Video and e-mail work hand in hand to engage

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Marketers are embracing the potential of online video in new ways, including marrying it with e-mail.

The Intercontinental Hotel Group has found that sending video links within an e-mail has increased click-through rates by 300%. The firm, working with interactive ad agency IQ Interactive, wanted to do some more cutting-edge advertising and, last April, conducted a test to a control group of 2 million US-based e-mail subscribers with video e-mails.

"We really wanted to address the consumer consumption of these new media channels," says Ken Bott, director of global consumer marketing at InterContinental Hotels Group (ICHG). "These video e-mails were good for viral marketing as well. One of every three e-mails was passed along to a friend."

The campaign, sent to loyalty members, focused on brand partnerships between ICHG hotels and entertainment firms. For example, Holiday Inn customers were linked to a video about Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour.

The videos had various calls to action depending on the brand, but most focused on a specific customer's journey. One featured a customer who bid on tickets to the All Star Game on a ICHG auction site and got field passes. Another focused on a Holiday Inn-sponsored Nascar car. The video featured interviews with the pit crew.

Brand experience

"We're making an emotional connection with the customer based on their experiences and their ability to relate to these experiences through video," Bott says.

ICHG sends about 100 billion weekly, monthly, and quarterly marketing e-mails a year to its 33 million members worldwide based on opt-in preference by brand.

"We want to get the members inspired and say, æhere's how you can take advantage of getting tickets to these great events," says Bott.

The e-mails contain a link to the site hosting the video and links for information on the loyalty program and the auction sites. Sending links rather than videos keeps deliverability and compliance under control. According to Tony Quin, CEO of IQ Interactive, rich media is a great tool to use with e-mail, but not always in the e-mail itself.

"If you put videos within the e-mails themselves, it creates all kinds of issues," he says. "This program is about using the e-mail channel to trigger rich content."

Financial services firm Wachovia is another IQ Interactive client that benefitted from using e-mails that lead to videos. Wachovia sent e-magazines with video clips to push the retail sales of retirement accounts to baby boomers.

"We wanted to find creative ways to get the retirement message out," says Rob Elfner, VP and retirement marketing director at Wachovia.

Wachovia's primary target was men and women with $100,000 or more in investable assets, and it sent the video e-mails to 200,000 customers. They contained information about retirement products with links to a 90-second video with the message, "Design, Build, Live," and featured a client and an advisor discussing retirement planning.

The e-mails included links to find out more information about retirement tools. Later, Wachovia sent the e-mails to 200,000 more people.

The e-mails saw a 22.7% open rate and a 17.8% click-through rate, with a 7.5 minute average time spent on the site.

"They seem to be staying on the site longer with these e-mails, and customers are taking the time to learn information about these retirement products," Elfner says.

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