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Don E. Schultz: Integrated Marketing Q&A (Page 5)

Don E. Schultz: Integrated Marketing Q&A (Page 5) Brad Berens

Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: Changes in private label brands
Page 3: Will the Chinese buy Wal-Mart?
Page 4: Interactive marketing and integration

Page 5: What is real among the new new media?
Page 6: Simultaneous Media Consumption (SIMM)
Page 7: Don Schultz's 2006 Predictions

What is real?

Berens: Getting back to the "What is Real?" question: we are very taken here by things like podcasts, RSS feeds (it stands for Really Simple Syndication: it is a way of subscribing to a business, or a newsletter, and getting all of their stuff immediately put into your computer); social networking sites are a big topic too. These things, they are important to us. They are hugely profitable. They are very effective.  But, when it comes to the rest of the marketing universe, do you feel that people know what they are?

Schultz: I think many do, although in some cases these things are uniquely U.S., and they are uniquely culturally driven. If you go to Japan, you get a whole different range of what they are doing. And, when you go to China you get a different range of what they are doing. The issues and the activities essentially are very much along the same lines, and the same general genre. And, I would say that we have not even seen the tip of the iceberg, yet, in terms of what that stuff is going to be. And, the real question is, how do you monetize it?

Berens: Of course.

Schultz: I mean, I can do all kinds of stuff, but how do I monetize it? That is the real issue today.

Berens: So then, the days of counting eyeballs, and impressions, and CPM are numbered?

Schultz: What difference does it make? Because now I have instant access, instant counts, and I have instant response. And, that is really what stands all the traditional systems on their heads. 

We get all excited about having overnight Nielsen's from a very small sample of the population. Well, overnight Nielsen's are not a big deal compared to online, where instantaneously I know how many people clicked on something, how many people are there, and how many people are operating right now. 

Berens: So, you think that moves all marketing towards the direct response kind of mental stance?  Because you were talking about branding before.

Schultz: I think what it does is it radically changes the way marketers have to think about what they are doing. The biggest problem we have is that marketing is static, but the consumer is dynamic. We are still using stuff that was invented 50 years ago and thinking that if we tweak it a little bit, it will work. But, it is all fairly static. I go into organizations, and I say, "What kind of segmentation speed do you have?" "Oh, we did one about three years ago. We are thinking about doing another one, maybe next year." And, I say, "Hell, if you did one yesterday it is probably out of date."

Berens: Right.

Schultz: And, so it is the delays in the system, and the tradition of the systems that we have in place where supposedly the market was in control. With the consumer in control, we don't know how to deal with that.


Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: Changes in private label brands
Page 3: Will the Chinese buy Wal-Mart?
Page 4: Interactive marketing and integration
Page 5: What is real among the new new media?
Page 6: Simultaneous Media Consumption (SIMM)
Page 7: Don Schultz's 2006 Predictions

Simultaneous Media Consumption (SIMM)

Berens: Let's talk about SIMM for a second.

Schultz: Okay.

Berens: I first heard about SIMM from your mouth, back in Deer Valley, in September of 2004. Since then, we have been very fortunate to work with Joe Pilotta and the people at BIGresearch, and they have been doing a lot for us. But, if you can give us the Don Schultz definition of, not only of what SIMM is, but also, why it is important for marketers to be looking at it, I would be grateful.

Schultz: Well, let's go back, because it is fairly simple. If I am online, I have got the TV set on, flipping through a magazine, talking on the cell phone, all at the same time -- what audience am I in? 

Berens: All of them. 

Schultz: Well, now how do I count you?

Berens: Precisely.

Schultz: Do I count you as 25 percent, because you are doing four things at once? Or, do I count you as 100 percent, which is what we do now, and I end up with 400 percent usage?  And, that is why the systems don't work, because the systems just totally ignore any kind of simultaneous exposure. They ignore any kind of parallel processing. We go out and measure television, then we go out and measure newspaper, and then we go out and measure magazine… We have no clue as to what the synergy is -- whether those work together; whether they work separately; whether they work independently. Why they help each other; where they hurt each other. We don't know. We make the assumption they are additive, but they are not.

