TV Land Casts Social as Its Next Email Star

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TV Land Casts Social as its Next Email Star
TV Land Casts Social as its Next Email Star

Email marketing is like a classic sitcom: it's traditional, it reaches large audiences, and—if not done correctly—it can be a source for a good laugh. But for TV Land, email is no laughing matter. The Viacom-owned channel relied on behavioral targeting and social content to better tune into viewers' preferences.

TV Land's viewers are drawn to two forms of content: original sitcoms, including Hot in Cleveland and The Exes, and classic sitcoms, such as The Andy Griffith and The Golden Girls. This “split audience” made it difficult for TV Land to send relevant to both fans groups via email.

“We were sending out these email digests, and we had to split the content between our original sitcoms and the classic sitcoms knowing that only half of the newsletter would appeal to every person,” says J.M. Chilgren, TV Land's digital marketing manager. “We would have had to generate separate newsletters for each of the subscribers. We would have to ask them what shows they like, and we have 20 different shows on air at any given time.”

TV Land also faced the challenge of creating engaging content for its social channels, including behind the scenes videos and show-inspired memes, and then having that content get buried in viewers' Twitter and Facebook feeds.

To ensure that viewers saw its content, and that the content was actually what viewers wanted to see, TV Land started using FanCentric's Content (Ctrl)—a tool that works in tandem with digital marketing software provider ExactTarget and allows marketers to syndicate, curate, and publish social content for email campaigns. Chilgren says TV Land began using the tool late spring, right before the brand premiered new seasons of its original sitcoms, and completely rebranded its email newsletter to include more “exclusive” and socially driven content.

By using Content (Ctrl), TV Land is able to track viewers' email click activity and show preferences upon signup. TV Land can then send subscribers full episodes or social content to their favorite programs. Content (Ctrl) also pulls information dynamically from TV Land's website. Hence when a new Hot in Cleveland episode goes up on TV Land's site, the image, show description, and airdate are all pulled into the email, Chilgren says. He adds that knowing viewers' preferences and behavioral activity helps TV Land suggest other shows for viewers to enjoy.

“We want to use that as a way to get into their inboxes, remind them to tune in, and give them content in between episodes,” Chilgren explains.

Since using Content (Ctrl), TV Land has seen an increase in email interactivity. For example, Chilgren says full episodes are one of the things that fans click on the most—with some fans going back into their emails and clicking on the episode more than once. In addition, TV Land's email deliverability has jumped from 90% to more than 99%.

In addition, Chilgren notes that TV Land's success proves that email and social can co-star in brand's marketing mix instead of constantly playing opposing roles. He says that social's timely, engaging nature complements email's promotional disposition, and together, they broaden TV Land's reach.

“For us to be able to push the content through email it's something for [fans] to look forward to [and] to make the email a more engaging experience; whereas before, it might have been something they glanced at, closed, and moved on,” he says.

Furthermore, Chilgren says that all viewers engage differently and that it's important to be aware of where fans are in their TV Land lifecycle. For example, a user who subscribes to the newsletter via a sweepstakes may be more interested in the giveaways than in the content; hence, introducing them to a new show may require a bit more handholding and explanation of why they'll enjoy the program. On the flip side, “super fans” come back week after week and enjoy receiving content and interacting with a show's content. However, these fans might be so focused on a particular show that it can be difficult to introduce them to a different program or get them to explore new offerings on TVLand.com, Chilgren explains.

He adds that TV Land hopes to start tracking viewers' browser activity once they reach the website in the near future. But for now, pairing email with social seems to be a fan favorite.

“The most important thing is to understand that fans want to be engaged with. They want something that's fresh and new. They don't want to feel like they're being batched and blasted,” he says. “Every email is basically generated uniquely for every single subscriber based on what they like. We really try to give them that opportunity to let us know what they like so we can give them a better experience.” 

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