Spring promotions have peaked and summer is burning up the inbox!  There aren’t many major holidays to hang your promotional hat on until Memorial Day so how are marketers going to keep the inbox interesting and subscribers buying?  Let’s look at a few seasonal trends from late March through mid-April.

Emails containing spring themed messages have tapered down since the start of the season.  It's important to note how a season's lifespan in the inbox really covers several months before the beginning of the season and quickly tapers off. This is especially true for the transitional seasons of spring and fall when temperatures warm up or cool down.

Summer themed emails and promotions are only beginning their climb.  The extended cool weather in much of the country may have been a factor that prolonged the launch of shorts, flip flops and summery gadgets. If you haven't already started promoting your summer products, now is the time to get a head start.

With only minor and religious holidays throughout much of March and April, many marketers focused on standbys like Friends and Family, Black Fridays and "Cyber" events. While Friends and Family promotions are seen throughout the year, the first spikes begin in late Feb and carried through to early April.

April Fools' Day

I attack my inbox every April 1st with the excitement of a kid on Christmas Day ready to unwrap every present under the tree.  This is the day when you get to see major brands relax their strict promotional language and have some fun.  Of course there were some outstanding April Fool's tricks but I was really bummed out by how many brands played it straight.

There was also a large group of brands who, rather than even attempting to have some fun, went out of their way to say, for example "20% off.  No Fooling." That's not very original.  April Fools' Day is the time to mix things up! Another approach that made me feel like I unwrapped a pack of socks from grandma was giving away the punch line in the subject line like this email from Threadless. Look at the screenshot first.

 

Clever concept, great design...  but the subject line ruined all of it! Argh!

Subject Line: "You'd be a fool to believe nothing's on sale today."

I love the occasional upside down email.  I'm a sucker for them every time. Kirkland's did a fantastic job of flipping their script with their April Fools' Day email and went a step further but using animation to set things back upright.

...and now I confess.  Perhaps it was my disappointment in the lack of creative effort on 4/1... Perhaps I'm just a sucker... Or it could be that I open too many fashion-forward emails during my research but here's what I thought when I opened Boden's April Fools' Day email...

"Are those harem shorts? Oh, no... it's another attempt at the man skirt.  Wait... this one has pockets...  lots of pockets... well that's rather practical.  The model is kinda pulling it off... Would they work with my new McQueen hat?  I'm going to click and see what this is all about...."

April Events

Whether used to raise money for a good cause or simply for brand engagement, each month has unique events and holidays that your brand can feature in your emails.  First, let's check out a couple charity related emails.

The Children's Place highlighted Autism Awareness Month in this email.  They provide multiple ways for subscribers to donate and learn more which is great for awareness and education but what this email lacks is an explanation of how donations will help or what they are doing to give to the cause.  In addition to calls to action for charitable giving, make sure you highlight the ways your company gives back and communicate the value proposition to the subscriber (a giveaway if you donate or a school being built).

I've been surprised that more Earth Day / Earth Month / "Ways to be Green" emails have not been popping up in the first part of April.  Aveda launched a promotion to help provide clean water to various global communities.  They had a similar promotion last year but it was messaged more frequently throughout the month in 2012.  Perhaps brands are viewing Earth Day 2013 as a shorter term even compared to last year. Fun Fact:  There are TWO Waffle Days each year! March 25th was International Waffle Day but you still have time to plan for National Waffle Day on August 24th!  I'm sure Leslie Knope is pumped for both!  Chefs provided recipes, fun facts and of course waffle related products in their International Waffle Day email.

Promotions

Mystery discounts and promo codes are an effective way of getting subscribers to click through and cart a product.  Almost all mystery deal emails feature the range of potential discounts to build excitement but Loft carries the reveal to a new level by completely masking the first number of the discount.

You may know that your customers are using mobile devices and apps like Instagram, but don't overestimate the ease of getting them to engage with your brand on these devices and channels. Spelling out the steps needed to enter a contest or "Pin it to Win it" can help drive engagement. This Hollister email numbers the steps needed to enter their "Guide to Guarding" promotion on Instagram.  Use clear instructions like these whenever you are introducing a new process or modifying old ones like showing an email to a cashier on a mobile device.

Lowe's and Home Depot both launched Black Friday specials this month though both lasted longer than one day and didn't really center sales around a Friday. The Black Friday concept is understood by consumers to mean steep discounts lasting more than one day but always make sure you are clearly communicating what's on sale and for how long.

Misc

Using a welcome series to ask new subscribers to complete their profile can be extremely effective but an ad-hoc email requesting this info can be sent throughout the year to fill in profile gaps.

This email from Michaels tells the subscriber how they will benefit by sharing information and does not include promotional elements or secondary messaging that could steal focus. M*A*C emails use bold graphics and animation to grab a subscriber's attention but this email featuring a morphed and melded model came off disturbing.  The copy reads "extra dimension skinfinish" but it looks like you could grow a couple extra heads by using the product!

In Closing

In May, we can look forward to Cinco De Mayo, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Dad's & Grads and perhaps even National Tap Dance Day!

Jim Davidson Manager of Marketing Research