Take A Creative Leap On Holidays

Holidays provide wonderful opportunities for email creative teams to break away from the routine and turn their imagination to witty tie-ins.

Two factors are essential for holiday email success: the right timing and an appropriate message. Some holidays have a fairly long buying season that calls for a coordinated creative approach over time, such as the long run-up to Christmas and post-holiday sales. But most holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day or Independence Day, are blips on the calendar that call for only a single themed email -- or at most, a week of emails running up to the special day.

Take Valentine’s Day. Selling gifts and experiences via email starting about a week ahead makes sense, but a Valentine-themed email received on Feb. 15 is just lame. The 14th is a hard stop.

One-day holidays provide an opportunity for out-of-the-box creative. One email is probably enough for noncommercial observances like Groundhog Day, or for products and services that don’t seem to have a natural tie-in to the more commercial holidays but still want to take advantage of consumers’ heightened awareness. These one-off emails are where your creativity can shine!



The best Valentine’s Day email I received was a reactivation message from Live Mocha, an online language learning community. They could have created a mundane offer along the lines of “a deal you’ll love” (how many of those did you see?) or perhaps something more integral to their product around “the language of love.” But they took the concept a step further and sent a cute graphic with a handful of pick-up lines translated into Italian, which is the language I was studying with them last year (that’s the reactivation factor). It was irresistibly fun reading and a must-share.

An e-newsletter produced by my team at Razorfish for Special K® was delivered a little earlier than normal in order to fall on Valentine’s Day (timing) and was themed around “loving yourself” and getting wedding-ready. All the content, from the product feature to the social cross-promotion, intertwined the brand promise with the concept of love.

It’s good to have an email that tips its hat to the holiday. It’s better to express the essence of the holiday through the creative. It’s a slam-dunk if you can work the theme through the entire email and weave it together inextricably with your brand message.

What makes a themed email great is personality. Personality is characterized by a well-defined point of view, an arresting difference of some kind, and an emotional impact. Unfortunately what we often get in email is the opposite: clichés, old formulas, and obvious but dull tie-ins. Clichés have a kind of fatal attraction for copywriters because they spring so easily to the mind and for a millisecond sound witty or funny. But, folks, they’re still clichés, and they won’t do a thing to help you break through the inbox clutter.

It’s important to wrestle with a concept until you can squeeze something new as well as relevant out of it. Where the personality of the holiday intersects with the personality of your brand is the sweet spot.

If your brand is hard to match with a well-known holiday, spread a wider net; search for unusual or obscure holidays and adopt one as your own. The world is full of observances that range from the serious, such as National Blood Pressure Month; to the tasty, such as National Chocolate Chip Day; to the weird and wonderful, such as Defy Superstition Day or Bad Poetry Day. The offbeat timing will work to your advantage in terms of standing out from inbox clutter, and the message will be purely your own. 

Leap Year’s Day, Feb. 29, is next week, and it offers a once-in-four-years opportunity to do something outlandish with your email creative. This is a good time to announce a breakthrough, to challenge readers to try something outside of their comfort zone, or to reverse roles in some way (as in the tradition of maiden ladies being able to pop the question on this day). There’s a lot of meat in the idea of a Leap Year. I look forward to opening my inbox on that day to see who has made the best use of it.  


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