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Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email Messaging

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Disasters present marketers with a unique challenge," Monetate (http://monetate.com/) writes. "What does your brand stand for in a trying situation like this one?" To help marketers understand how to …

Disasters present marketers with a unique challenge," Monetate (http://monetate.com/) writes. "What does your brand stand for in a trying situation like this one?" To help marketers understand how to handle that challenge, Monetate (a FoMP---friend of MarketingProfs) offers this free e-book.

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  • 1. a publication from
  • 2. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingIntroductionHurricane Sandy ravaged portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast United States,and is on record as being the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane in history. Withmore than 100 U.S. deaths, 7.5 million Americans who lost power, and an estimated$50 billion in losses, the impact of the “superstorm” cannot be overstated.Industry analysts scrambled to garner insight into the economic impact of one ofthe most dramatic modern examples of such devastation, while online marketerswill reflect for quite some time about how to message to customers during adisaster.Disasters present marketers with a unique challenge: What does your brand standfor in a trying situation like this one? In order to learn from what others have done,this eBook contains a collection of Hurricane Sandy email messages that span therange from questionable to inspiring and everywhere in between. And for someforward-looking guidance, nine marketing experts share their insights on how tobest navigate a disaster. a monetate ebook | 1
  • 3. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email Messaging Research on ecommerce spending during hurricane impact days in regions affected by the storm (October 29-31, 2012) clearly shows an astounding drop in online spending.Consumer Online Spending on Monday, Oct 29, 2012:* New York -26.07% 3-Day Averages New Jersey Pennsylvania -22.30% -18.52% By State -38.44% Connecticut -19.32% -35.35% Delaware -32.61%Consumer Online Spending on Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012:* New York -47.28% New Jersey -68.71% -18.54% -47.49% Pennsylvania -24.23% Connecticut -54.95% Delaware -26.47%Consumer Online Spending on Wednesday, Oct 31, 2012:* -25.73% New York -33.17% New Jersey -53.92% This data reflects the magnitude of the storms impact on consumer online Pennsylvania -12.47% shopping patterns, which raises a bigger issue concerning how marketers message Connecticut -42.80% to their customers during disasters. Questions to consider include: Delaware -16.47% • How do you communicate with your customers during a time of crisis? * Compared to averages of four previous respective days. • What impact will your messages have? • What is your brands place during a disaster? a monetate ebook | 2
  • 4. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingThe Right Approach for Your BrandMarketers may take varying approaches before, during, and after a disaster. Froma high-level, these communications can be broken into three categories: exploiting,communicating, and branding. Marketers need to remember that their voice is not always needed. Sometimes staying silent isExploiting the Disaster the most respectful way to communicate.There are several times a year when consumers expect their email inboxes to be - Ann Handley, MarketingProfsinundated with marketing messages, but few would guess that marketers wouldsee a disaster as prime-time for an email offer to buy products or services.Marketers who exploit the situation send disaster-related messages to their emaillists that seem entirely self-serving. Examples of this would be brands that hold I can see no reason for a brand to even think“Storm Sales,” or encourage users to shop via a mobile app while the power is about communicating and taking advantage of aout. These messages typically offer no real value to the consumer, and often don’t disaster. American Apparel’s ‘Sandy Sale’ deservedcommunicate any necessary information relating to the disaster. every bit of the criticism it received and should beNewsjacking, according to online marketing strategist and author David Meerman seen as the best example of what not to do.Scott, involves injecting your ideas or angles into breaking news in order to generate - Michael Brenner, SAPmedia coverage for yourself or your business. But what about newsjacking a majorstorm? Some marketers took a risk and sent Sandy-themed emails before the fullimpact of the storm was known, and the backlash was fast, social, and furious. a monetate ebook | 3
  • 5. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingPerhaps the most well-documented case of newsjacking Sandy that attracted a While many saw the American Apparel campaign as the ultimate example of whatgreat deal of negative attention was clothing retailer American Apparel’s “Sandy not to do, the company’s CEO Dov Charney stood by the marketing decision: “I don’tSale,” which urged customers to shop if they were “bored during the storm.” think our marketing guys made a mistake. Part of what you want to do in theseResponses spread like wildfire on Twitter, and phrases like “the lowest of low ” and events is keep the wheels of commerce going,” he stated. "People shopped on it.“boycott,” among others, were prominent. We generated tens of thousands of dollars from the sale, but we’ll probably lose a million dollars from this (storm) event at a minimum. We’re here to sell clothing. I’m sleeping well at night knowing this was not a serious matter." 1 While other examples weren’t as well-publicized, American Apparel was not alone in its attempt to use Sandy to increase sales. Here’s an email from home decor retailer Jonathan Adler that may be slightly more tactful, but still pushes the same message and offers no real value to the recipient beyond free shipping. 1. American Apparel Hurricane Sandy Marketing Not A Serious Matter, CEO Dov Charney Says: The Huffington Post, November 1, 2012 a monetate ebook | 4
