Monday, June 21, 2010

Email Marketing - 1: Call to Action Strategy

Email Marketing is a huge topic. A topic that can have a blog address, not just a single post. Type 'Email Marketing Strategy' on Google, and you would realise what I mean.

This is clearly an effort to highlight a few things - a few practical do-able things that I have learnt and absorbed over the years. The first in the series is 'Call to Action Strategy'.

Call to action strategy

Efficiency of of any promotion email depends critically on the call to action strategy. You would agree with the short attention span that promotion emails suffer from... So how do we ensure consumer action, higher open ratios, better click ratios and higher number of leads...

The subject line is the obvious one that I cant ignore. It defines the open ratio. Email Marketing theories would talk about writing the subject line by segmenting your customers into various psychographic profiles.. blah blah... However, I dont think those theories are practically possible with the man-hours dedicated to email marketing by any company today.

The subject line should have a direct consumer benefit. Teasers dont work as well as tangible consumer benefits. At the same time, the disclaimer is not to use often used (abused) words like 'offers', 'free' etc. These words have lost their significance and additionally can put your email into the Spam folder.

Next is the use of a consistent sender ID with a human name and the company name as alias seems to help achieve high open rates.

For instance, the sender ID could be Durlov Baruah [Deutsche Bank] or Customer Service [Deutsche Bank].

Creating the credibility of a sender ID is important. This will help you to find the Inbox folder rather than the Spam folder. Today, ISP have various Spam protection strategies and more often than not, your email will land in the Spam folder.

The first few email burst to your customer base should not be about promotion emailers. They should be genuine service emailers that is sure to benefit majority of the customers.

Once the email is opened, the most important strategy is to make the customer click on the email. It is how you place the links. This is intense stuff.

Few of the things that I have followed successfully..

  1. The call to action has to be a button visible as early as possible in the length of the mailer. The benchmark is that it should be at least in the first scroll, but thats not enough. If you see the rediffmail window, its hardly any length for the viewer to have a glance.
  2. The call to action should be pictorially represented. A visually attractive call to action tab would always attract eye-balls and possibly get most of the relevant clicks.
  3. The call to action visual should be visible multiple times. It should be present at least twice either in the same design or in different designs - in the left, in the right, in the middle - wherever possible without killing the emailer from a 'art balance' perspective.
  4. The call to action visual should try to entice the customer by saying different relevant messages. One should talk about the offer. Lets say, "Free Calling Card, Click Here". The next can talk about a good feature in the product, say, "Quick Money Transfer, Click Here" etc etc. I have found that singleminded-ness does not work as well for emailers. At the same time, we should not over-do. The messages in the call to action should be relevant to the overall communication.
  5. The flow of content in the emailer should not be linear. It should be snippeted and should be made for quick visual scan. This will also make room for multiple call to action links.
  6. The last rule that I follow is to give a link in the start of the emailer saying, "If you cant view this emailer, click here". All page-views through this link can be considered for calculating open ratios and click throughs.

These strategies are not hard to follow. They just need a meticulous process note to define the 'Email Marketing Policies' of an organisation.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thinking Creative Consciously

Thinking creative consciously is a culture. It is an orientation. It's methodical hardwork.

Creative thinking is an effort that the creatively inclined 'right brain' population of the world likes inherently. However, it does not mean that the left brain thinkers cant 'creativise'... We can all be creative if we wish to, if it is encouraged, if it is facilitated, if it is taught and preached and if it is recognised.

After 10 years in the creative side of things (communications) and my personal fancy in being labelled as a creative guy, these are my take on the process of creativity and the creative leap.

Creative thinking aims at being disruptive, out of the box and out of common imagination to give out exponential push to the intended output. If we see the definition of 'disruptive innovation', which I consider very close to creative innovation, it states, "Disruptive innovation is a term used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect."

This post is not to advertise the exponential power of creative thinking, but to enumerate some of the ways to nurture creativity... Since the end needs to be clear to appreciate the means, let me state that creative thinking can create or improve a product or service to a level that can revolutionise expectations (of the market, of bosses, of clients, of shareholders.. etc).

