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Darcy Grabenstein Oct 27

3 Ways to Refine Your Email Testing Process


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Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or relatively new to email marketing, you’ve got to think outside the inbox when it comes to A/B testing. If you’re not already running A/B tests, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to optimize your email campaigns. If you are conducting A/B tests, don’t get complacent. Test various elements to ensure that your content continues to resonate with your subscribers.

However, resist the temptation to test multiple elements at once. To avoid skewing the results, test one element at a time. For instance, test a subject line in one email campaign, a call to action in another.

Also keep in mind that you should test a large-enough email sample to make the test statistically significant. What exactly constitutes a statistically valid sample size? Most email marketers will suggest at least 1,000 email addresses. That doesn’t mean you need to run every test on your entire email list. If your list is smaller than 1,000, test 85 percent to 95 percent of the list to ensure valid results.

For larger lists, you may want to test using the 20/80 rule. Send Version A of your email to 10 percent of your list, and Version B to another 10 percent. A couple hours after the email is deployed, the email with the most opens is determined the winner, and that version is sent to the remaining 80 percent of your list. Most email service providers (ESPs) have built-in functionality to automate these types of tests.

Now that we’ve got the technical aspects out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the more creative aspects of A/B testing. Following are three concepts to consider the next time you launch an A/B email test.

1. Go “old school”

Pit a text-only email against an HTML email and see which one converts better. Take a look at your inbox. You’ve undoubtedly got dozens and dozens of HTML-designed emails, filled with eye-catching graphics. When is the last time you remember seeing a text-only promotional email? The absence of distracting graphics may actually cause a text-only email to perform better than its image-filled counterpart. A case in point:

 Purdue

Note that a text-only email, such as the one above, doesn’t mean you should forsake all branding. Including your organization’s logo at the top of the email lends credibility and recognition to your communications.

Special characters in subject lines are so “yesterday,” which is why you just might want to test them again. This site is a good place to start if you need some ideas on what icons are available. The charts also include both Unicode and UTF-8 codes, one of which your developers will need for production. Here’s an excerpt from one of the charts:

 unicode

If you’re targeting a B2B audience, though, you should know that Outlook and Gmail will display the special characters slightly differently. As with any email, you should do test sends with various email clients and browsers to make sure the email renders properly before sending.

And while personalization is nothing new, when done right it’s worth testing. Remember, personalization is not limited to the subject line. The following email also inserts the first name into the body of the email:

 PZ

Be sure to use best practices when adding personalization to an email. Always include a generic subject line version in case the email record in your database does not include a first name. For example, the generic version of the Ticketmaster subject line could be “Your Ultimate Live Event Guide.” If you are personalizing the body copy, the name should be the same font/size/color as the rest of the body copy. Otherwise, it will look out of place and defeat the whole purpose of personalization.

Another throwback approach would be to use the tried-and-true direct mail technique of adding a “P.S.” line. According to Professor Siegfried Vogele in Handbook of Direct Mail, over 90 percent of people read the P.S. first in a direct-mail letter. Granted, a recipient may have to scroll down to see the P.S. line in an email, but a strong P.S. can reinforce the call to action.

2. Take advantage of technology

If you don’t think you have the bandwidth to conduct A/B tests on a regular basis, think again. The technology is out there to make A/B tests as simple as A-B-C. Take advantage of these tools of the trade (both free and inexpensive), and take the pain out of email testing.

The email isn’t the only thing you should be testing. If you want to test conversions, then you need to test the landing pages, too. Unbounce, as it states, lets you build, publish and test landing pages without the need for IT. Rates are as low as $49/month. The site also offers landing page templates.

Spaces’ Image Resizer makes the task of resizing images a no-brainer. It’s not only free, it’s handy for both A/B testing and for sharing your email content — especially when an offer is involved — on social media.

 Sweets-lg Sweets-sm

Email on Acid, which conducts email rendering tests (as recommended above) for its clients, has provided a list of sites that offer free email templates. The company offers its own free templates as well, including responsive templates such as these:

 Mobile

Any email you develop, whether from scratch or using a template, should be responsive. Mobile-friendly emails are a must, as more than half of all emails are opened on mobile devices.

