When Juggernauts Collide: Email Marketing Meets Video Marketing

In the face of a tough economic climate, Stanford University's Scott Jahnke started exploring ways to increase donations from alumni. Jahnke is the Director of Student and Young Alumni Development, putting him in charge of generating donations from Stanford's recent graduates -- one of the harder demographics to reach. (Full disclosure: Stanford has been a client of my company.)

Historically, the university had sent fundraising letters and asked for contributions through phone calls. As expected, every year it has been getting more difficult to reach young alumni by snail mail or phone. So, moving to email marketing was an early opportunity to address costs and increase ROI. Recent grads are far more likely to give a valid email address than a number (93% of the captive population vs. 38%), meaning that email marketing gives Stanford a better and more widespread ability to connect.

At the very outset, Jahnke knew that it was crucial to optimize the presentation format of his department's fundraising messages. In his mind, "video-plus-email" seemed to be the most engaging delivery mechanism for his campaigns. In a recent blog post, Scott wrote: "Technology gives us the ability to do so much more than just text. How then, can we most effectively tell our story to thousands of people and inspire them to give? I believe that a combination of using email AND video to answer our three questions (why are we asking you for a gift, what is going to change if you give, and how will our organization make that change happen) is the so-called 'secret sauce.'"

Scott certainly isn't alone in his view. The Obama presidential campaign, for instance, also heavily employed the combination of email and video marketing in the final weeks running up to the election. Obama for America used targeted and highly personalized emails to drive people to landing pages with compelling videos and video calls-to-action. This technique worked because Obama campaign strategists knew that we live in a world of overflowing inboxes and short-attention spans, where plain text just doesn't have the same impact as well-made, short-form video.

At Stanford, the Young Alumni office produced several inspiring videos of students who had directly benefited from alumni contributions and attached a clear call-to-action to the end of each video, delivered via a Flash overlay that asked viewers to donate.

Calling out these videos, and providing a direct link to them in four out of five emails sent during Stanford's fall campaign, helped increase gifts by 23% over the previous year's fall campaign. This increase during a period of economic decline sold Scott on the power of using video marketing in tandem with Young Alumni's emails. And he knows that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here's the final word from Scott's recent blog post: "By tracking metrics, we can continuously improve our messaging and how many people are making gifts after viewing our videos; A/B testing of multiple variables allows me to try slight variations in content to hone in on what works best. Ultimately, we're still learning, and my hope is that our future campaigns will be even more successful."

If the combination of email and video marketing can put a president in the White House, and bring change to the practices of one of the most respected universities in the United States, what could it do for your organization?

You can view Stanford's Young Alumni campaign videos by visiting

4 comments about "When Juggernauts Collide: Email Marketing Meets Video Marketing ".
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  1. Jennifer Omeara from FLIMP Media, April 7, 2009 at 2:44 p.m.

    Email web video marketing is an extremely effective way to engage an audience into action. Furthermore, if you combine the video with clear calls-to-action enable marketers to drive viewers to a direct action, such as making a donation.

    Higher education is one of many business verticals that should be using web video marketing to communicate and interact with their audiences. At Flimp Media, our higher ed clients have generated engagement rates of 60% or higher when distributing flimp email campaigns.

    The Stanford Young Alumni Campaign is another great example of the effectiveness of web video marketing.

    Jenn O'Meara
    Flimp Media

  2. Lyn Graft from LG Pictures, April 7, 2009 at 2:51 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing Willis. We are finding our videos have 50% more stickiness for our members than other content elements and are slowly switching over most everything to that category and launching a new web site via this summer. One thing we build in this time, ways to collect data and really measure video metrics with their help and tie that to events we'll put on.

  3. Tyler Willis from Involver, April 7, 2009 at 2:54 p.m.

    @lyn take a look at visible measures, one of many good options.

  4. Eric Guerin from Adelie Studios, April 23, 2009 at 10:47 a.m.

    Great article Tyler! I will definitely be using the Stanford example as further evidence of how effective the combination can be.

    As more and more institutions discover how combining email marketing and video can be more effective both in relative cost (compared to a single direct mail campaign) and engagement it will gain further mainstream acceptance. Our own research shows that utilizing video as a call to action in an email marketing campaign produced 175% more click throughs than a simple text link. If you'd like to read about our test and results further, here is the link: <a href=""></a>

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