Being Creative

There are umpteen number of theories regarding the creative thinking process. I could bring them onto you in this forum, which I would perhaps do in the future. But this post is intended to bring to you some of the day-to-day observations to nurture creativity.

  1. There should be a desire to be creative or to seek creativity. This desire will disrupt anything that is normal, expected or cliche. If you have the desire, you will be creative in some degree for sure.
  2. There should be a pause to think of a better way. A pause to consciously go blank from all the other pressing problems at a particular point in time, and only think of that one thing, which needs to be more creative. It can be an ad, a decision, a process note, a design... absolutely anything.
  3. We should keep unwavering focus on the end objective while taking that potent pause. If its an ad, we need to focus on the consumer need, relevant consumer behaviour, consumer media where the ad will get published, consumer sociology/psychology (whatever one knows)... We generally get busy dissecting the means and forgetting the ultimate end. It is easy to get diverted but the art lies in pulling oneself back into the end objective.
  4. We should change our course of thinking continuously, and not continually. Think on a line for sometime, forget about it and start thinking on a completely different line. Thats the power to get variety in thinking and to keep an active mind onto the same problem.
  5. This is one thing that I normally practice. One cant think creative all the time. It takes time and will delay the decision making process. We should clearly know when to think and apply creative thinking. There are quite a few decisions or creative product where I do not spend too much time and try to simply maintain a hygiene standard of quality.
  6. Similarly, it is not necessary that you will crack a great idea everytime you pause to think creatively. It is important to let go into conventional thought process after necessary delegation on the creative thought process. Life will not give you all the time for all the problems.
  7. Knowledge is the most crucial element to being creative. Knowledge of any kind and variety. Read voraciously whatever interests you, Surf the net, Watch Television, Listen to and observe people when on public transport or anywhere. Having an inquisitive mind to soak in experiences will further sharpen creative thought.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Star Plus Re-branding - An Advertising Waste

Star Plus LogoJune 14th 2010, I woke up to a disappointment. I woke up to the new logo of Star Plus.

The front page of HT was hijaked to have the new logo of Star Plus and its new tagline - Rishta Wahi, Soch Nayi (old relationship, new thinking). And thats it. A logo and a tagline for around Rs. 50 lakhs. Perhaps more.

Reason for a change
I could not find any logical reason why they went for this change, spending over 18 crores only on the new design. There was a passing mention of a research by Mr. Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India, which had necessitated the change. ET reported that 'Star Plus undergoes facelift to target the youth'. Afaqs attributed the change to the change in the socio-economic paradigm of the country's demography.

Since it's a management decision, we cant question it much. So, I take the most generic reason for discussion sake - Rebranding rejuvenates and provides a fresh perspective.

What's the fresh perspective
So the question is the fresh perspective that this change would bring. The HT front page only had the logo with the tagline, which practically gave no feel of the new perspective.

One of my friends felt that the first objective is to just showcase the new logo to the existing core and fringe customers. I disagreed. Star Plus is a TV channel and the new logo as a mnemonic or a symbol will get communicated automatically in every frame of its broadcasts. Viewing habits does not change suddenly with a change in the logo colour.

My contention is that the full page could have been used for communicating the new spirit, the new perspective, the new culture or whatever is the new-ness. It could have communicated the new positioning of the brand through intelligent use of art and copy.

I understand that the positioning of a TV channel depends heavily on the programming content, its style and execution. But advertising can surely build the foundation of that positioning thought-meme.

ROI Perspective
From a spends perspective, this Advertising can challenge the famous line by John Wanamaker that said, "I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted… I just don’t know which half.” It would say, "we waste much much more..."

ROI for branding can be measured in many different parameters. (It's a huge discussion that I would write in future). For one, customer interaction, in today's digitally wired world, is one such parameter that can be benchmarked to measure the success of a particular branding activity or spends.

The meaning of "Rishta Wahi, Soch Nayi" and its significance to viewers could have been encapsulated in an interactive exercise leveraging new media like the mobile. Firstly, that would have made the viewers interact with the new positioning and secondly, the management could have got an idea of the success of the advertisement.

With so much money, we could have done so much more.
(I wont comment if I like the logo, thats personal and subjective.)