You can test your email and landing page designs outside your own lists with UsabilityHub’s Five Second Test. Pricing is on a subscription or test basis. How it works: Your design is shown to testers for 5 seconds. Then the testers are asked questions to see what they remembered. It’s a way to get a quick read on different treatments of an email, landing page, etc.

3. Test. Analyze. Repeat.

Over time, your list demographics will change and it pays to re-test elements that you previously tested. Or your product/service offering may vary, necessitating new tests. So what else can you test in your emails? The options are seemingly endless:

  • Preheader text
  • Email segmentation
  • Number of links
  • Colors
  • Navigation elements
  • Video
  • “From” name
  • Testimonials
  • Incentives
  • Day/time you send email

Regardless of what you ultimately decide to test in your emails, it’s important that you test. It’s equally important to analyze the results, and then apply your findings to future email campaigns.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.


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Darcy Grabenstein May 9

Marketing: A Matter of Perspective and Perception


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With the nation obsessed over the presidential election, many local candidates and races may not be getting the attention they deserve. In some cases, however, the opposite is occurring: More voters are turning out at the polls and, consequently, voting in local elections.

So how do local candidates grab the attention of voters? On a recent trip to Florida, I noticed that one candidate for sheriff did it very simply: by changing the perspective. My husband, who’s not in advertising, also noticed this, thus reinforcing the marketing theory I was forming in my head.

Take a look at the campaign sign below. It’s your typical square sign — turned on its side to form a diamond. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the candidate’s last name, Jett, lends itself to a visual icon.)

Campaign sign

The point is that this didn’t cost the candidate any more than a traditional square sign. But rotating the sign could mean the difference between capturing attention — and votes. The diamond-shaped sign stood out from the sea of square signs dotting both sides of the street.

Here’s where perspective and perception intersect. This diamond-shaped sign also may impart a subliminal message as well. Voters may see this as a reflection on the candidate himself, suggesting that he is non-traditional (which may not necessarily be a good thing in Florida’s Bible Belt) and willing to look at issues from a new perspective.

At the risk of jumping into the political fray, let’s go back to the presidential election for a moment. It just dawned on me that the campaign logos of the Democratic candidates focus on their first names, Hillary and Bernie, whereas the campaign logos for the Republican candidate focus on his last name, Trump. (So did those of the former Republican candidates: Cruz, Kasich, Bush.)  Candidates who truly want to connect with the people should probably take the more familiar approach. Politics. Perspective. Perception. Polls. President.

Changing the perspective works wonders for catching the eye — and ear — of your audience:

  • A speaker who really wants to make a point will whisper, not shout, to do so.
  • Printing your business card vertically instead of horizontally can differentiate you from the competition.
  • Sending a text-only promotional email will distinguish it from the glut of HTML emails cluttering the inbox.
  • A handwritten thank-you note, sent via traditional mail, is likely to be remembered.
  • Positioning a product upside-down on a billboard will turn heads.

So, the next time you’re looking for a unique way to market your brand, product or service, think of the diamond-shaped sign. You might just come up with a gem of an idea.

 Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

 

 


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Darcy Grabenstein Apr 12

Empathy Key to Successful Healthcare Outcomes — and Successful Advertising


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Holding handsAs someone who has dealt with health issues for both my parents, who are now deceased, I can attest to the import-ance of empathy in healthcare settings. However, because
my personal experience with health issues is, fortunately, rather limited I cannot understand exactly what others are experiencing when they face their own mortality.

This is the premise behind the Cleveland Clinic’s focus on empathy. To get an idea of how the Cleveland Clinic makes patient empathy a priority, check out its empathy video series on YouTube. The underlying theory is that, beyond medical intervention, the human connection is what makes a difference.

Empathy is more than just a buzzword at Cleveland Clinic. Empathy is part of the employee culture, as evidenced in this video.

The Cleveland Clinic shares its focus on empathy with other professionals in its annual Patient Experience: Empathy & Innovation Summit. This year marks the summit’s seventh year. More than 2,100 people attended the 2015 Patient Experience Summit, from 45 states and 37 countries, representing hundreds of hospitals, healthcare systems and businesses from around the world.

