In general, there are two types of emails that play on the word "holiday": the ones that thank you for being customers with no strings attached, and the ones that are trying to sell you something. The first group are "branding" emails at their purest. The second are transactional: get free shipping, save an additional 10%, 50% off a post-Christmas sale.
It seems the "branded" emails are going the way of the buggy whip. They were few and far between in our inboxes this year. Perhaps companies have gotten the message that "interactive" is a direct marketing medium, and have abandoned the soft sell in favor of the quick buck. More likely, it is a reflection of the state of the economy, where any marketing effort better have a quantifiable ROI associated with it. But I can't help but feel that we have tossed the baby out with the bath water.
Last year at this time I reported on dozens of Christmastime email campaigns that were fun and clever and projected a true holiday spirit. But preparing for this article, I was shocked to find coal in the stocking where presents formally resided.
There were some exceptions: Kodak, which survives on family times, presented a nice holiday greeting almost devoid of sales pitch (although not quite). And the Morgan Mint sent a pure "Thanks for being a customer"-style email. Sherman Williams had a creative and fun interactive email that let you paint a room and send it to a friend. Lancome and other luxury brands seemed to be repeating their greetings of Christmas past.
But more in keeping with the times were the Kmarts (10% off sale), Burt's Bees (find last minute gifts), and the CompUSAs of the world, with discounts, sales, and free shipping being the gospel dispensed.
But maybe that's what we wanted this year: a discount, some free shipping. As they sing in "Sweeney Todd": "Times are hard, times are hard."
But for me, as a person who looks at a lot of email creative, this year seemed a creative vacuum. Recycled creative. A lack of interactivity. In fact, a general malaise seems to have descended on the marketing community this year, as if we've all just learned that there is no jolly man in a red suit.