Case Study: Multi-store April Fools’ Email Campaigns
Goal 1: Do something we haven’t done.
“In the past, One Click’s email team didn’t have the resources to do something so creative — to build a complex concept and design from scratch like this campaign,” Souers explains. Until this time, she says, campaigns have been purely promotional, focused around product announcements and sales.
Goal 2: Generate revenue.
Though creativity and brand-building was key, as with most marketing initiatives, bringing in revenue is still an ultimate goal. Here, however, this was achieved without a product or deal-focused message.
Goal 3: Stand out from the crowd.
Souers notes the played-out influx of “joke” idioms in April Fools’ campaigns, “You can only take so many ‘the joke’s on us’ and ‘this deal is no joke’ messages.”
Goal 4: Relay personality and humanity.
“It’s easy to assume people know your brand as you do because you deal so closely with it every day, but when they’re receiving message after message revolving around sales and product features, character isn’t really communicated well. We had hoped that messages like these would better communicate our brands’ personalities.”
Goal 5: Flex creative resources.
Halon, a Chicago ad agency transport, joined the team in late January, bringing with her a trained and experienced eye in creative marketing. This initiative offered the perfect palette to exploit Halon’s knowledge and experience to the stores’ audiences. “This was our opportunity to do something fun and different, and we wanted to make it as conceptual as possible,” Halon notes.
Step 1: Brainstorming, keeping target audiences and product in mind.
Souers and Halon list audience and feasibility as the two largest concerns. “A huge consideration was trying to be funny but not belittle our subscribers. It had to seem a little real or no one would buy into it and click. But if the messages were too real, they’d be a customer service nightmare,” Souers comments. Since Handbag Heaven, Reading Glasses Shopper and Sunglass Warehouse each have a different customer profile, a demographic-specific Handbag Heaven message wouldn’t likely translate to a Reading Glasses Shopper customer. “In regard to feasibility, we had to ask questions like ‘can we feature a dog in a bag?’ and ‘can we execute a moonglasses graphic?’” Halon explains. The topic brainstorming process started with thinking about fashion trends, product challenges that irk the target audience, and imaginative variations on products. This led the two to the topics of oversized handbags, cumbersome and conspicuous reading glasses, and the invention of an outlandish sunglasses technology.
Step 2: Topic approval and concept finalization.
Here, Marketing Director Mark Easterday reviewed and approved the topics, concepts, and promotions.
Step 3: Product selection, photo shoot and copywriting.
Since products and creative images are photographed in-house, Souers and Halon chose this direction for the campaigns’ creative photography and used available, free resources where possible. For instance, the dog featured in the Handbag Heaven campaign belongs to a team member and the beach photo in the Sunglass Warehouse campaign was one of Halon’s own.
The selection of copy was important in creating a playful, almost-believable message; each includes the April Fools’ concept as well as facets of what a real campaign would promote, such as offer deadlines and believable calls to action. See this ideology manifested in the message subject lines.
Get a free puppy with every oversized handbag! Ends at midnight EST. Introducing Invisible Readers (Only $14.95!) + 15% OFF Sitewide NEW: Brighten your night with moonglasses!
Step 4: Designing the emails.
Using all of the previous steps as a starting point, Halon diligently designed each email.
Step 5: Category page creation (duplicate of Best Seller pages) and addition of landing page graphics.
“We duplicated a category to create a landing page that only email subscribers could access. We chose to duplicate the ‘Best Sellers’ category because these pages tend to generate the most sales across our stores, and on that page we placed an email-corresponding graphic with a 20% off coupon code,” Souers explains.
Step 6: Building email, including optimizing for images off.
The April Fools’ campaigns were nestled in the recognizable store templates that, over time, Souers had optimized for viewing across most email platforms and providers, like Yahoo!, AOL, Gmail, Outlook, and mobile devices using various HTML and styling practices. These campaigns were also optimized for viewing when the subscriber had images turned off. “When coding emails,” Souers explains, “you have to keep in mind that the majority of your subscribers will not have images turned on by default in their inbox. That’s why it’s important to optimize your HTML to reflect the images within your email as closely as possible.” Souers adjusted background, text, and link colors, as well as font sizes and weights, to mimic the email creative. She adds, “If your HTML isn’t optimized to show your subscribers what the images will communicate, they are less enticed to load them.”
See below for the Sunglass Warehouse campaign with images turned off (left) and on (right).
Step 7: Testing.
Here, the campaigns were loaded into Bronto, One Click’s email service provider, and test messages were distributed to five team members who were asked to proofread the subject lines and copy, verify that the links within the email directed to the correct landing pages, and confirm that the content on these landing pages was consistent with that of the email campaigns.