There’s something to be said for a doctor’s “bedside manner.” Studies have revealed that physician empathy is linked to improved patient outcomes. Nurses’ empathy has been shown to affect distress levels in patients.

Paul Rosen, clinical director of service and operational excellence at Nemours, delivers a compelling TEDx Talk on The next revolution in healthcare? Empathy. “My loved one,” he said, “does not feel he’s being treated like a human being. Something is broken.”

It should be no surprise, then, that empathy is equally important in healthcare marketing. Empathy is a powerful emotion, one that helps brands connect with their audiences. Whether you’re advertising a hospital and its renowned doctors, a cutting-edge pharmaceutical drug to relieve pain or say, a home for first-time homebuyers, empathy goes a long way in conveying your message.

So how do you express empathy in healthcare promotions if you haven’t had the same experiences as patients? It’s all about storytelling. Let the patients and caregivers tell their stories. Note that patients’ stories are not necessarily the same as testimonials. Patients’ stories give a glimpse into their lives and their outcomes. In short, storytelling should be about the end consumer, not about the organization or product you’re promoting.

Empathy can have an impact across audiences. Empathy addresses a patient’s or loved one’s pain points (and we’re not only talking physical pain). For a parent, it could be how to protect a child. For a spouse, it could be advocating for one’s partner. For an individual, it could be the fear of the unknown.

Empathy in healthcare advertising not only recognizes these pain points, it validates, addresses and never dismisses them. Empathy begins with really listening to patients, understanding their concerns, discovering how to allay those concerns and then communicating this in a caring way.

Approach all communications from the patient perspective. It’s a tall prescription to fill, but it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

 

 

 


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Darcy Grabenstein Jan 22

These emails let it snow, let it snow, let it snow


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While the Northeast braces for a blizzard, it’s the perfect time to talk about emails and marketing strategy. Whether your business is located in the Northeast or the Southwest, if you have online customers there’s a good chance many of them live in blizzard-bound areas.

A snowstorm creates a captive audience for your email marketing communications. (That is, assuming the power doesn’t go out. Then again, as long as the Internet is up and running, charged mobile phones and other devices can give folks access.)

Of course, when you’re tying in a promotional message to a natural disaster, you have to be careful not to offend those most adversely affected by the situation. In other words, it would have been tacky to capitalize on Hurricane Sandy.

The Sears email below uses the preheader to set the stage for the email. Granted, 5 percent isn’t a big deal, but it is if you’re scrambling to get snow tires on your vehicle.

 Sears snow tires email

 

In the Audible email below, there’s a touch of humor in the various scenarios presented. These are all scenarios that those stuck in a snowstorm can relate to. Coining the word “snow-casion” is a clever finishing touch.

Audible snow-related email

Remember, you can geographically segment your list and target only the audience affected by the weather. Here, Barnes & Noble targets its New York customers. While the coupon is only for brick-and-mortar stores, the email promotes both in-store and online shopping.

Barnes & Noble geo-targeted email

Urban Outfitters, however, promotes online savings in this email. Even the coupon code, SNOWEDIN, is tied in to the theme.

Urban Outfitters snow day email

Steve Madden’s email is all-inclusive, with copy that addresses both those stranded by the snow and those living elsewhere in the country:

Steve Madden email

Recipients anywhere in the U.S. can relate to this email from terrain. What’s interesting here is that the email features colorful plants instead of snow and ice. It would be interesting to do an A/B test with two different graphical treatments and see which performs better.

terrain email

Other emails can include content as a public service, putting a PR spin on the situation. This just landed in my inbox minutes ago from a local business:

Winter driving tips

The beauty of these types of emails is that they can be created ahead of time and tweaked as needed immediately prior to deploying. When your recipients are homebound, they have more down time and are more likely to engage with your content.

