Your Emails are Boring. So are Your Shorts.
Periodically I’ll call out brands on Twitter that are doing great things with email marketing. This is a relatively rare phenomenon because admittedly, I think most email programs leave a lot to be desired. That is, after all, how I have a job as an email strategist.
I started paying attention to the Chubbies brand when I noticed an influx of thigh-baring inseams in my husband’s wardrobe as well as pullover collared shirts with pineapples and parrots on them… in October. I decided to check out their site, then I subscribed to their email program. Then I forwarded several of their emails to my colleagues in Professional Services. And then I forwarded a few more. Why? Because they were hilarious, and they basically rewrote the standard and often boring “best practice” scripts to fit their brand and their customers.
If you happened to memorize my “Unicorn Email Program” post in June, you’ll recall that I was incredibly disappointed with digital experiences in the retail space. My final recommendation that trumped all others was to “have some fun.” Ladies and gents, if you would like to have a little e-commerce and email marketing fun, check out Chubbies.com and sign up for their emails.
If you do a quick search on their approach, you’ll come across this gem on their content marketing strategy. You should check it out after you finish reading this post. While that post focuses on their broader marketing efforts, I’m going limit this post to their email marketing approach.
Across the board, each element of their email program is amusing. We’ll get to some of those elements below, but the overall takeaway is that they are actually making email fun. To all my past, current, and future clients: didn’t I tell you that email could be fun? Now I have a blog post I can send you to so you can see for yourself.
A few caveats before I dive in.
First, “fun” has to be on brand if you’re going to try to add a hefty dose to your email program. If you are selling life insurance, have commercials that use Sarah McLachlan’s music, or measure successful messaging by how many people in your test audience cry, this post is not for you. You can still be informative and engaging, but don’t try to force “fun and entertaining” on a brand that isn’t either of those things.
Next, don’t try to be Chubbies. You are not Chubbies. Using “Farts” in your “friendly from” is probably not going to work for you. Be inspired by Chubbies without trying to be Chubbies.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s look at some of the ways that they are making email interesting.
The Opt-In Process Was Painless
The Chubbies opt-in process is quick and in the spirit of the brand. The subscribe form is the gateway to the email program and sets expectations as well as the tone for what will be sent. If we make the assumption that the Chubbies target audience is low risk and they avoid over-mailing and irrelevant content, the vague subscribe form is something they can pull off. We wouldn’t recommend this approach for everyone, though, especially if list hygiene and/or complaints have been an issue.
The “Friendly From” Is What?
The list on the right shows the “friendly froms” that Chubbies has used since early December. This started a whole dialog within our Professional Services department. Usually, we recommend a consistent friendly from to help with immediate brand recognition within the inbox. Obviously, this flies in the face of that one.
I reviewed the data in Inbox Insight, and emails sent using the more interesting friendly froms generated slightly higher read rates (an 3.1% lift). These emails did see lower inbox placement, however, with a 28.3% greater chance of hitting the spam folder compared to those sent with a standard, well-branded friendly.
The jury is still out on this one but I think this topic is worthy of a post on its own. Stay tuned for a future post with more in-depth analysis of funky friendlies.
Subject Lines, Star Wars and Drinking Games
Chubbies goes out on more than a few limbs with their subject lines. Sometimes they’re on point and sometimes the majority of their audience seems to miss the punchline. For example, I liked their Jabba the Hut inspired subject line, “Han Mah Boo-kee, Mahl Boon Yan Ya Bohtoh Dal Eel Ah.” This didn’t pull many reads with their total audience, though, resulting in a read rate that was about a quarter of what they normally see.
While some individual subject lines fell flat, the overall impact is what counts. Chubbies isn’t hitting subscribers over the head with the same thing over and over again. They get a little weird and have a good time with their copy, which makes it more fun to come across their subject lines in the inbox.
Check out their top performing subject lines to the right.
Kill ’em With Content
This brand clearly gets the message that you can’t tee it up with weird friendlies and subject lines and not deliver with your content. Their Weekender newsletter is sent each Monday and focuses almost entirely on editorial-oriented topics for their target audience. Examples of recent Weekender content include a hangover cure, a Star Wars theory about how terrifying and horrible the Ewoks were, and instructions for a Settlers of Catan drinking game.
Even during peak holiday season, they kept the focus on amusing content. When they did send emails that emphasized products or offers, they kept the spirit of the brand at the forefront. Check out sections of their incredibly long but very entertaining email regarding their “Oh Farts! I Forgot About Christmas Assistance Program.” This email included one of my favorite gift guides that I came across this season.
Sure, they’re hawking product, but it’s entertaining. They’re employing effective tactics but parodying them as they do so. They’ve got the gift guide, the “Last Minute” gift ideas, and “Guaranteed by Christmas” shipping offers, but their humorous approach is a refreshing break the holiday inbox noise.
Getting Click Happy
While many of the Weekender emails use hyperlinks to drive clicks, anything product or sales oriented uses the attention-grabbing call-to-action buttons that we all know and love. While they do incorporate the tried and true, they ditched anything remotely related to “Click Here” and basically poke fun at the entire concept of the CTA. And who wouldn’t want to click on a button that reads, “THIS BUTTON JUST WANTS A CLICK. IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK? WON’T YOU HELP HIM OUT?”
Like many of their tactics, this isn’t something that all brands can pull off. There is definitely a takeaway: A generic statement on a button is far less compelling than something that actually makes you think of the benefits or provides some level of amusement.
And That’s Game, Folks
There are a few ways that Chubbies could up the ante with their emails but they are getting the most critical element right: they’re sending content that their subscribers like to receive. By sending interesting and occasionally ridiculous email content, they’re building their brand and increasing loyalty.
Email can be fun. And having a brand that people like (and root for) is never a bad thing.
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About Casey Swanton
Casey has a healthy fixation with helping marketers realize the potential of their email programs by addressing human needs, building better relationships, and ultimately driving improved results for the business. Her nine years of experience and obsession with evolving the email space helped land her a spot on ExpertSender’s list of “25 Email Geeks to Help You Get Your Geek On.”