Do Your Emails Reflect The Emotions That Define The Holidays?


Here come the holidays -- a great opportunity to try an emotional approach with your emails. At no other time of year do we have an important marketing season that also evokes so many -- and such deep -- emotions in people's hearts. After you've optimized your offers, schedule, targeting, and so on, turn your thoughts to fitting the tone of each email to the season.

Think of that lonely little holiday email of yours, sitting patiently in someone's inbox like the smallest present under the tree, hoping to be noticed, opened, delighted over, and clicked, bringing joy to the user and ringing the register for you. If you can connect with the emotions of the holidays, your emails will have a better chance of standing out and inviting user engagement.

Here is a selection of seasonal emotions, drawn from the songs on the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers ' list of top holiday favorites. While you're crafting your holiday emails, crank up a festive playlist to get in the same mood your customers will be in when they receive those emails.



Sentimental: "White Christmas." The molten chocolate tones ofBing Crosby etched this song into our cultural memory in 1947 and for all time. The words express the longing we all have for warmth, togetherness, and good wishes. Consider how you can wrap your messaging in a blanket of sentiment, and make each email exude good will.

Jolly: "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." St. Nicholas is the very symbol of gift-giving at Christmas -- and he is a "right jolly old elf," whose "round little belly shakes when he laughs, like a bowlful of jelly." Like this delightful image, "jolly" conjures up many wonderful connotations, including good spirits, cheerfully festive and joyous. Your messaging can be playful and spirited, too, bringing cheer to your customers.

Traditional: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." While most marketers today are skittish about using religious references, remember that the vast majority of your customers are still celebrating religious festivals at this time of year, and that is why they are buying gifts in the first place. You can speak to their sense of tradition without taking sides in the debate, with messages that pay homage to time-honored values and forms of celebration.

Loving: "Winter Wonderland" For many, the holidays are a time to love and be loved: forgetting old feuds, giving generously, and coming together with friends and family. It should be easy to tap into the love that swirls around at the holidays with words that express this ideal in caring for others with gifts, services, food, and thoughtful extra touches.

Excited: "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." The holidays are fun, and for many adults the time is filled with rounds of parties, cookie exchanges, and family get-togethers. And let's not forget the children, with all their excitement about presents and grandparents and winter vacations, oh my! Let your emails reflect the general exhilaration of the season, showing how your offering can enhance your customers' merriment.

Longing: "I'll Be Home for Christmas." There is no doubt that for some, the holidays bring a shadow of loneliness or loss, and many people (particularly women) feel stress due to the many extra tasks required of them -- shopping, cooking, decorating, and so on. To touch these customers, include a grace note of empathy and comfort in a way that works with your product. Reach out and show how you can help relieve some of the stress by making preparations easier or by suggesting ways they can have a more convivial holiday.

Many people today decry the commercialism that surrounds the holidays, yet they still want to shop. Create an ethos in your communications that reflects the emotions that abound at this time of year, and you may achieve the best of both worlds.

9 comments about "Do Your Emails Reflect The Emotions That Define The Holidays?".
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  1. Kristina Faller from Catalyst Direct, November 2, 2009 at 11:29 a.m.

    Great article, and I agree that we need to get in the "mood" to execute great holiday email creative. I do think one important emotion to connect with is humor-- using holiday humor is a great technique to break through the clutter of the inbox at this time of year when it's more crowded than ever. Not sure of the song - it's not my favorite, but maybe "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer?"

  2. Karolyn Anderson, November 2, 2009 at 1:28 p.m.

    I needed this....thanks! One challenge is how to creating a compelling, humorous and appealing holiday message (as you've discussed) while keeping the message non-secular.


  3. Cynthia Edwards from Razorfish, November 2, 2009 at 2:50 p.m.

    Karolyn, I believe you mean you want to keep the email secular - non-sectarian - right? By focusing on expressing the emotions associated with the holidays, you can capture the spirit of Christmas or Hanukkah without using those words.

    Personally, I find the whole "let's not mention Christmas" movement silly. In England, which as a society is more secular than ours, everyone wishes everyone else a "Happy Christmas" throughout December. I wish Americans were less hung up about it.

  4. Allen Maccannell from SenderOK, November 3, 2009 at 2:43 a.m.

    Not sure if I read this correctly, but you are saying that our newsletter landing pages need to play Christmas music? If so, please put that in bold because it isn't necessarily obvious that this is what you meant.

    We're showing a pumpkin on our sites still - traditionally Americans haven't gone "Christmas" until Thanksgiving Day and pumpkin pie represents Thanksgiving like pumpkins represent Halloween.

    Germans have already gone "Christmas" because they have no Thanksgiving speed bump.

  5. Patricia Philbin from Architect of Communication, November 3, 2009 at 3:21 a.m.

    Growing up I had friends with kids from other religions or no religion at all. For me, a non-secular approach to holidays isn't being politically correct, it just reflects the world we live in. December's a big month for all major religions. Chaukah Dec 12-19th (Jewish), Pancha Ganapati/Lord Ganesha Dec 21-25 (Hindu), Al-Hijira Dec 18 (Muslim New Year). I live in France and work with clients from Belgium and Germany to the UAE and Turkey. My end of the year email includes a short comment on new beginnings, gratitude and friendship. It's a universal message that anyone can feel good about.

  6. Abi Clowes from Pure360, November 3, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.

    Really enjoyed this article, a nice way for most people to relate to Christmas without all the religious squabbling over what is PC which let's face it does get rather silly during Christmas. It's a shame that what was a religious celebration needs to be detagged in such a way though - if only we could find out what our readers religions were, there could be some great segmenting of databases and some real value added personalisation...

  7. Jim Ducharme from The eMail Guide, November 3, 2009 at 9:12 a.m.

    Great read! You might be interested in our take on this one at . I think you'll find it a nice compliment to your post Cynthia.


  8. Ray Rheault from EyeMail Canada, November 3, 2009 at 3:51 p.m.

    This is where EyeMail technology becomes so powerful. Being able to put a high-quality Video or Audio directly into the email (instant play) is a big step towards memorability and awareness. Imagine having Santa talk to you directly from your Inbox..."what do you want for christmas?" he might say with a sly wink and happy grin. The possibilities are endless....but with EyeMail you're getting Email with Emotion.

    Great Article

  9. Chad White from Litmus, November 4, 2009 at 8:39 a.m.


    Black Friday is no longer the start of the holiday season anymore. Now it's around Nov. 1, which is when holiday decorations go up in stores--it's also the time by which the majority of retailers have already begun their holiday email messaging. As of Monday, 59% of the retailers I track had already sent at least one promotional email referencing the holidays/Christmas. If you wait until Black Friday to start your holiday messaging then you've more than half of the holiday season.

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