Step 8: Discussion and decision of email release time.
Souers and Halon asked for feedback from the rest of the marketing team regarding send time on Friday, April 1st. “Ideally, we wanted it to hit our subscribers’ inboxes when they were going through their email in the morning. We didn’t want it to go out too early and get lost in overnight messages, but we didn’t want to send it too late so that our subscribers would have already been saturated with April Fools’ messaging and not fall for ours.”
Step 10: Email scheduling.
All three campaigns were scheduled within Bronto to send at 9:00 AM on Friday, April 1st to subscribers who typically receive promotional emails.
Monitoring included quantitative fiscal outcomes and attention to qualitative customer reactions.
Monitoring Initiative 1: Twitter monitoring.
Souers set up Twitter queries feeds for key terms:
- invisible readers
- free puppy
- names of stores
- Twitter handles of stores
Monitoring Initiative 2: Customer service mentions.
Souers asked One Click customer service representatives to notify her of each campaign mention in phone calls and emails. This was a key measurement of reaction and sentiment – important evaluations considering a goal of these campaigns was to relay personality.
Monitoring Initiative 3: Key metrics through Bronto.
Metrics measured through Bronto’s reporting feature were:
- Open rate: the users who received the email and opened it.
- Click through rate: of those who opened the email, those who clicked through to the site.
- Conversion rate: of those who clicked through to the site, those who purchased.
- Unsubscribe: the users who unsubscribed from the email list or marked the email as SPAM.
The following demonstrate customer sentiment via Twitter.
Over the course of three weeks, the customer service team received three calls and two emails requesting our “invisible readers.”
Trendline Interactive awarded the Sunglass Warehouse campaign with a “Trendie,” or one of their “fab/final 4 of April Fools’ emails.” See the shout out here.
The most ingenious campaign came from Sunglasses Warehouse where they had me believing there was indeed Moon Glasses for $12.95. I thought this was possible and really fell for it. Of course, after clicking through, I realized that this was not the case and I fell victim to their joke. That said, it looks, feels and even sounds possible that these glasses could exist and I am sure that their subscribers were equally as duped as I was. Their creative was spot on and truly looks like its your typical promotional email that you get from them.
Handbag Heaven – April Fools’ compared to Average Campaign:
+42% Open Rate
+60% Click Rate
-33% Conversion Rate
Reading Glasses Shopper – April Fools’ compared to Average Campaign:
+21% Open Rate
+53% Click Rate
-55% Conversion Rate
Sunglass Warehouse – April Fools’ compared to Average Campaign:
+20% Open Rate
+67% Click Rate
-25% Conversion Rate
Increased open and click-through rates across the board signify that these stores’ subscribers felt more compelled to interact with these brands. Presumably, these increases can be attributed to:
- subscribers seeking more information regarding an offer they thought was real
- curiosity to view the creative and landing page that was tied to these campaigns.
A drop in average conversion rate isn’t surprising, says Souers. “We assumed that a number of our subscribers would click-through to the landing page and leave the site once they saw that the offer or product wasn’t real. What was most important to us in this messaging was brand impression, not revenue, which we feel increased drastically based on the the lifts in our open and click-through rates for all three stores.” Souers states she was pleased with the increases in revenue for Sunglass Warehouse and Handbag Heaven. Regarding the drop in revenue over the average campaign for Reading Glasses Shopper, she said, “Perhaps this fake product didn’t resonate with this store’s audience as well as the other stores’ promotions did with theirs. We could also attribute this to customers clicking through the email, expecting invisible reading glasses, and then being turned-off by the real, very visible glasses on the landing page.”
Souers can point to two opportunities of which she would take advantage for similar campaigns in the future. First, communicating the April Fools’ plans to the other marketing directors earlier would have facilitated the planning of multi-channel promotion, such as social media and paid search. A month of planning time, as opposed to three weeks, would rectify this in the future. Second, analysis would have benefited from more structured monitoring including Google Alerts, an organized record of customer reactions completed by the customer service team, and social media updates.
Souers and Halon cite that the main take-away from this endeavor is the evident go-ahead to implement more conceptually-creative campaigns. Souers explains this would likely start with another holiday-based topic and eventually evolve into the everyday campaigns. “This is most fun we’ve had with an email campaign and it was a pleasant surprise to see how the success of it affected overall office morale,” Souers says. “A well thought-out creative campaign can make a huge impact. A sale or product doesn’t always have to be your driver. When personality is the driver, a unique message is communicated from the brand, which can be much more powerful.”