  • 6. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingCommunicating During the DisasterMany brands have real issues to address with their customers after a disaster.Marketers who focus their messages around communicating key information As a marketer, your version of the Hippocratic oathto audiences send emails about how service could be impacted, share helpfulinformation, or address other pertinent business issues, like closed locations. is ‘first, do no harm (to your brand).’ So during a natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy, yourWhile power was out in the majority of the impacted areas, many consumers werestill able to access their email via mobile devices. Some companies recognized first step is to evaluate your current marketingemail as the easiest way to reach their audiences after the storm, and chose to campaigns, and suspend them if they aren’tcommunicate information regarding service interruptions, store closings, and appropriate. If you’re not sure your message will beother administrative issues. well received, it may be a great time to take a pause. - Jason “Retailgeek” Goldberg, RazorFish Businesses have a reach, so some used their ‘media’ to raise money directly for the event, in the cases of Marriott and JetBlue. While this gesture produces goodwill, it may not be effective at raising money, since visitors are on task to shop or buy. - Sam Decker, Mass Relevance a monetate ebook | 5
  • 7. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingFor instance, AT&T segmented its email list to communicate to customers in the Audible.com sent an email to its entire customer list days after Hurricane Sandy,impacted areas alone in order to deliver a message of compassion during the which shared information on how the storm impacted Audible.com’s day-to-daystorm. An email communicated that the company was waiving all overage and late operations and offered suggestions for how customers could reach its Customerfees experienced by customers in the affected areas. The messaging was clear, and Care team to resolve any issues that may have gone unresolved during the storm.the branding was not overly promotional or self-serving. By sending such an email,AT&T established that it was in touch with the needs of its customer base. a monetate ebook | 6
  • 8. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingKimpton Hotels took the pain out of cancelling a hotel room during the storm and With little attention going to its own brand, sneakpeeq, a “name your price"”onlinesubsequent recovery period by sending an email to its list that informed recipients shopping boutique, addressed possible delays customers could experience duringthat all fees and penalties associated with changing a reservation would be waived. storm recovery, and set expectations for a higher-than-normal wait time when calling customer service. a monetate ebook | 7
  • 9. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingBranding During a DisasterMarketers who use disaster communication to further their branding efforts couldsend messages about pledging a percentage of sales towards recovery, express How should marketers behave during natural disasters?their plan to help the situation, or even simply share a sentiment of unity. Like real people; with empathy, sensitivity, and aIn the days and weeks following Hurricane Sandy, many brands chose to assist in desire to use their voice to help however they can.recovery efforts by engaging their customers, while others chose to share a messageof support for those impacted. The most popular tactic was donating a percentage - Lee Odden, TopRank Online Marketingof sales after the storm, but some companies took a very unique approach. The brands that find themselves in trouble are usually the ones that have removed the humanity, community, and sincerity from their content. - Mitch Joel, Twist Image a monetate ebook | 8
  • 10. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingJetBlue first communicated that its flights were all operating on a normal schedule, Papa John’s took the straightforward approach of donating $1 of every sale to theand then went on to share its plan to help the recovery efforts. Not only did the American Red Cross, while keeping its messaging very direct.company match donations made to the Red Cross through its website, the airlinealso promoted its loyalty program by offering customers reward points for eachdollar donated. a monetate ebook | 9
  • 11. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingSaks Fifth Avenue segmented its email list, and communicated a message of Below are examples from Lot18, an online wine retailer, and Jack Rogers, asupport to those in the impacted areas, urging customers to use its brick-and- sandal and clothing company. Both expressed a message of sympathy for thosemortar locations as a safe haven if their homes and businesses were without impacted, and briefly explained how making purchases with them benefitedpower—a truly non-promotional communication sent by a brand that seemed hurricane relief efforts.incredibly genuine and which likely resonated with customers. a monetate ebook | 10