Berens: That is the "glass is half empty" perspective on it. But, I think there is a "glass is half full" opportunity for really smart marketers, who are the people who will actually be able to leverage the different channels against each other at the same time.

Schultz: Well, I think that is absolutely true. But, the problem is… I have been doing some work on synergy with Prasad Naik out at University of California Davis, and one of the things we find in the synergy thing is that when you put two or three media forms together, in some cases they are not additive, they are multiplicative. So, you get 1 + 1 + 1 isn't three. Instead, 1 + 1 + 1 is around nine.

In some cases, they are simply additive. Then, in other cases when you put combinations together you actually depress your response rate. No one has done very much work on synergy and combinations of media, and everything we have done, even when it has been done, has been only two media at a time. 

Just two -- a comparison of this versus that: television and radio, or radio and direct mail. We have never looked at the milieu out there of all the things that people are doing, and how do all those things work together? Nobody has even started to talk about that, yet.

Berens: And, the over-valuation of the media buying is something that I think no one really wants to pay a lot of attention to right now, because it is going to kill the bottom line. 

Schultz: Well, yes. The other problem is that most of the media buying organizations have spent so much money on optimizer models, and they don't want to see that go away. They think, "I just sunk another couple of million dollars in updating my optimizer, but I don't have an awful lot of the stuff in the optimizer.  I don't have in-store in there. I don't have online. I don't have any iPod. I don't have any of that stuff in there. So, what good does my optimizer do me? And so, I don't want to hear about what you guys are doing. I want you to go away."

Berens: We have been watching the way that -- just over the past four to six weeks -- the television content distribution model has started to change.

Schultz: (Laughs.) Pretty dramatically, yeah.


Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: Changes in private label brands
Page 3: Will the Chinese buy Wal-Mart?
Page 4: Interactive marketing and integration
Page 5: What is real among the new new media?
Page 6: Simultaneous Media Consumption (SIMM)
Page 7: Don Schultz's 2006 Predictions

Will the Chinese buy Wal-Mart?

Schultz: I think we are just going to see more, and more, and more of that. I will tell you one interesting story. We were doing some work in China this spring, and most of the work we do is in seminars and conferences with Chinese companies. One of the issues that came up was branding. So, the Chinese companies were sitting there saying, "Well, how do we build brands?" And, we came up and said, "Well, there are two or three ways you can build brands. You can go out and build a brand the way it has traditionally been done, which is sort of what Haier is trying to do in the U.S. You can do what Lenovo has done, and that is you go buy a brand somewhere else. And, the third alternative is to go buy the retail distribution chains."

And, the Chinese then said, "Gee. That would be kind of interesting. Why don't we go buy Wal-Mart?"

Berens: I wonder if they will do it.

Schultz: And, we were sitting there saying, "Well, that is kind of silly." Except, when you think about it, they really could buy Wal-Mart.

Berens: And, they are the people who are creating most of the product for Wal-Mart…

Schultz: Exactly.

Berens: So, it is an integrated strategy in terms of distribution, right there.

Schultz: Exactly. So, what you do is you buy Wal-Mart, and you walk all your products in under the Wal-Mart name. You don't even have to build brands. That is kind of an interesting concept.

Berens: I am actually staggered by that concept.

Schultz: But, the only discussion that came out, or the only question that came out of this discussion was, "how much stock does the Walton family still own in Wal-Mart? Because we don't want to get into a hostile takeover."

Berens: Well, that is, uh, kind of them to be thinking it over.

Schultz: To be thinking about that (Laughter). When the Chinese tried to buy Unocal, the U.S. Federal government stepped in and said, "Oh, no, you cannot have an energy resource." What would happen if they had decided that they wanted to buy Wal-Mart? Would Wal-Mart be considered a national treasure? Would the government say, "You cannot buy them either.  We are going to try to fight you off from it," or something like that?

Berens: Given that Wal-Mart is the single largest buying force on the planet, there is a fair argument to make there.

Schultz: Oh, absolutely.

Berens: What happens? Does the federal government then buy Wal-Mart?

Schultz: Well, hell, they have bought everything else.

Berens: Exactly.

