeling silly for not knowing. Also, their witty email titles capture their reader’s attention. Although this seems which obvious many companies fail to recognize its importance.

    1. Thanks so much! I love the Skimm and their strategy. My co-founder and I are avid readers and subconsciously based our emails off of their witty and sassy tone, since most “professional” emails don’t carry that and the surprise factor is what keeps people reading.

  3. Hi Angela, thanks for a very cool post. I loved your personal experience, and you and your co-founder seem to be doing a great job leveraging email marketing strategies. What stood out to me the most (and which I would argue then is the reason for your success) is that you are not just pushing out your product and your brand messages, but that you’re trying to be helpful and useful to your customers, ultimately empowering them to do greater things. This is definitely the way to get people interested, involved and coming back for more.
    I agree with Laura about The Skimm as an awesome example of successful email marketing. My old employer, Wayfair, in contrast, I would have to list as a negative example. Their strategy after launching a feature called Daily Sales is to essentially force site visitors to sign up to receive daily emails, even if a person is just browsing on a one-off basis on the main page. They then receive pretty generic automated messages each and every day that offer nothing but sales and deals on products the customer might not even have the slightest interest in. Even in my case, those mails are going straight into my junk folder and get deleted unread. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you! And glad to hear about a tactic that didn’t work. Wayfair’s emails sound annoying and ineffective and as a consumer, I would probably resent the company a little for bombarding me that way. Definitely good to keep in mind so we don’t overwhelm our subscribers, even if we feel we’re getting positive feedback.

  4. Nice post. I’ve had a long extended conversation with my colleague at Deloitte about what features could be added to email to make it more useful (a “like” button is one idea). Your post does go to show that email does still have value as a communication medium, as it enables certain types of communication that you wouldn’t want to put up on a more public SM channel.

    1. I agree! Email is still a more personal channel than most social media and it can feel like an individualized message with the right tone

  5. I really loved your post. Personally, I believed email marketing was long dead and social media was on the rise. However, after working this summer in a company whose core business is email marketing, I learned how wrong I was. Companies need to have a strategy that combines both email and social integration, and you seem to be doing just that! Something that makes your emails special is the fact that you are adding value. Your audience opens and reads them because they actually gain value from your tips and at the same time enjoy reading them because of the cool, personalized tone.

    1. Thanks! What company did you work for and what industry was it?

      1. Epsilon. They are a marketing company, but my team focused on their email platform.

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