Putting a Face With the Name

More than ever, consumers are thinking about the necessity of their purchases before they part with their hard-earned dollars. Adding to the problem, 65% of Americans believe they are bombarded with too much advertising, according to the Art and Copy trailer.  This becomes a major issue for email marketers who are trying to walk the fine line between inundating the inbox and delivering timely messages.

So, how do you convert consumers from window shoppers to buyers when there are so many companies vying for their affections? Simply step out from behind the corporate curtain and create a connection that’s rooted in authenticity. One way to do this is to put a face with the name.

As the fashion visionary and Creative Director at J.Crew, Jenna Lyons is the ideal voice for the brand. By devoting an entire email to Jenna’s Picks and supporting the story in-store, in the catalog and online, J.Crew is inviting people into her office to see what inspires her. Adding the quote from Jenna is yet another way to personalize the content and up the authenticity.

The founders of Serena & Lily take this a step further by devoting two separate emails to their distinct styles: Serena Hearts and Lily Loves.  By incorporating a quote for each top pick, they create a conversation. Without the quotes, it would be a list of items without any personality. Of course, in both of these examples the assumption is that the quotes are real, and if they truly want to emanate authenticity then the words should be unedited, as though part of an interview or casual conversation.

Ann Taylor recently introduced their subscribers to Lisa, their new head designer, in a gorgeous email.  It includes a quote, a pic of Lisa, and swatches from her inspiration board. Unfortunately, the story ended there. Clicking on the CTA under Lisa’s photo dropped you straight into the shop path. Building out an online landing page where people might be able to learn about Lisa’s inspiration would have been a spot-on execution.

Catering to the true fashionista who scours the web looking for the latest trends, Tobi delivers all kinds of editorial extras into this email.  From taking subscribers behind the scenes at Velvet to strolling the San Francisco streets with their resident style scout, Tobi turns shopping into a full-on fashion experience. (On a best practices note, they fall short in some key areas, including SWYN and FTAF, which are major misses, especially when you consider the great content.)

At the other end of the authenticity spectrum, we have Old Navy’s Super-modelquins campaign.  Basically, their public-facing spokesperson, who supposedly embodies the Old Navy brand, is actually…a mannequin. While they’ve done their best to create personalities around these characters and make them more “human”, the fact remains that they are plastic, so this comes off as fake and, to be honest, a little creepy.

Without a doubt, Banana Republic has a lock on classic and affordable go-to-work styles. While their emails are always polished to perfection, they feel the same week after week, whether they’re featuring white shirts or the must-haves for fall. They get points for creating cool extras, like the City Stories short film competition and the Mad Men walk-on competition, but lose points for never letting their customers into the design studio. What was it that inspired them to make the white shirt the big staple for fall? Wouldn’t it be fun to know?

Knowing who you are as a company and inviting consumers to see the face behind the name will help you navigate away from the corporate speak and towards a more casual conversation. In other words, keep it real. No one wants to feel like they’re buying something that’s generic and mass produced. By giving them a story behind the product, you’re creating a connection for your consumer to carry with them every time they button up that shirt, slip on those sandals, or wear those must-have jeans.


– Darrah MacLean & Lisa Harmon – Smith-Harmon