Here’s to a safe, cozy weekend for everyone affected by the impending blizzard.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

 

 


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Darcy Grabenstein Dec 2

Develop a Holiday Marketing Survival Plan


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Whether you’re B2B or B2C, for profit or nonprofit, online or brick and mortar, you need a (pre-) holiday marketing plan to make it through the holidays unscathed. Set up a calendar that includes everything: online and in-store promotions, email campaigns, social media content, print and banner ads, etc. This will help you keep track of deadlines and ensure consistency across channels.

Advance planning

Once the holidays are in full swing, the pace becomes frantic. Make any website upgrades at least six months in advance (there’s always next year!), so you’ll have plenty of time to test and get the bugs out before the holiday onslaught.

Design print and online materials (catalogs, ads, emails, etc.) as much in advance as possible. If you’re not sure of the exact sale price or offer, put in placeholders so you can easily update once they’re determined.

Beware of overkill

Marketers eager to capitalize on the holiday craziness are starting holiday sales earlier and earlier each year. Take a lesson from the little boy who cried wolf: If you start your promotions too early, they’re likely to fall on deaf ears. Also, if you launch your holiday campaigns too soon, you may cannibalize your other promotions, such as for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Email marketers should be particularly cognizant of the frequency of their emails during the holidays. It’s understandable that you’ll bump up the frequency a bit, but you have to know where to draw the line. If you start sending emails on a daily basis and see a significant number of unsubscribes, you’d be wise to dial back on the frequency.

At holiday time, free shipping is pretty much a given for online retailers. What other value-added services can you provide to set yourself apart from your competitors? Free gift wrap? Shipping upgrades or discounted expedited shipping? Think outside the packing box.

Know your customers

You not only need to know your customers’ preferences, you need to know what they don’t like as well. Avoid an epic fail like this:

Chanukah ham

The retailer, in this case Balducci’s in New York, had an in-store display that was far from kosher. Observant Jews don’t eat ham at any time of the year, let alone during Chanukah. This type of advertising fail is what I call “oyful.”

For that matter, if the majority of your customers celebrate Christmas, it may be safe to use “Christmas” in your promotions. However, why risk alienating the minority of your customers who celebrate Kwanzaa, Chanukah, or nothing at all? The politically correct (and least offensive) wording would simply be to substitute “Holiday” for “Christmas.” But then again, you may incur the wrath of those who object to calling it anything but Christmas.

Know your capabilities

If you’re a retailer, you’ve got to make sure items will be in stock in time for the holiday rush. You also need to be staffed, especially for Black Friday (unless, of course, you’re following the lead of REI, whose retail stores will be closed and online store won’t be processing orders). If you’re an online retailer, you’ve got to make sure your servers can handle the boost in web traffic. You also need to be staffed, especially for Cyber Monday. All retailers should consider hiring season workers in customer service, warehouse/shipping and other areas.

Failure to plan accordingly will result in dissatisfied customers. Take the example of Toys R Us, which last holiday season pissed off customers who had put items on layaway, only to find them out of stock just prior to the holidays.

Ask, and it shall be given

While most of us enjoy the holiday season, nonprofits take particular joy in the increased donations at this time of year. Think about it: It wouldn’t be Christmas without the clang of the Salvation Army bell at storefronts throughout the season.

According to the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, studies have shown that 30 percent of annual giving occurs in December, with 10 percent of annual giving occurring in the last three days of the year. Nonprofits need to ramp up their fundraising campaigns to capitalize on the generosity of the general public.

What’s the best way to do this? Share personal stories of those who have benefited from your organization’s efforts. Emotional appeals tug at the heartstrings (and purse strings) of potential donors.

Give A Christmas

For-profit companies, too, can benefit indirectly from cause-related marketing during the holidays. Newspapers run articles about families down on their luck, encouraging readers to make donations.

Companies often donate a percentage of their sales to a charitable cause, or match donations made by their customers. The opportunities for giving are endless, and the goodwill generated by such campaigns lingers on well past the holiday season.

Don’t delay the debriefing

When the hectic holidays have passed, your first inclination is to take a breather. However, this is when the real work starts. You need to review what worked, what didn’t, and why. Then start the process all over again for the 2016 holiday season.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.


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Diana Altobelli Jul 8

Are You Serious About YouTube Advertising? Here Is Why You Should Be.


