As a producer of so many media channels, National Geographic is nailing it using email as an engagement catalyst for all. It is one of the largest curators of content from multiple media and creators of new content in a continuous cycle. So what is it doing right? Well, to begin with, the company is asking. Asking for your preferences, your profile, your desire for each email type, and, most importantly, your permission. That last one is the most important of all. National Geographic has set up some great opt-in centers across multiple locations that enable you to really set the level of engagement you desire.
Dropping down to a real web geek level here: National Geographic does a great job of informational architecture, allowing me to quickly understand and find the information that I'm looking for. With a brand that has so much content, being able to quickly do a visual scan of the content and pull the relevant information out in order to make informed decisions is key. On the design geek side, I am always excited to see the brand's emails, as the library of stunning images it uses will always hold my attention for just a little longer than average.
If you are a producer and curator of visually stimulating content, you need to deliver on the promise. And it is not always the big things like the hero shot that work, but the fine attention to detail on the brand attributes. The often subtle use of the yellow mark is used in order to break up and organize content blocks, while the top-level navigation (often missing in marketing newsletters, but active in ecommerce and content campaigns) helps to drive us deeper into content we might be willing to explore simply based on the brand trust National Geographic establishes. The use of color also helps when content is new. Using the red to highlight new content is a simple way to alert readers. With so much content buried deep within sites, calling out new content from the top level in an email works to spur the visit. While 90 percent of the content highlighted is "new" each week, it is does not lend itself to being unimportant or irrelevant after a period of time. We look to National Geographic for new things, and instead of having to seek it out ourselves on the website, the emails do the work for us.
I am also appreciative of how the company approaches video in email. As you can see from the above "25 Years" email, National Geographic adds the play button overlay but doesn't allow it to interfere with the images. Many other brands use the video play button overlay in the center of the content, thereby giving the notion of video playback in the email. But due to the relative few email clients that allow for playback, it is really just an illusion. I like how National Geographic gives the idea, yet gets out of the way of the asset experience.