Schultz: Anyway, I keep seeing radical change. And, the thing that concerns me more than anything else is that we are so insular and so insulated in the U.S. that we know very little about what is going on in much of the rest of the world. And, the things that are going to impact us are already there, but we either don't pay any attention to them, don't know about them or our media doesn't cover them.

Berens: Well, we are certainly trying to cover things, although it is challenging.

Schultz: Oh, absolutely.

Berens: And this has been a long time problem… there was a piece in "strategy+business" back in 2000 or so that pointed out that we have an entirely different data-capture culture here in the U.S. than exists in Europe. Here in the U.S., we have an opt-out culture.

Schultz: Sure.

Berens: And frequently it is very difficult to opt out of something. Whereas in Europe, throughout Europe, it is an opt-in culture.

Schultz: Absolutely.

Berens: And that poses a huge challenge to multi-national entities, where they suddenly have to manage two different databases with two different rules.

Schultz: Yeah.

Berens: And, I am curious if you think that is going to have a drag effect on integrated marketing on the international scale.

Schultz: Well, here's the interesting thing. Last night, here at the university, we had a little IMC [Integrated Marketing Communications] gathering last night, and one of our adjunct professors was there. There is some sort of postal group that is taking him to all of the emerging countries to work with the postal service about building databases. So, he has been to China; he has been to India; he has been to Brazil. And, he is consulting with the postal service to help them understand how you build databases, and what you do, and how you develop it. Now, if the postal services start to do that, that has a big impact on who owns the data, and who patrols the data.

Berens: Right.

Schultz: So, I thought that was one of the more interesting things that I have heard in quite some time. 

Berens: Do you think that the postal service controlling the data would enable more sharing of data with the two different data cultures?

Schultz: I would be more concerned they would be more restrictive.

Berens: That is very interesting.

Schultz: Because, as a quasi government entity, they would have to be extremely careful about what they did with the data. And, I think that would have probably more of a chilling effect on it than an expansion effect.


Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: Changes in private label brands
Page 3: Will the Chinese buy Wal-Mart?
Page 4: Interactive marketing and integration
Page 5: What is real among the new new media?
Page 6: Simultaneous Media Consumption (SIMM)
Page 7: Don Schultz's 2006 Predictions

Changes in private label brands

Last week, we had Clive Humby here from Dunn Humby and Tesco, the guys that are capturing all of the data, and doing all that sort of thing in the U.K., and actually around the world now. They are the ones that did, or do, all of the analytics for Tesco in the U.K. And, they are doing the same thing now for Kroger -- setting the same system up. And they are also doing the same thing for Best Buy, up in Minneapolis.

Berens: What are they seeing?

Schultz: What they are arguing is that, by and large, it is the behaviors. And, that is really what they are all focused on: what the customers do, which has a big impact when you start talking about our traditional ways of using a lot of the big, big money media, which essentially are attitude, and awareness, and impressions -- that sort of thing. And, all of those sort of go out the window when you can actually track consumers and customers over time and see what they are doing.

I think it has a lot to do with brands and branding. We have to rethink what brands are all about, because what we start to see with this kind of data is what the value of the brand really is: how much of that value is being created, how much of it is being captured and how much of it is being returned back to the organization.

Berens: Yeah.

Schultz: Increasingly, what we are going to see is that a retailer is going to come to the brands, rather than the manufacturers.

Berens: Oh, that is very interesting.

Schultz: In essence, what I do when I go to Safeway, or Kroger, or Albertson's, is this: I say, "You guys have made some choices, and I will pick from what you have already selected. And, if you don't have the national brand, I will buy something else. I am not going to go across the street for it." Now, by the same token, what you see happening is a huge growth in private label, but the private label is not necessarily all low price stuff.

Berens: No, not at all. 

Schultz: And, in fact, in the U.K., Tesco has created a thing where they have a premium price product under their name. They have the basic, generic low price stuff at the bottom, and then they put the national brands in the middle. And they just squeeze them from both ends. But, I think what you are going to see is that the retailer brand is the next big thing.