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YouTube has made its way into all of our lives. Whether you are trying to find a “how to” video on home improvement, learn from some of the best makeup artists or follow comedians, the list goes on. It is the second largest search engine and processes more than 3 billion searches a month. Every minute, 100 hours of video are uploaded! Discover more in this YouTube infographic from Mushroom Networks.

So from an end-user perspective, it is a great thing. When it comes to video marketing, YouTube can be an awesome deal with many different options to hit your target audience. The video views can be dirt cheap compared to Google AdWords, Facebook and other search engines out there. More and more videos are being viewed on social media daily; you can see Facebook is trying to make waves with its video advertising and now 10-second promotional ads.

So why should you be advertising on YouTube, you ask? It’s simple. Billions of unique users flock each month to YouTube for anything and everything. The end user is there. There is no doubt in my mind you can find your target audience among those who view the 100 hours of video uploaded every minute on the platform.

What are your options? You have a few when it comes to YouTube advertising. And you can choose them when setting it up in Google AdWords.  You have the option to run display ads. These ads appear on the right of the featured video and above the suggested video list. These can be viewed on desktops. See the examples below. Can you tell I’ve been car shopping? Just drove home my 2016 Mazda 6 off the lot last night.

youtube display ad

 

Next you have the overlay ad. This is a semi-transparent ad that appears on 20 percent of the lower portion of the video being streamed.

overlay text ad

 

The most visible is the skippable video ad. This advertisement allows viewers to skip the ad after 5 seconds if they choose. This is played full screen before the selected video of choice during search.

That’s not all. The targeting options are terrific. Creepily terrific. Being in the online marketing realm since 2011 (mainly SEO, SEM and social), I still find it amazing the way we can target the end user. Some of the available targeting options available are:

Age

Gender

Parent/non-parent

Location

Interests

Keyword

Device targeting

Placements

If you’re new to YouTube, I suggest testing one option at a time. For example, overlay a text ad just to get your feet wet. If you are very familiar with Google AdWords, the transition will likely be easier. With all these options for video advertising online today, YouTube is a serious contender and will improve performance and brand awareness.

Diana Altobelli is a search marketing specialist at Annodyne.


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Darcy Grabenstein Jun 30

Declare Independence from Complacency – Brainstorm Your Way to Boldness


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Red, white and blue balloons

Throughout my career, I’ve heard stakeholders say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” To be fair, from the agency perspective, I’ve also heard coworkers say, “Well, it worked for [insert client name] before.”

Let’s face it, the world of marketing is constantly evolving. What worked last year (or last month or last week) may not produce the same results today.

That’s why we in the advertising industry have to continually launch campaigns, analyze them and apply our learnings to the next project or client.

 

Goals

Even if your campaigns are working (and especially if they are working), you might want to set aside some time for brainstorming. In order for a brainstorming session to be successful, and avoid the same-old-same-old routine, following are a few guidelines to get you started. After all, we’re an ad agency. We get paid to brainstorm on behalf of our clients.

Designate a facilitator.

Aim for cross-departmental or cross-divisional participation. Eliminate silos. Choose participants carefully, avoiding any negative personalities.

Go low-tech. That means no mobile devices or laptops. Period.

Encourage “wild and crazy” (a la “Saturday Night Live”) ideas.

Focus on quantity initially, not quality.

 

Here are a few more tips from the gurus at TED:

 

Share the topic/question in advance of your session. That gives participants a chance to think about it ahead of time.

If possible, seat everyone at a round table. This eliminates any hierarchy.

Keep it short, silly! (my version, of K.I.S.S.).

Start with a goal of “X” number of ideas. Of course, it’s OK to keep going once you’ve met that goal.

Build on others’ ideas. “Yes, and” should be your mantra.

Write down everything. Share the unfiltered list of ideas with participants as a follow-up.

After your brainstorming session, you need to develop actionable items. You may find that you need help implementing some of the ideas that were generated.

