Q&A: Angela Lester, managing partner, Tribal DDB

Angela Lester, managing partner at Tribal DDB, discusses the power of email creative and why targeting may not be the best first approach.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): How important is the creative aspect of an email campaign? Is automation and timing more important than an email’s image?

Lester (Tribal DDB): That depends on the type of industry. If you do retail marketing for a big brand, the imagery matters a lot. People are going to have an instant reaction to that imagery. In finance, it can hurt you to use imagery. If you sell a balance transfer offer and you show a picture of somebody painting a house, people associate the event with the product and people without reading the email, and think it has something to do with the house, such as home equity or mortgages. People expect the image to relate to the product, but it’s hard to do that in finance.

DMN: How important is it for email to integrate with other channels, such as social media?

Lester: Social media is a trend that all industries are moving toward. It’s essential for different strategies. For finance, social is mostly about service. Citibank has a great Twitter feed that allows customers to integrate with customer service. For other categories it’s a great connection point for brand advocates. Social extends the touchpoints beyond email and enables them to share with friends.

DMN: How important is targeting? Is batch-and-blast still the most effective way to drive sales, or do emails need to be directed at certain consumer segments to be effective?

Lester: We’ve seen that effectively targeting brings higher results. But we don’t believe in just targeting. We do a massive batch and then isolate one or two high-value segments that we target. We also use triggers based on behavior to send emails. If someone puts something in their shopping cart but never purchases it, we can email them and remind them to purchase. Or, in finance we send a consumer a credit card, and if they don’t activate it, we can target that person and get them to change that behavior. But before we know much about them, we send a massive batch followed up by two types of targeting to high-value segments or key demographics we’re trying to target.

DMN: Where do you think email marketing will be in the next five years?

Lester: Email is one of those things people say will go away. But usage and acceptance is increasing and technology and capabilities are increasing. We hope to see it evolve from a one-time thing in a blast that can be targeted for each specific person’s inbox to provide people a lot more functionality within an email. The divergence of different channels is also important. To summarize, it’s about having to send less emails but having those emails work harder in terms of functionality and content, and thinking of email as more integrated to digital touchpoints.

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