Newsflash: Brand Matters in Email

A recent DMA Report, “The Integration of DM and Brand,” makes the case that brand and direct marketing are converging—where direct marketers are building brand value and brand marketers are influencing sales. (The report surveyed 296 marketers, 56% of whom combine direct and mass marketing and 44% just do direct marketing.)

I believe that email is one of the channels where this line is blurred most—in a really good and powerful mix that benefits marketers and subscribers. In fact, it benefits marketers BECAUSE it benefits subscribers! But that is a future blog post.

In the survey, nearly 70% of brand marketers rate personalization as having a positive or strong positive effect on brand and 64% rate targeting as having a positive or strong positive effect.

Clearly, these two methods—personalization and targeting—are keys to creating relevance in email, and the smart marketers who employ them to build satisfying and engaging email experiences for their subscribers enjoy higher response and ROI. Recently, a client added personalization to their email program and found that it boosted customer response by 6%, but dropped prospect response by 5% (and boosted prospect unsubscribe rates by 2%). Wow. That is pretty powerful—and really illustrates that when the subscriber has a relationship with your brand, customization and a personal approach are very powerful. When the prospect didn’t have a relationship with the brand, the intimacy assumed by the marketer bombed.

In fact, Return Path surveys show that brand and the subject line are the two of the most influential reasons why a subscriber decides to open and email. More so, it’s not just that particular email or the fact that the subscriber knows the brand, it’s the fact that the email program itself has value—the brand of the email program (what we at Return Path call “prior value”) matters most. In that 3–5 second decision to open or delete, the brand value of your email program—that you’ve sent me email in the past that was interesting, helpful and relevant—is what drives the open.

Brand matters in email, but it doesn’t trump relevancy.

—Stephanie Miller