  • 12. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingMarriott messaged Rewards Club members with an opportunity to help victimsby donating their rewards points to those in need. This example showcases thebrand’s dedication to recovery after the storm, while offering a special perk for itsmost loyal customers. a monetate ebook | 11
  • 13. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email MessagingWhat the Experts say...There’s no right way to effectively message your customers during a disaster. One brand’s decision could result in backlash for another. Weasked some of the brightest and most influential minds in marketing to share their opinions on the topic. Their feedback is as varied as the emailcampaigns sent during Hurricane Sandy, but their advice could help you and your brand avoid costly marketing missteps in the future. That is the raw, hard, and honest truth about creating content during troubled Mitch Joel times. Some people will be offended (but say nothing), others will call you out (forcing a brand to defend its position), and others will think that it’s fine Best-Selling Author and President, Twist Image (understanding that life goes on, we rebuild and move forth). So, what’s the best game plan? Think about your heavy users, not the entire What happens to “business as usual” when disaster strikes? A Hurricane Sandy? A population. Your heavy users are your best customers. They are your core focus. Connecticut elementary school shooting? When is it OK to post about your rebates What do they need? What do they require? How can you best provide value to on Facebook or tweet out a special offer on Twitter? In the wake of two very scary them? This strategy must be coupled with sincerity. If you’re offering commentary and silencing situations, what became fascinating was watching the feeds of on a disaster or continuing to run promotions during a sensitive time, always be businesses (and some individuals) that kept their regular content flowing. sincere about it. The brands that find themselves in trouble are usually the ones Some people were appalled, some people chastised these brands and, I’m sure, that have removed the humanity, community, and sincerity from their content. others just went about their regularly scheduled days. It’s a fine line for brands. These are the brands that are the losers. Sadly, the truth is this: Disaster or not, the In one sense, a brand (or company) is made up of people. People, like you and I. brands that remove humanity, community, and sincerity from their content will They are hard-working people who care deeply about their family, friends, and always be the losers. community. In another sense, a brand is often admonished for either saying too much, too little, or something in between. Last snippet of advice: No brand was ever accused of doing something wrong or insincere by acknowledging a tragedy and sincerely offering to help. Don’t do There are no winners. these things because it’s good for business. Do these things because it’s good for humanity. The business part will then work itself out. a monetate ebook | 12
  • 14. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email Messaging Once you think you have a suitable disaster campaign, you’ll want to make sure it passes these three tests: Jason“Retailgeek”Goldberg Vice President of Strategy, Razorfish • Does your campaign legitimately help those being affected by the disaster? • Will the campaign enhance your brand, through your good deeds?As a marketer, your version of the Hippocratic oath is “first, do no harm (to your • Does the campaign position you to directly benefit financially from thebrand).” So during a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy, your first step is disaster? (It shouldnt.)to evaluate your current marketing campaigns, and suspend them if they aren’tappropriate. If you’re not sure your message will be well received, it may be a If your campaign doesn’t pass all three tests, you should re-think it.great time to take a pause. Very often, you can best help through direct financial support (making aOnce you’ve turned off any inappropriate or untimely messaging, you can donation, pledging a portion of sales, soliciting employee and/or customerevaluate if there is a disaster-related campaign that is appropriate. It’s important contributions, etc.). Unfortunately, those financial gestures often don’t resonateto remember that you aren’t marketing to those affected by the disaster, rather strongly with your target audience, so you’ll want to humanize your efforts byyou want to reach one of two groups: blending “doing” with “donating.” Can you give employees time off to volunteer? Can you repurpose some commercial assets to benefit victims of the disaster?1. Potential consumers of your product or service, whose impression of you will Can you enhance all your efforts by encouraging your customer base to matchbe enhanced by your good deeds. your efforts?2. Those that you can influence to do good deeds of their own. Disasters are never welcome, but the proper response can turn lemons into lemonade through improved employee moral, increased customer loyalty, andThe biggest win is when you can do both. Can you tell your audience how you are humanizing your brand.helping victims of Hurricane Sandy, and how they can help as well? a monetate ebook | 13