Berens: Here in L.A., there was a conference last month, that was put on by the E-Voter Institute, on democracy and the internet, and I had the privilege of speaking there. And, one of the other speakers was talking about what in the retail sector we call e-fluentials, or influentials, that increasingly that is going to become the case, where there are representative voters -- people who actually track what the issues are -- and you find the person who kind of agrees with you, and then you follow that person. And, it sounds to me like you are suggesting that retail establishments are going to become that kind of opinion leader, by virtue of what is in stock.

Schultz: I think they already have. If you look at what is being done now, the manufacturer has very little influence, particularly in things like supermarkets and Best Buys and those kinds of stores because, in essence, what happens is the retailer says, "If you want to run that kind of promotion in my store, here is what you have to do." And so, the retailer dictates to the manufacturer what kind of promotion has to be done, because they know so much more about what consumers do than the manufacturers do. So, they control the system, and the manufacturer then gets pushed to the side. The retailer then looks at "How do I build sales in a category," rather than "How do I build sales for Tide, or Cheer, or Crest," or whatever it happens to be.

Berens: And that also means that they are in a position to pump their private label. 

Schultz: Oh, absolutely. What they can do then is use the national brand as a comparison. This is what they are doing in the U.K.: the national brand now is the fighting brand to the comparison brand. And I, the retailer, can say, "Oh, look how much better this product is. It is my private label, and so much better than the national brands, but it only costs you a few cents more." Or, "Here is my cheapo, generic, private label, and it is almost as good as the national brand, but it didn't cost as much."

Berens: In fact, I just experienced this very late last night. My four-year old was the purveyor of snack today at her school.

Schultz: Okay.  (Laughs.)

Berens: And, I went out in the middle of the night to get juice, and the private label juice at our local Ralph's was the only juice that wasn't from concentrate.

Schultz: Uh-huh.

Berens: And that is what I wound up buying. It was ten cents more. So just in the last few hours, I have lived what you are talking about.


Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: Changes in private label brands
Page 3: Will the Chinese buy Wal-Mart?
Page 4: Interactive marketing and integration
Page 5: What is real among the new new media?
Page 6: Simultaneous Media Consumption (SIMM)
Page 7: Don Schultz's 2006 Predictions

Interactive marketing and integration

Berens: Let's move towards interactive, because that is our stock and trade here at iMedia. One of the questions that we have perennially….we are all internet hipsters, and we have RSS readers, and we are on Instant Messenger all the time. So, the big question is always, on the global marketing scale, what is real? What is becoming real? What isn't real? And so, since you have your head wrapped around the entirety of integrated marketing…

Schultz: I would go back to what you said earlier. We don't really know what is going on in interactive, because we tend to look only at the U.S. It is developing so rapidly in the rest of the world and we tend to ignore it, and tend to push it back off to the side.

I continue to hear people in the U.S. talk about, "Well, Gee, we have got to bring interactive into the mix." In China and in Japan and in Korea, they start with interactive. And, then they say, "Well, do we need to add some of the other media and bring that into the mix?"

Berens: Why do you think they start with interactive? That is a vision of heaven to us, but why?

Schultz: I think that what they see is, "We have got a fairly young population, and for the young people [the internet] is what they do, that is how they do it, and that is the way they live." Essentially, what they are saying is, "What we want to do is capture the young…we are not as concerned about the old people," as we are in the U.S. We still spend an awful lot of time talking about Baby Boomers in the U.S. But if you look at China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea, they are all looking at the young people, and that [the internet] is what the young people are doing. That is how you get to them.

Berens: Get them early…and get them often.

Schultz: The thing that I see every day in a classroom here is that the group of students we have sitting in this classroom are unlike most of the rest of the people in the world, because the rest of the people in the market… they have grown up with this stuff.

Berens: You mean the chronic cell phone and Blackberry use?

Schultz: Yes. I have had a couple of experiences, (and this has been confirmed by the people in other faculty and classrooms), where you come in and you make a few statements. The students are sitting there -- and, of course, we have smart classrooms -- so, they are all hooked up to the internet. You make a statement, "Well, 38 percent of the so-and-so did such-and-such." The students will immediately Google it and come back and say, "No, I don't think that is right. I have got a number here that says it is 42." So, it is instant information that creates dialogues in the classroom today, which never used to happen.

Berens: Does that raise the caliber of the discussion?

