The 'Right'-Thinking Email: Six New Senses For The Conceptual Age

  • by March 30, 2009

In his innovative book "A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future," Daniel H. Pink argues that our world has shifted from "left brain" dominance to the reign of right-brain thinkers: designers, inventors, teachers and storytellers. He deems this era "The Conceptual Age."

Pink then introduces the new high-concept, high-touch "six senses" essential to our Conceptual Age, which he argues "can help develop the whole new mind this era demands." Looking at each of Pink's six senses, it's clear that the most dynamic and successful email marketers are those who can guide their email programs with their right brains. We're taking a look at the first three of the new six senses -- design, story and symphony -- and how they help emails sparkle in the inbox.

DESIGN: "It's no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience or a lifestyle that's merely functional. Today it's economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging."



Most major brands have got the basics of email creative down, but it still takes an extra something to provide seamless aesthetics that stand out. Here are a few that deserve props for their sense of beauty, whimsy and engagement.

• Anthropologie's creative is almost always fanciful and lovely, including this image with a model standing amongst wire props -- we love that umbrella! The simplicity of the setting is artful and calls attention to the colors in the clothes.

• Neiman Marcus sends sleek, bold email. The company's use of color alongside the silhouette in this shoe promotion is particularly striking and memorable. 

• Land of Nod uses its copy, designs and imagery to emotionally engage its subscribers (mostly moms). Its emails stand out from that of other big kids' brands because of its playful approach, exemplified by this unique holiday email.

STORY: "When our lives are brimming with information and data, it's not enough to marshal an effective argument....  The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative."

• While Fossil's creative can seem a little cheesy, its road trip series creates a narrative that keeps subscribers checking back to see where Fossil stops next. It show its models in New York, Chicago and Seattle along with products that have been inspired by each city. The series appeals to subscribers' desire for stories and strengthens each message.

• J.Crew often leverages its "in-house style expert and muse," Jenna, as a unifying theme in its email. It frequently call out Jenna's Picks amongst its products. While its emails aren't offering a fully developed narrative, the personal voice behind them gives the impression of a story.

• Piperlime's Week of Treats offers a sense of story without even needing to tie it to people. By announcing at the beginning of the week that a series of daily specials will follow, each day's offer becomes stronger as a piece of the narrative; subscribers want to check back to see what will pop up next.

SYMPHONY: "What's in greatest demand today isn't analysis but synthesis -- seeing the big picture, crossing boundaries, and being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole."

Not only can email tie together brand elements across print, in-store displays and online design, it can also connect aspects of wide-reaching brands. It's impressive to see how email can promote one area of a brand while reinforcing the whole. REI, whose diverse offerings include outdoor gear and clothing, adventure trips, educational classes and volunteer projects, uses some stellar email strategies to achieve this goal.

Through its emails, REI manages to be both focused on singular promotions and to pull in exciting info that reinforces subscriber involvement throughout its brand. This REI member message presents a coupon while also reminding members about REI Adventures travel, while this regular promotional message includes messaging about both REI Adventures and in-store offerings. The REI newsletter ties aspects together in symphony, covering other facets of the co-op. Email brings the disparate pieces together.

We hope you'll think about nurturing these Conceptual Age senses, and make sure to check out our next article, which will cover the next three. You don't want to get left behind on the road to right-brain dominance!

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