Email Marketing: The Sneaky Essential to Digital Marketing Campaigns

Shit That I Knit started out as blog where Chief Knitting Officer (CKO), Christina, posted photos of and anecdotes about what she was knitting in college to share with her mom and sisters. One summer after college, she and her mom decided to spend all of their free time knitting hundreds of products to sell at SoWa (South End Markets) in the fall. The mother-daughter dynamic duo was blown away by their success at the markets and less than a year later, Christina quit her sales job to pursue Shit That I Knit full time.

The production team started out as about 50 millennial knitters throughout New England. In the interest of quality and timeliness, CKO moved the production to a team of Peruvian women who use their ancestral skill of knitting to provide a viable income for their families while being able to stay at home. As I mentioned in class, from the very beginning, Christina has been committed to making a positive social impact with Shit That I Knit. She donates hundreds of knit kits to young adult cancer patients in programs across the US. She has also been committed from the beginning to spending as little on marketing as possible—still having spent $0 to this day.

Shit That I Knit’s Instagram presence is certainly popular; it gets a lot of impressions, and has a loyal following of customers and brand ambassadors. Currently, about 25% of online customers are returning customers. Given the price and the long expected lifetime of the products, I think this is an impressive statistic. Instagram has been vital for boosting sales and engaging customers with the brand, but email marketing has been directly correlated to spikes in visits to the website and, further, in actual sales. Each arrow indicates when an email was sent to all customers who are on the email list, fondly called, the “Sh*t List.” Only two of them were promotional and had discounts, the others were informational or highlighting certain products, but they all have similar effects.


sales spikesEven though social media is a way to reach people during their regular online or mobile activity, there is still a very important consumer demographic for Shit That I Knit that is not fully participating on social media. Shit That I Knit’s target market ranges from avid skiers across the company to mothers in cold climates buying for themselves and their daughters. Email marketing is a way of reaching almost all types of customers in a place that they will visit every day, usually multiple times per day.

Emails get a bad rap. We all receive hundreds of promotional emails a month from brands or companies we often don’t even remember signing up to receive emails from. But one study says 91% of US adults like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with. The real question is, which ones do we pay attention to? Which ones stand out?

One way to grab a customer’s attention in their inbox is by sending emails that are consistent with the brand personality portrayed everywhere else. It is important that email content matches the voice and brand personality of all other marketing content. Shit That I Knit keeps a casual, whimsical, fun voice full of sh*t puns, regular puns, and a sprinkling of bad jokes. Another millennial brand that does a really good job with engaging with customers and expanding their brand personality through emails is Chubbies. As you can see below, Chubbies sends emails consistently, about every other day, and each email has a subject that grabs your attention.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 10.46.34 AM

Among the plethora of promotional emails that I was talking about before, it is important for brands that want to stand out and that have such a distinct personality as Shit That I Knit and Chubbies, leverage that personality to get the attention of customers. Chubbies emails have few words and are often anecdotal. They keep themselves top of mind by their frequency, but they don’t feel annoying or sales-y because they are mostly just for the customer’s entertainment.

That brings me to my next point. Customers are more likely to open and click through emails with content that they actually want to read—content that is useful or informative and that is credible. Chubbies emails are often full of memes, pictures, videos, random pieces of information, and tons of calls to action or opportunities to click and get sent to their website. The Chubbies executives do not believe in blogging so this is their way of sharing their thoughts and expanding their brand personality beyond social media.[1]

A final way companies, especially startup-y companies, can leverage email marketing is the analytical tools that are often attached to email marketing software. These tools make it easy for tiny startups like Shit That I Knit to be intentional with emails by analyzing which emails were more effective in generating opens, clicks, and ultimately revenue.

Email marketing is the sneaky essential to digital marketing campaigns. It is a vehicle for reaching all types of customers in a place they visit regularly. It gives another opportunity for companies to portray their brand personality and allow customers to engage with it. At least for Shit That I Knit, it is a very effortless and cheap way to generate immediate spikes in sales.


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  1. m_thompson19 · ·

    Interesting blog! It’s so funny how, to me, email seems like such a dated form of communication. The investment that modern companies like STIK are making in emailing as a tool for marketing and increasing their consumer activity is an interesting one IMO. I rarely make purchases based off of promotional emails. I’m always quick to unsubscribe from email lists and hate messy inboxes. I would love to know how STIK attempts to strike a balance between effective marketing emails and annoying customers with an abundance of updates.

  2. Nice combination of followup on your presentation, with the focus on an important (but uncool) part of digital marketing. Nice job going beyond what you discussed in the presentation in a meaningful and substantive way.

  3. Catherine · ·

    I worked in email marketing over the summer, and was honestly pretty bummed out when I found out that was what I was going to be doing in digital client services. However, by the end of the summer, I gained an appreciation for the platform, and though many see it as uncool or outdated, I had the chance to see the open and conversion rates of the clients I was working on. It is definitely tricky and a huge challenge for companies to strike that balance of engagement without going overboard. It is another platform, where like you mentioned, where brands have the chance to show their personality. I like the title of the blog: “the sneaky essential”.

  4. juliasmacdonald · ·

    Nice post! I totally agree about email marketing being essential. At least I know personally I interact with more brands through their targeted emails to me than through platforms like Instagram. I just prefer reading through email subject lines than following brands and having them clutter my feed.
    A common trend I notice is sending out promotions via email. To get your email, companies will offer you 10-15% off your order. That’s how they hook you, and then once you are subscribed they will send you periodic emails to keep you coming back to make purchases. I know I’ve fallen for some of these! I expect now more than ever it is hard to keep the attention of the consumer especially with services like Unroll.Me that allow users to see a list of all their subscription emails and easily unsubscribe from whichever they don’t want.

  5. Great post! I personally find that I can get so easily suckered through these marketing e-mails. Everytime Uber, for example, sends out their monthly e-mails promoting their $5 discounts, or H&M sends their 50% discount e-mails, I take full advantage. I’m sure without these types of e-mails, these companies would, of course, probably not get as much traction. With this in mind, though, sometimes companies will overdo it with their e-mails and if I start getting too many e-mails from companies just sending me updates without any benefit to me, I will more likely hit the unsubscribe button.

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