  • 15. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email Messaging Michael Brenner Sam Decker Sr. Director, Global Marketing, SAP; Founder and CEO, Mass Relevance President & Co-Founder, Business 2 CommunityI believe brands have no business communicating during a disaster unless their Businesses have a reach, so some used their “media” to raise money directly for theown customers are impacted. For example, Wells Fargo sent me a couple of emails event, in the cases of Marriott and Jet Blue. While this gesture produces goodwill, itbecause I live in the affected zone, and they were informing me of their decision may not be effective at raising money, since visitors are on task to shop or buy. Imto suspend certain fees (like late fees) due to the disaster. sure by the time they see this invitation, theyve had many solicitations to donate via mass media or social media. This additional impression may help push themI did see a few brands send status updates on Twitter or Facebook saying their over the edge to donate, but my guess is companies dont see a lot of conversion“thoughts and prayers” were going out to the victims. I believe that this reflects to raise money from this effort.the real human emotions of the people behind those accounts, which is fine butshouldn’t be forced. The personal letters notifying customers that companies are doing their best to deal with the shipping issues are OK, but I find them lacking substance. This is theOtherwise, I can see no reason for a brand to even think about communicating and safest approach and probably a bare minimum to show the company cares. In thetaking advantage of a disaster. American Apparel’s “Sandy Sale” deserved every bit case of Kimpton hotels, it announced a change in policy that supported victims.of the criticism it received and should be seen as the best example of what not to do. The worst approach is to be straight-up commercial. Simply tying a discounted shopping event to the disaster seems crass. The better approach is to use the retailing business model to raise money for the disaster, as done by Jack Rogers, Papa Johns, and Lot 18. From a marketing perspective, I think this is the best approach because they are tying the task of their visitors (shopping) to help in the disaster. What I didnt see was partnership between retailers and manufacturers where they could offer specific product at a deep discount and all proceeds go to the disaster. That purchase, and that brand, would be remembered for the donation to Hurricane Sandy, thus producing goodwill for the retailer and the manufacturer. a monetate ebook | 14
  • 16. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email Messaging As that crisis evolved on Twitter, the official NRA account tweeted, “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” The message was ill timed and resulted Lee Odden in a backlash that could have been prevented, had the NRA armed themselves CEO, TopRank Online Marketing; Author of “Optimize” with knowledge of current events and adjusted message promotions. Next, use tact and show respect for those affected by the event. Never attempt toWhile email is effective for marketers, it’s also an essential first responder tool in capitalize on the increased exposure your brand could see by tying a sales-orientedcombination with social networks used by organizations like the American Red message to the conversation around a natural disaster. American Apparel learnedCross. Email and social media are ideal for engagement before, during, and after this lesson the hard way during Hurricane Sandy. American Apparel increased itsnatural disasters. The trend towards social media use during these difficult times exposure, but at a cost to the brand’s social media reputation.means marketers must stay on top of current events, and adjust their messaging Of course, marketers don’t need to completely shut down during naturalaccordingly. disasters. But the tone and frequency of email and social media messaging shouldMarketers have an important role to play during a natural disaster. Customers, be adjusted. Contribute to the greater good by re-tweeting or emailing helpfulstaff, suppliers, or fans may be among those affected. Two of the most critical information from first responders and aid organizations. Include a short messagequalities for marketers during natural disasters are knowledge and tact. In an age of condolence and a link to a reputable donation site in appropriately timedof instant communication and highly amplified exposure through social media, emails. Focus on being helpful and offering assistance wherever possible, rathereven the slightest misstep (a poorly timed tweet or an unintentionally insensitive than focusing only on “Daily Deals” or other sales messaging. Companies will earnemail) can reach the eyes and ears of thousands in a matter of minutes. more respect and goodwill by showing compassion. In the weeks following Hurricane Sandy, the American Red Cross raised more than $158 million in donations and pledges, partly through online marketing and viral messaging. Companies can participate in promoting these worthy causes while helping to build their reputation as a caring and socially aware business.First, marketers need to listen actively at all times to recognize when potentially So how should marketers behave during natural disasters? Like real people; withsensitive events are unfolding. We saw an unfortunate example of not doing this empathy, sensitivity, and a desire to use their voice to help however they can.when the NRA posted a tweet that seemed callous during the Aurora, Colorado People buy from brands they like, and what’s not to like about a brand that helpsmovie theater shooting. when people need it most? a monetate ebook | 15
