spring / 2017

The magazine of branded content
Is email the most
effective form of
content marketing?
Juliet Stott
Juliet Stott
Apr 6, 2017

It may not be as sexy as SnapChat or as cool as Instagram, but email is re-emerging as the darling of the marketing world. An estimated 205.6 billion emails are sent every day; that’s 88 emails for every woman, man and child on the planet. But, says a recent report from McKinsey, as many as 40% are never read and worse still deleted instantly. However, those that are opened are said to produce a huge return on investment. According to McKinsey’s findings, every dollar spent on email marketing generates a $38 return and delivers a three-fold increase in purchases compared to spend on social.

So, what’s the secret to great email marketing and why should we still use it? Here we highlight what some of the top content marketers say about this traditional tool, look at how the South African food retail giant Pick n Pay uses it to create an uplift in sales, and give you some tips on how you can write emails that your audience will want to open.

What the experts say

Mashable’s CMO Stacy Martinet:
“I think one of the most overlooked content distribution platforms is email. Every year we see the stats that say that email continues to be one of, if not the most, effective marketing vehicle. If you think about the way we live our lives, so much of us are tied to our email. It is the one place where we do choose what we want to subscribe to and what messages we want to see. People check it so many times throughout the day, especially on their phone, and the phone is so personal. There is still huge power in email, even though it is a more traditional digital vehicle.”

The Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose:
“We ponder the future of email, which has turned out to be a surprisingly resilient communications medium and a big opportunity for content marketers. Like any existing technology, its role continues to evolve, even as web-based work management applications like Slack are starting to usurp some of its traditional roles. Robert and I are big believers in the power of email. We agree that there are still many opportunities for brands to create compelling email experiences that cut through the clutter and get noticed.”

Intel’s global media and content strategist Luke Kintigh:
“You’ve got to meet your audience where they live and at the time they are there. You’ve got to meet them where they live and not expect them to meet you at your house. The actual hard metric we are trying to measure is email sign up. We are trying to drive subscriptions in the form of email sign ups. We love people coming to our site. We want them to come back to our site, but we want them to sign up for our email program. Then they become a very tuned-in audience. This is the deepest layer of engagement.”

Content marketing speaker and author Andrew Davis:
“One of the most underutilised mediums today is the email. It’s the forgotten medium. We all get excited about posting ads on Facebook or creating video for YouTube, but email is an unbelievably effective way to market. I get an email every Monday from a guy named Jason Sadler. He does something called the Action Army. Every Monday I look forward to this email. It’s actually very long, I’m guessing 1,300 or 1,400 words, but the emails are unbelievably effective. In fact, 99% of his business comes from his email subscription list. His content is really well structured and extremely well written, which makes a huge impact in your ability to trust him.”

How the South African food retail giant, Pick n Pay, used email to drive sales

Pick n Pay, the South African food retail giant, has many different types of consumers, but all are looking to make shopping, cooking and eating at home an easier and more affordable experience. By identifying this need, the team at John Brown Media South Africa was able to deliver a content-driven, digital solution that assisted consumers with the daily grind of planning the family’s meals, shopping for the ingredients and cooking them.

The John Brown Media team, who won Gold at The Content Council’s recent Pearl Awards for “best use of email,” created a “Supper Sorted” weekly email, which they send out every Thursday morning to help Pick n Pay customers plan their following week’s dinners and make weekend shopping for meals easy. The mailer contains five recipes that are family-friendly and can be prepared in one hour or less, using affordable, easy-to-find ingredients. It includes links to recipes and a downloadable shopping list, as well as banners promoting savings at Pick n Pay and a bonus dessert recipe.

The results have been fantastic. The “Supper Sorted” campaign is one of Pick n Pay’s most successful mailers to date. During 2016 it had an average gross open rate of 70% and a click-through rate of 32%. The mailer has also driven a significant like-for-like sales uplift for products that are featured within it.