Mario and Luigi: The Ultimate Subscriber Experience

 Bonnie Malone 

My kids are obsessed with video games.  Specifically, Super Mario Brothers.  And as much as I hate to admit it, I get caught up in it, too.  Mario and Luigi have been around since I was a kid playing on the original Nintendo gaming console, so it’s fun to channel my inner-child and attempt to beat the level before my own kids do.  Recently, when I was battling for power-ups and gold coins, I realized that the video game has a lot in common with the email life-cycle.  What we do everyday in battling for attention in the inbox isn’t that different from battling turtles and toothy plants in the video game.  Let me explain:

  • Mario and Luigi are the main characters.  As the player, you choose which character you’d like to play and commit to him for the duration of the game.  In email marketing, we have subscribers that “choose to play” by opting-in to our email programs.
  • Each level is a new and different land.  The course to be traversed, each land has it’s own nuances and experience.  Doesn’t each of our email programs have their own distinct functions and role in a subscriber’s life?
  • Growing mushrooms make Mario and Luigi bigger, so they are able to perform better.  When we send useful content, the result is better use of time, money savings, and other similar benefits to subscribers.
  • Gold coins are treasure that Mario and Luigi collect along the way.  Engagement factors such as interactive content, special offers, and social elements keep subscribers interested and satisfied with our email program.
  • Glowing flowers give special powers, so Mario and Luigi can do new and exciting things (squirrel suit, anyone?).  Email-only exclusives, loyalty programs, and networking opportunities help subscribers rise to a new level of engagement with an email program – and the company in general.
  • Turtles and toothy plants present obstacles, some of which can kill you!  Often times, marketers find themselves with low inbox delivery or high complaints.  Just like turtles and toothy plants, if you don’t deal with these obstacles right away, they can be detrimental to your email program performance.
  • The midpoint flag is a welcome relief – the checkpoint that saves your progress in the game.  Don’t we feel that way when we achieve that first conversion?  Having successfully engaged the subscriber into a deeper relationship, it’s a bit of assurance that we are doing something right.
  • Secret tunnels are accidental treasure troves!  Many marketers benefit similarly when they have lax business rules, or know clear areas for improvement, but maintain solid program performance metrics despite the known opportunities.  While, the excitement can be enjoyable in the moment, beware that they are not sustainable for completing the course.
  • Fire pits are dreaded obstacles, as the flames can randomly jump up and kill you – many times just a few steps from course completion.  The agony!  We feel this, too.  When email marketers are made to send much higher frequency than they know is ideal, or when competition sends a better offer, or when mistakes happen and we accidentally mail the wrong file.  All of these are sneak attacks on our email program that can lead to complaints or premature disengagement.
  • The final flagpole is the indication that the course has been completed.  Once the flag is flown,  fireworks ensue!  Inevitably, the time comes when a subscriber completes the course and our email relationship comes to an end.  While we don’t necessarily want to launch a fireworks show, we do want to ensure a smooth unsubscribe experience so the subscriber leaves our land with a positive impression.  Who knows, they just may come back to play again sometime!

What kind of experience is your email program providing to your players?  Is it a fun adventure full of growing mushrooms, gold coins, and glowing flowers?  Or, is your program one of the dreaded lands with turtles, toothy plants, and fire pits?

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About Bonnie Malone

Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying, and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and TotalRetail.

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