I don't envy people working in political communications. When election season rolls around, they're begging everyone for money, 24/7. How do you get even your most engaged, enthusiastic supporters to continue to open those emails when they know exactly what's waiting for them on the inside?
I'm on the mailing lists for a number of political candidates. I've seen them use just about every tactic to solicit a donation - begging, pleading, guilt-tripping, promise-making, inspirational-quote-sharing -you name it, it's been done.
But last week, I got an email from Elizabeth Warren's campaign that tried something entirely new: they didn't ask for money at all.
Instead, they opened with this subject line: "Happy Friday! Had a ruff week? Here are a bunch of pictures of Bailey." (For those not in the know, Bailey is Warren's very adorable golden retriever.)
What followed was just that - a bunch of cute puppy pictures!
And that was it. A series of dog photos and a nice thank you. Of course, she is running a grassroots campaign and does need to raise some coin, so at the very bottom of the email there was a link to donate, but it was not the central focus of the email at all.
I thought this was such a smart move on her campaign's part. First of all, puppy pictures have been scientifically proven to be irresistible (literally), so I bet their open rate was bananas.
And second of all, this email made me happy. Yes, I did have a ruff week! Yes, I would like to see a baby golden retriever gleefully romping through the snow! How did you know?
In the world of politics, which can so often turn nasty, don't you want to be the campaign that can put a smile on someone's face? Way to build positive associations with your brand!
And more than any of the other emails from candidates who were hounding me for money (dog pun absolutely intended), this is the one that made me want to throw some dollars Warren's way.
I plopped down on the couch to re-watch some classic 30 Rock episodes the other day (any other Tina Fey devotees out there?), and Hulu served me with a commercial from Hilton Hotels aimed at business travelers.
The ad is for a new feature on their app, which helps road warriors fill their limited free time by serving up a list of noteworthy spots and sights that are just outside their hotel's door. From tourist attractions to great running paths, the Hilton app has you covered.
I felt like whoever wrote the spot must have observed me on my most recent business trip. I got off the plane in Chicago, took a Lyft to the hotel, and then sat there paralyzed with fear in my room.
I had landed in an amazing new city, and there were about a million things I wanted to do, but I didn't know where I was in relation to anything else! And because I was there for business, I couldn't spend a whole day wandering around, seeking out the perfect deep dish slice or trying to find The Second City theatre.
For business travelers who want to go sightseeing, you're short on personal time, so you need to focus on places that are near your hotel.
Which takes us back to the ad. It represents an amazing example of a brand that's surveyed their customers, created crystal-clear personas, and developed products and advertising campaigns that are specific to each segment's needs.
Very few (if any) businesses have a customer base that is completely homogeneous. And with the current trend towards personalization in all things marketing, brands that are able to tailor their messaging to individual segments of their broader customer population will win the day.
In the case of Hilton, their app won't be relevant for the couple on their honeymoon, who have all day to explore a new city. Nor will it matter to the family on February break, who has a strict itinerary penned before they even get on the plane. But the app is solving a very real problem for business travelers. And it has me looking forward to my next stay at a Hilton.
It's the question on every business owners' lips in today's marketing landscape: how the heck do I help my brand stand out?
Instagram fan-favorite and haven for Millennial plant moms and dads everywhere, The Sill has put together a killer content marketing plan that helps them do just that.
I first heard about The Sill ages ago from a colleague who had somehow ended up on their email list. So when I decided to spruce up my work area with some greenery the other day and their name turned up in my Google search results, I clicked over to their website.
Now obviously, The Sill is doing a number of things right on the marketing front. Like I mentioned, they're stars on Instagram, with 630,000 followers. They dominate in search results on Google with some smart paid ads that put photos of their lush plants right at the top of SERPs.
But once you get to their website, they knock it out of the park again with their content. They've created a website that is jam-packed with valuable information about houseplants.
Want to know how to repot a plant? They've got you covered. Ever wondered about how and when to use fertilizer? There's an article about that. Need a quick rundown of the top 10 tips to ensure your plant's survival? Yup, that's on there, too.
But the thing that really sold me was the detailed information they had about each of the plant species they sell. They go over sunlight needs, how often to water them - they even have a filter that allows you to browse for pet-friendly plants (an absolute must if you have a curious kitty living in your home).
The Sill provided so much information, they had me convinced that I could grow a garden that would be the envy of even the staff at the Palace of Versailles. Little old me, who has killed every plant that's crossed my path!
Sure, I could have found the plants elsewhere on the internet. I could have even gotten them for cheaper on another site (because, of course, like any sensible modern-day consumer, I checked!).
But that's the thing about great content marketing. If you can win a prospect's trust by providing meaningful content that convinces them you're an expert and they're in good hands, it's no longer about price. Studies have shown that customers will pay more for a great experience. My decision to purchase from The Sill, and not one of their cheaper competitors, is living proof of that.
Now let's see if I can keep my two plant babies alive for more than six months...