  • 17. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email Messaging Bryan Eisenberg Ann Handley Best-Selling Author, Speaker and Online Marketing Pioneer Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs; Co-Author of “Content Rules”While AT&T communicated late fees and overage issues, our offices never received In any kind of crisis, its essential that marketers carefully consider their messaging.bills from accounts on T-Mobile and Verizon after Hurricane Sandy. Why not take Brands need to ask these five questions before hitting “Send”:the time during the weeks after a disaster to make sure bills arrived, to offer to • Is communicating about the crisis on-brand?change people to online billing and email instead of print bills, etc.? • What does your brand stand for in this particular situation?Instead, we now have to waste our time to let them know we never got their billssent out around Hurricane Sandy. All they needed to do is show they cared just • Can you offer any assistance? Can you make things better?a little bit about their existing customers. Cablevision was making its customers • What is the goal of your communication?file claims to get rebates. But their data shows who had outages—and they couldeasily use this to automate credits for the downtime, and make their customers • If you dont send this communication, what will the consequences be? If youfeel better after a difficult time. Instead, they showed they only care about their do send this communication, what are the possible consequences?“bad” profits. The potential backlash a brand can face for a misstep during a crisis far outweighs most benefits. Marketers need to remember that their voice is not always needed. Sometimes staying silent is the most respectful way to communicate. a monetate ebook | 16
  • 18. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email Messaging • Take clear stock of the impact on your actual operation. Are your logistics impacted? Will any outstanding delivery or promotional activities be Nathan Richter adversely impacted? Are stores or other channels not able to operate at Strategic Services Director, Monetate maximum capacity? Be sure to understand if any legs to your operating stool have been compromised, and start communicating where needed.As with any unique event in our changing world, you need to be prepared to • Explore any ways that your company can publicly empathize with thereact and—most importantly—think outside the box. In the digital world, any situation whenever possible. Even if you cant tangibly do anything, just theinappropriate response will literally live in infamy. In a “first is better” marketing exercise of acknowledgement will show you and your brand are “aware.” Thisworld, I would advocate getting it right over anything else. should be a cohesive and singular message across your entire organization.• Digest the situation, and think about your employees/co-workers. The first • Become a part of the solution by aligning your internal resources to convey and most obvious task is to see what the effect is on the actual people you your response and role within recovery. One way could be to build brand work with. Focusing on your brand’s response rather than your brands equity versus a commerce activity component. A great example during foundation (workers) can be a bigger detriment than any misstep made in Hurricane Sandy was Verizon alerting people within the affected areas that your public reaction. they could come to a local Verizon store for device charging. No sales, no pitch… just service. This effort will be remembered and the favor returned at contract renewal time. The biggest value you can bring is being part of the fabric of the community. a monetate ebook | 17
  • 19. Lessons From Sandy: 12 Examples and 9 Experts Help Shape Your Email Messaging For example, if your company were charitable, it would be in poor taste to exploit the disaster in a way to simply get attention. Instead, think about how your Brian Kardon marketing can be used to improve the situation. Can you donate a percentage of CMO, Lattice Engines proceeds from sales during a period of time? Can you run a campaign to collect donations through your website? Is there something else you can do to help?Marketers can certainly take the time to plan a well-thought campaign or Even if your company or brand could be described as edgy or avant garde, Imessaging based on a disaster to connect with their audience in a way that will would always err on the side of caution when integrating a natural disaster intonot leave a bad impression, or worse, a new marketing disaster to battle. It is any messaging or marketing communication. It is too sensitive of a time. Peoplebetter to sit back and think for a moment, rather than jumping in. and their families, homes, and businesses could be in real danger. In an era when more and more companies are taking the newsjacking approach, it is important toBefore getting started, marketers should evaluate whether or not it makes sense to understand how your audience could interpret the different angles or messages.include messaging about the natural disaster in their email communications at all. Itmay not be relevant, and result in diluting a company’s brand or image rather than Simply put, if marketers choose to integrate a natural disaster into their messaging,strengthening it. Always ask yourself : How does this support our brand and goals? the best approach to take is one that is aligned with their brands. a monetate ebook | 18
  • 20. Expert Optimization ResourcesValuable case studies, eBooks, white papers, webinars & infographicsmonetate.com/resourcesRequest a DemoCall 877-MONETATE (US) l 484-323-6313 (around the world)demo.monetate.com1-877-MONETATE | 484-323-6313 | www.monetate.com©2012 Monetate Inc. All Rights Reserved