So ask yourself, particularly if you handle your marketing in-house: Is my marketing in a rut? If the answer is yes, it may behoove you to enlist help from outside your organization. Sometimes, just an impartial perspective is all it takes to propel your marketing to the next level. This does not mean your previous marketing strategy has failed to meet the mark; it means that you have the foresight to know when to call upon expert resources.

You know where to find us.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

Balloons image courtesy of: Elvis Santana
Goals image courtesy of: Hubspot


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Darcy Grabenstein Feb 18

How a Flat Tire Pumped Up My View of State Farm (and Its PR)


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The other night on my way home from work, I got a flat tire while driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Of course, it was THE coldest day of winter this season.

As I maneuvered into the far right lane and put on my hazard lights, I debated whether I could make it to the next exit. My car was riding like a belly dancer on steroids, so chances were slim. And that’s when I spotted it in the dark, cold night: My light in shining armor, a white turnpike safety patrol truck (emblazoned with the red State Farm logo on its sides) on the shoulder, its flashing lights a beacon of security to me.

The driver of the truck was already assisting another stranded motorist, but he came right over to my car. Mr. Truck Driver (Andre Nadzieja) asked me if I was a member of AAA, and when I said yes, he said help was on the way. He said he would alert them that another driver was in need of assistance as well. He took my AAA card and other information and called it in.

Granted, I could have done this on my own. But since the truck driver handled it, this allowed me to call my husband and then various car repair facilities to determine what my options were. Ironically, we had just ordered a new set of tires online for my car earlier in the week, so I was praying the shipment had arrived.

Mr. Truck Driver stopped back periodically to check on me and give me status updates. He also suggested I keep my car running to avoid having the battery die (the temperature was in the teens) and so I could keep the heater on and stay warm (ya think?).

Now I know Mr. Truck Driver gets paid to provide this service, but the fact that he was there and seemed genuinely interested in my well-being, all under the auspices of State Farm, made me feel all warm and fuzzy (well, at least fuzzy) toward the insurance company.

Turns out that State Farm has teamed up with other state transportation agencies to sponsor motorist assistance patrols. What a brilliant public relations initiative. I guess you could say State Farm’s PR is on a roll. Besides Pennsylvania, other states/agencies include Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority. On the Pennsylvania Turnpike site, for instance, the State Farm logo gets top billing:

PA Turnpike site

This service is free to the public and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It brings to mind a tagline used by many State Farm agents:

State Farm Anywhere. Anytime. Any day.

I would assume that State Farm must pay a hefty fee to sponsor this service. In my daily commute, the trucks are like moving billboards; I see the State Farm logo numerous times as trucks are stopped to help drivers. Obviously, State Farm has determined that the positive PR — and potential new customers — it generates as a result is worth the investment.

Mr. Truck Driver handed me a pamphlet about the State Farm Safety Patrol. As I sat in my somewhat toasty car, I looked at the pamphlet not from the perspective of a stranded motorist but from that of a PR professional.

State Farm pamphlet

State Farm roadside pamphlet

As a public service, the pamphlet listed what to do if you’re in an accident, as well as safety measures. The pamphlet included a tear-off card that could either be handed to the driver or mailed in later. It asked if my perceptions of State Farm were much more favorable/slightly more favorable/unchanged/slightly less favorable/much less favorable/don’t know as a result of my experience. (Much more favorable? Check!) The pamphlet also included a windshield sticker with instructions to dial *11 for assistance (accompanied of course, by “State Farm” in large white letters on its familiar red background). And the pamphlet included short promotional copy — “State Farm® is the number one insurer of cars in the United States.” — followed by five bullets, its URL and tagline.

Windshield sticker

Windshield sticker

The pamphlet also said I could share my comments online. Several people have already done so, making this PR promotion a great source for testimonials. Here’s one driver’s story:

“I had just dropped my cousins off at the airport. They were in NY for my father’s funeral. I was feeling emotional and heard a pop and my tire was flat. I was alone and scared. Joe LaBella calmed me down and got me on my way. He was amazing. Thank You State Farm. Now I truly believe ‘like a good neighbor….State Farm is there.’” – Deborah R., NY, Assisted by Joe L., NYSDOT H.E.L.P. – Long Island on Aug. 28.

