Microsoft found itself in hot water this week after a recruiting email encouraged interns to get "lit" on a Monday night.
Patrick Burtchaell, a Loyola University student and Facebook intern, shared an email his roommate received from Microsoft on Twitter. In it, a Microsoft University Recruiter attempted to recruit the email recipient to attend a Microsoft event using rather colloquial online language.
The email alluded to drinking games, began with the greeting, “HEY BAE INTERN! <3” and ended with the phrase, “HELL YES TO GETTING LIT ON A MONDAY NIGHT.” For those in need of translation, “bae” is a term of endearment, while “lit” is another word for intoxication.
Brands may be tempted to adapt cultural language anomalies in their email marketing, but to do so also risks offending someone, sending subscribers text they don’t understand or even hurting brand trust.
“Regardless of the size and vision of your company, colloquial terms like ‘lit’ and ‘bae’ should be avoided in your email marketing,” says Ross Andrew, CEO of digital marketing company Maropost. “Impressions are everything and in working to engage with consumers of all demographics, a brand needs to carry itself as professionally as possible, especially in what is said and written in its content. Email marketing campaigns can be damaged through a lack of professionalism in not only the body of an email, but certainly in subject lines.”
Another risk when incorporating colloquialism in email marketing is appearing inauthentic.
"When sending email -- just like any personal communication -- it’s important to stay true to who you are," says Steven Aldrich, chief product officer of GoDaddy. "If you (or the company you represent) wouldn't call someone “bae” or refer to a meal as “noms” in conversation you shouldn’t send an email using those phrases. Being authentic establishes trust, and maintaining a focused list of relevant contacts you are emailing will increase engagement.”
Vivek Sharma, CEO of marketing technology company Movable Ink, agrees with Aldrich's assertions.
“It's a good rule to speak to your audience on their terms, but it's obvious when marketers try too hard,” says Sharma. “Customers and prospects want authenticity and can sniff out stilted attempts to be cool. How casual language gets depends on the brand and the experience they're trying to create. A skateboard brand will engage with customers differently than a law firm, but in general, emails designed to be loose and fun should still be written naturally. Context matters. If you don't understand the context, don't try to get too clever. If you're consciously thinking about what trendy words or style to use, you're already headed in the wrong direction.”