Schultz: It raises the caliber of the discussion, and it scares the faculty to death.

Berens: Sure.

Schultz: Because here you are, in some cases, quoting two-year-old figures, and the students are sitting there Googling stuff and getting data that was reported the day before yesterday. So, it has changed, I think radically, the way we think about information: what it is; the speed with which you can access it; and how people are using it. Because these kids think absolutely nothing about searching: "Oh, I will Google that... Tell me anything, and I will take a look at it." Or, "I will go look at it, and I will ask you some questions." That sort of thing. It is a radically different classroom experience.

Berens: So, the old marketing way of talking about the consumer was essentially equivalent to the way hunters talk about deer…

Schultz: Exactly, exactly. We will go track them down.

Berens: Right, we will target them.

Schultz: And set some traps for them -- that sort of thing. You cannot do that anymore. That doesn't work anymore.


Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: Changes in private label brands
Page 3: Will the Chinese buy Wal-Mart?
Page 4: Interactive marketing and integration
Page 5: What is real among the new new media?
Page 6: Simultaneous Media Consumption (SIMM)
Page 7: Don Schultz's 2006 Predictions

2006 Predictions

Berens: The kind of evolution that you would think would take decades to create has just all of a sudden materialized. It started with the video iPod. And, now Comcast and DirecTV are having paid VOD, as well as free VOD. It has been an astonishing time. And, so the reason I am prefacing this is that… it is a very difficult time to make predictions.

Schultz: Absolutely.

Berens: Since the next 12 months are looking to be another period of growth, opportunity, anxiety and confusion… and so, I am asking you to make predictions knowing that the ground is going to be shifting under your feet. But, if you had predictions to make for the next 12 months -- both on the plus side, and on the negative side -- what is the worst thing you think is going to happen by the end of 2006, and what is the best?

Schultz: Well, I think the worst thing that is going to happen between now and 2006, the end of 2006… it depends on whose pig is being gored. I think the content producers are really going to have to rethink how they make money.

Berens: You think interruptive advertising…

Schultz: Yes. An advertising supported, content distribution system, I think is highly questionable going forward. I don't think it will happen by the end of 2006. But, I think that whole system is under duress.

Berens: Do you think that consumers are going to pay for things that they want, and do you think that they are going to pay more?

Schultz: Yes, but, content distribution per se… In other words, I go out and I make a six session miniseries, and I go sell it to the networks, and the networks put the money upfront.  And then, they figure they can go out and sell the advertising, that sort of thing. I don't think those things are going to work in the future.  So, I think you have a lot of distribution challenges for that content.

Berens: And, how it is going to be distributed…

Schultz: Yes, that the content producer may essentially just sell it direct.

Berens: Well, that certainly is what… what the promise of internet protocol television is holding out.

Schultz: And, I think you could make a good case for that, that the content provider will look at it and say, "Gee, why do I need to go get somebody to sell it for me? Because the big money is going to be me selling it direct, plus the fact that I keep the residual value of this," and so on, and so on, and so on. 

I think it puts the media organizations in a very delicate position, because as the advertiser base changes they don't have a way to generate any income or returns.

Berens: And, on the plus side? Do you see anything on the plus side?

Schultz: I think on the plus side, I think what it is going to do is it is going to make this probably the most interesting and innovative year, or 18 months, of our lives. Because I think what we are starting to see is -- and, I hate to use the word democracy, because it has been so badly used by our government -- but, I think what you are seeing is the democracy of content. And, that the consumer is truly going to drive what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in.

Now, the question is this: do we have to invent a new system to make them aware of -- and to know what the availability is -- of this content? I don't know how that is going to happen, if the mass media disappear, or become less and less important. How do you advise consumers of content that is being created that they might be interested in?

Berens: I think it is easy enough to track the rise of all sorts of extremism, or conservatism, or fundamentalism, or liberalism, just the rise of views that are farther from the center to the explosion of media, because there is now less of a mass culture, and therefore fewer people know the same stuff as the rest of us.

Schultz: Right. And, that raises then the question of: "what is?" And, what does that do to society?  Because I think there are huge social questions involved in all of this. If we lose our national communications systems -- the televisions -- I was reading some stuff yesterday about the newspapers… here is Knight Ridder, one of the most profitable newspaper chains…

Berens: Up for sale.

