The Latest Trend in Developing Creative for Email Marketing? Same as the Old

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Not a month goes by when one of our clients asks us if we can do a rich media e-mail. With increasing in-box competition and declining open rates, their desire to break through the clutter with something eye-catching is understandable. As a creative director, I would love to do something fun with video or Flash.

I just wouldn't do it in an e-mail.

E-mail is still a communication channel that doesn't readily support many of the more advanced technologies that are rapidly evolving on the Web. If anything, e-mail is becoming even more conservative with developments like "image blocking," in which recipients have control over whether or not they want images displayed in an e-mail. Because of this, e-mail marketers have revised their best practices to make sure key messages and calls-to-actions are displayed in HTML.

So the latest trend in developing creative for e-mail marketing is actually not a new idea at all. What still works, what still gets the best response, are e-mails that are relevant to their target audience well-written and well-designed? Do all of these well, and you will create a compelling e-mail that many in your audience might actually look forward to receiving.

Who is receiving my e-mail? Have they explicitly opted-in to my communication? Am I segmenting my audience and targeting them with appropriate messaging or am I just sending a general blast?

If you are sending general blasts to an audience who has not opted-in, you may want to re-consider your strategy, as you may be harming your brand. Does my e-mail message have a good idea? Is their something clever, something intriguing that inspires people to respond? Is the oft-overlooked subject line compelling? Is it always purely hard-sell or can you create a memorable brand experience? Would you look forward to receiving a message from your company yourself?

MiniUSA once sent an e-mail that showed a red carpet rolling up to the side of a Mini with a single headline that invited the reader to go for a luxury ride. Upon clicking, the reader was transferred to a Web page with a matching image of the e-mail. But this time, using Flash animation, the car door opened, shut, then zoomed off screen, taking the reader on a ride and delivering a pay-off message - a very effective use of e-mail to initiate a compelling brand experience.

What about the design?

Is it short and sweet and scannable? Are you making optimal use of the preview pane? Will people who have image-blocking activated still understand the message?

Several organizations are still cluttering their e-mails with multiple messages and long copy. With people receiving on average over 300 e-mails a week, they are going to scan e-mails, not read them, with the possible exception of newsletters they've actually subscribed to. If you have a longer story to tell, let your Web site do the heavy lifting. Provide links to the Web site and the ones who are most engaged will click through.

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