You Don't Know Me

Against all good sense, I'm entering the holiday-vs-Christmas, politically correct terminology fray. To all those I'm about to offend on both sides of the issue, I apologize in advance!

While I feel that calling a decorated evergreen a "holiday tree" is ridiculous, I applaud the desire to be inclusive rather than exclusive. When addressing an audience, you don't want to give anyone a reason to think, "you're not talking to me" or, worse, "how dare you presume." Here are a few dos and don'ts to help avoid this fate.

DON'T: Tell me what I believe. It's fine to call something a great Christmas gift. No matter whether or how consumers celebrate this holiday, they know what a Christmas gift is and are aware that people purchase them this time of year. But don't use copy that assumes an e-mail recipient celebrates Christmas, such as "The gift they'll want to find under your tree on December 24th."

DO: Tell me why you think I care. Amazon.com does a great job of telling you why they assume you'll be interested in an offer. A typical opener is: "As someone who has purchased X in the past, we thought you'd be interested in Y." Note that its copywriters don't assume I like product X, so they don't say "As a fan of product X." I may not be a fan; I may have bought music I dislike as a gift. The reference to my previous purchase is a helpful reminder without an assumption about my tastes.

DON'T: Assume everyone is like you. Does the scenario you're depicting ring true for your entire audience? In Wisconsin, the advent of spring is met with giddy euphoria, so it's always tempting to put weather references in e-mail. But if I'm waxing poetic about the great weather ahead, and the Floridians on my list are already running for cover from the heat, I'm not setting a context they can relate to.

Writing copy that excludes, offends or doesn't ring true to an audience is the anti-segmentation approach. Despite mountains of data and ingenious technology, we don't truly know our customers. So we need to craft our copy carefully, to be inclusive without being off-base or bland.

Wishing you peace, prosperity and better response rates,


Melinda