Schultz: Up for sale and just coming apart at the seams. Now, what does that do for society in terms of, "where do you get your information?" Do I have to spend all my time reading blogs? Is there no one that is going to summarize, or bring it all together, or give me an overview, or whatever it happens to be? If you look at it that way, then what happens to the sense of community that media has traditionally given?  And, if that goes away…

Berens: Then what? One of my questions has always been, "Where is the money in it for the media concierge?" That is what Joe Uva of OMD called it at one of our events. How do the people who summarize make money, because right now a lot of people who are doing it are doing it for free? If you are a blogger, then maybe you can pay for your web hosting through some ads for your blog. But, mostly, you are doing it out of passion. But, if people are going to be aided and abetted not only in their media consumption but also in their cultural participation with media, then how do these people giving aid going to get paid? 

Schultz: That and, "how do I find out about it?" I cannot spend my entire life surfing the net looking for this stuff. And nobody is going to drop it out of the sky. So, if I am a consumer looking for, or just interested in, or might be interested in content, then how do I find out about it? That is something that I don't think we have figured out, yet.

Berens: Certainly, all markets are becoming niche markets, right now. And, I think it has something to do with the growth of places like MySpace and the different sites where people are essentially all hanging out a shingle and saying, "Here I am." On one hand, that has been positive, because it does take the creation, and enjoyment and contemplation of our culture out of the hands of big media companies. On the other hand, it does mean that, increasingly, we are simply not going to know what other people are talking about.

Schultz: It is that, and, also is there then a national culture?  Is it… if you have got a whole bunch of cats, then is there a cat culture?

Berens: Right.

Schultz: And, I don't know, because we have never had cats.

Berens: It is certainly going to be a very interesting time to watch.

Schultz: Yes. I think we are going to see a huge rise in communities. I don't think there is any question about that. I could make a case that we will become more communal, and that we will resemble more the Japanese or the Chinese systems than we do today.

Berens: The interesting thing by my way of thinking is that these communities may not be geographical in nature.

Schultz: No, not at all. And, that has been going on for 50 years.  If you look now at who your network of friends and relations are, or friends and neighbors, they are not necessarily people who live near you. They are generally people who you work with, or are in proximity to during the day. And then, they all go off in 14 different directions and you don't even know who your neighbors are.

Berens: And, the growth of Instant Messenger means that I have people that I consider to be close friends who I may only have seen once or twice in my life.

Schultz: And, if you are like me and in the academic community… I have people I consider very close friends who I have never met in person. We do work on papers, and we send things back and forth and that sort of thing… but we have never physically been in contact… and we don't think anything of it.

Berens: Well, that is why God invented conferences.

Schultz: All true, all true. (Laughs.)

Berens: Well, Don, this has been wonderful. So, thank you.

Schultz: Terrific. Does that help you?

Berens: Absolutely, and I will email you the dates for our future Summits. We would certainly like to have you back. This would be for the Agencies. You spoke before the Brands before.

Schultz: Oh, God. Are they going to have enough money to come?

Berens: They will have enough money to come, and we'll make sure they check their tar and feathers at the door.

Brad Berens is executive editor for iMedia Communications.

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While the company can play the serious card from time to time in the subject line, it is always a little more party in the back. It employs a mix of copy styles, some of which call on useful basics borrowed from the text messaging vernacular -- ALOT OF EXCITEMENT WITH CAPS AND EX!!!CLA!!!!MT!!!ON PO!!!!NTS. Now, while I do believe that the exclamation is something that is both over- and misused in email subject lines by many brands, it can work if you don't use it as a subject line staple each and every campaign. Really -- not everything is that exciting.

Piperlime: Balance and simplicity
What appeals to me about the subject lines from Piperlime (the online-only shoe store of the Gap Brand companies) is their balance. While I have never seen a subject line go more than 65 characters, I have witnessed the opposite of going down to fewer than 10 characters. This approach to using the subject line for the purpose of the subject and effort is great. Use what your mamma gave you, I say, and stretch the length up, down, back and forth so that it works for you. Don't fear brevity; it is not the size but the word-smithing that will win over time.

Offer testing seems to be very important to Piperlime, and I appreciate the commitment to the changes in voice, tone, and offers. If you aren't testing, you aren't trying. There are definitely some winners in this line-up that beat others by miles. Those are keepers not to be used too often so that you don't tire them out.

Columbia Sportswear: Connecting with the audience
Columbia has been back in the game this past year with its commitment to the subject line. Commitment, you ask? What could the company be committing to? Well, if you scan the subject lines, you'll find the brand not taking the typical retailer route of save X or save Y. Rather, it's leading with the relationship, content, and value. It is an awesome road to take when you are in a position to do so. Take a look at other major manufacturing and distribution brands, and you will see that they often lead with positioning over discounting.

Why? Well, they have this massive revenue source call the channel. These retail and e-tail channels need the room to compete and discount. If a manufacturer leads with discounts, it can dilute the brand value while at the same time pulling fish out of the river upstream before those that rely on you to feed their families can fish.

The Body Shop: Clearly a promo-focused channel
I can honestly say that when I see an email arrive in my inbox from The Body Shop, I know exactly what I am getting into. Now that is a plus, as it allows me to rapidly understand what is inside, but it's also a negative in that I might not be interested and delete it immediately. You need to give a little more to entice people into opening, even with a clear promo subject line strategy. Sounds like I am flip-flopping a bit, right? Well, when you build a program up over time and don't mix it up every once in a while, the subject line can become a little expected. However, if your audience is only out for the deals and you have proven that over time, then stay the course.

Teavana: Icons in the subject line
What I always appreciate from Teavana is how it has replaced the constant ecommerce "!" with icons in the subject lines. (OK, the below example shows one "!", but look at how many brands always use them.) These icons grab my attention as they are symbols that we do not always see in our inbox. Teavana not only uses these odd symbols but also uses other characters like "::" and "+". They not only make emails easy to read but also add some character to them.

Something worth trying for sure. What does concern me a little (although I have not seen a problem yet) is that the messages could be perceived as junk or spam by some email filtering programs. If you are going to experiment with unusual characters, I suggest you test them out first in test accounts or using Pivotal Veracity or Return Path. Using them is a cool idea, but delivery to the inbox should override novelty every time.

Starbucks: Throwing in the kitchen sink
What stands out to me about Starbucks is that it seems to be trying everything. This tells me that the brand has a focus on offer testing and a commitment to growing a mature email marketing program. Its messages are concise enough to quickly read and understand while being complete enough to give you clear expectations on what you are in for when you open them up.

I am quite positive that I have seen only the tip of the iceberg (or iced latte) here when it comes to emails in my inbox, as I would not be surprised if Starbucks is testing multiple subject lines across all demos. The company is one to watch for ideas when it comes to subject lines. A little creativity topped with a fair dose of business goals. A win in my book.

Now that we've looked at the good, let's review some subject lines that need help and discuss what we can learn from them.

TI Las Vegas: Is your name so nice you need to use it twice?
The real estate in a subject line is prime real estate. There is no reason to take up valuable character counts by using your brand name in the subject line. We can tell who sent it by looking at the "from" field, so why use it again? As you can tell from the examples below, it is a consistent practice with this email program, and someone needs to tell the brand to break the habit, as it is not doing its program justice. This strategy also distracts from the offer itself (as TI Las Vegas uses email to get heads in beds and not necessarily to build a relationship).

I would wager here (all in) that the brand is not doing much testing with its subject lines but rather just hoping that the depth of its list will resonate with enough people to meet the goals. This program needs a little nudge in the right direction, and it has a chance at a winning hand.

Nordstrom: Use your profile/preference center to target
This will not be the first time I talk about how Nordstrom does not use the profile data it asks for to send the right emails. When you register for the company's emails, you're taken to a nice preference center that asks your gender as well as what emails you might like to get. I am quite certain that either the system is broken, not enough people have unsubscribed or complained, or I am not aware that I am a cross-dressing man who needs a new blouse and a pair of shoes to match.

If you scan the above examples of subject lines, you can see that they are all gender targeted. Now this is perfect if you are using your profile data. If Nordstrom were, I would say it is nailing it. But instead, it continues to drive nails in the coffin of my relationship with the brand. I have unsubscribed multiple times and used different email addresses to re-subscribe, yet I've never had the pleasure of it working out for me. If you are blowing it with an irrelevant subject line, you might as well not be sending your subscribers email at all.

Flowerbud: Who is Mark?
One thing that always confuses me is when brands don't send email from the company but instead from the CEO. It does not happen as often as it used to, but Flowerbud (whom I love) always sends the email from the CEO. Now, I know Mark and have talked to him over the years, but I would bet that 99.9 percent of the company's list has no clue who he is when they opt in and get an email from him.

Using something other than your brand name is not a good tactic -- unless you are Tony at Zappos, Jeff Bezos at Amazon, or Steve Jobs from Apple. But even then I would tell you to steer clear of it.

Also, the company has a tendency to use the same subject line over and over. Hey, maybe it works -- but it just gives me a little flash of Groundhog Day when I get to thinking, "Didn't I just see this email?"

Salomon and Quiznos: Why me?
Many studies have shown the impact of personalizing a subject line with your name. While great in practice, it is not something you should do over and over again. Maybe using it sporadically is a good thing to grab the attention of someone who might not be engaged in opening your emails. Likewise, it makes sense if an email is truly personalized when you open it. But don't use personalization for personalization's sake.

If you are going to use data simply for the sake that you have them, you are not using personalization or data right. Instead of placing it in the subject line every time you send an email, try mixing it up and placing it in the body of your email. Use it to create something special in the content that is targeted to me, or back off from using it altogether unless it is truly something just for me.

Think of that first time you walked up to the door to pick your first date. Sure, you were nervous, but you had spent months learning everything about her, gaining her trust, and learning what her buy signals were. You were armed for success then, just as you are now with your subscribers. The fact remains that even when you ring that door bell (or knock, in the polite kid's case), those first few words uttered out of your mouth sets the tone for the rest of the night. Did you nail it? Did you say the wrong thing? Heck, did she decide to call it off and not open the door?

Pan to the other side of that door. There you are, waiting for him to get there. Heck, you were ready three hours ago, changed outfits twice, and made sure that everything was perfect. You are engaged, willing, gave him the OK (aka, the opt in) to come by and take you out. Will he deliver on your expectations?

Just a step shy of being a psychic, you have to read and anticipate the first step with your email subject lines. You are not going to nail it all the time -- no one does. But you have to be consistent with your intent, true to your brand, and earn that response credibility.

Are you Eddie Haskell or the Beav? Listen, Eddie was a poet laureate of his times. Strive to bring people into the idea of the message with the simple one liner. It can be deal related, humorous, or to the point -- but no matter your approach, make sure it delivers on the open.

Overall, here are a few tactics to steer clear of when crafting subject lines:

  • Using your sender name (in the "from" line) as a repetitive part of the subject line.

  • Placing your domain in the subject line. Often a trick of spammers and not something any of us are going to take action on.

  • Worrying about length. Sure, a quick easy-to-scan subject line is a favorite (35 characters or less), but many tests have shown that testing and mixing it up can drive better success.

  • My personal feeling: Avoid using my name in a subject line. I know it can be good to see sometimes, but it really feels like a spam tactic. I know you sent me an email. Instead of personalizing the subject line, recognize me with content and copy in the email once you have my attention and the open.

  • Using double "!!" or the "!" at all. It feels like we have seen an increase in retailers using this in subject lines as of late. And is anything really so exciting to elicit one or even three exclamation points?

In the end, there is not a perfect subject line or one that wins all the battles. It comes down to thinking about your business goals, the desires and needs of your subscribers, the relationship you have with them and then test, test, test. The best part about subject lines (and also the Achilles heel) is that they are never done and can always use some new approaches.

Dylan Boyd is VP of sales and strategy at eROI.

On Twitter? Follow Boyd at @dtboyd. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

A trusted advisor to companies of all sizes and a respected voice within the interactive media industry, Dr. Brad Berens has enjoyed a wide-ranging career that features storytelling as an organizing theme. These days, he divides his time among...

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