By the way, Mr. Truck Driver stayed with me, his truck’s lights sending a warning to other drivers, until my spare tire was installed and I was on my way. While I was waiting, the jingle kept repeating itself in my head, over and over: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Yes, this PR campaign dovetails with State Farms branding, advertising and marketing strategies.

Staring at the truck’s flashing lights in my rear-view mirror, I couldn’t help but draw a few PR analogies. Let’s face it, many PR efforts are like a flashing light, designed to attract attention to a company, product or cause. Or, in the case of crisis PR, efforts are made to distract the public’s attention, steering them away from the “glaring light” of inquiry. In this case, however, State Farm brings to light the fact that it simply is good business to help others in need, no matter what the circumstance. And State Farm comes out shining.

Will I switch my auto insurance to State Farm? Possibly. Will I at least consider State Farm when I’m comparing auto insurance rates? You betcha. And that may be all State Farm hopes to gain from this community program.

But wait… there’s more! See Part II of my love fest for State Farm.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.


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Diana Altobelli Feb 13

Sending Some Sweet Sweet Love Right to Your Inbox


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The holidays are always a great time to jump on the email marketing train and capitalize on people’s spending habits. There are definitely certain holidays throughout the year that will cause people to go a little spend-crazy, one of them being Valentine’s Day. How did you ever guess? It’s only two days away.

Whether you happen to be promoting a product or service, everyone is always looking for a great deal. So before you go ahead and just blast out an email without thinking of the emotional connection of sweet, sensual love take a step back and think about what do your customers actually want? What will they jump on? It all starts with the subject line.

For starters, even if you don’t sell lovey-dovey items, you can still run a Valentine’s Day promotion. For example, Coyote Crossing, a restaurant suburban Philadelphia, is holding its first annual “I Hate Valentine’s Day Bash.” Perfect for those who don’t have a significant other. The subject line was “6 Reasons To Go To Coyote Crossing This Friday Night.” Well, obviously I want to see what’s going on there even if I am taken.

coyote corssing vday email

Another email blast again has nothing really to do with Valentine’s Day but, hey, why not capitalize on the holiday? I ran the Color Run a few years ago and still get promotional emails. Subject line: “Get some lovin’ this Valentine’s Day.”

color run vday special

Finally, a product email ended up in my inbox. The subject line read, “Last Days! $50 OFF His & Hers | Valentine’s Day Deals You Both Will Love!” As you can see, here the subject line definitely caught my eye. Lucky for my bank account, I already have a PMD, and I got it for a bigger discount than the one listed ;) . Anyway, there are accessories and add-ons also on sale that I could jump on, not even for the sake of Valentine’s Day but just because it’s a sale.

pmd vday blast

Just because you might not offer a candlelit dinner for two overlooking the river, or roses and a box of chocolates, doesn’t mean you can’t target your customers and provide them something to increase sales when people are spending.

Share with us below any email subject lines that you thought were super awesome!


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Darcy Grabenstein Feb 12

What I Love About My Job


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Candy hearts

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d get a little sentimental and share what I love about my job (sorry, honey). It’s one big love fest here at Annodyne, with several bloggers sharing what we love about working at the agency.

The people

I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years, and I’ve got to say that the folks at Annodyne take the drudgery out of my commute. From our creative team to our online marketers to our project and account managers to tech gurus, our staff rocks!

It’s one thing to like your coworkers and get along with them; it’s another to actually work well with each other. Within the creative team, we respect one anothers’ talents and actively collaborate without stepping on toes.

The collaboration continues among departments as well. I think the main reason we all work to make it work is because we put the clients’ needs foremost. We’re all willing to toe the line when necessary to ensure that we stay on point. (Do you detect a theme here?) Egos are set aside for the greater good. (And in a creative environment, trust me, this is no easy task!)

We even make time for some fun every month. One Friday a month, we get together for a little R&R (rowdiness and revelry?). We’ve gone bowling, raced go carts, decorated pumpkins and more. I think it’s important to get to know your coworkers outside the office setting. We’re often so busy meeting deadlines that it’s difficult to get to know each other on a personal basis. Every month, we get the chance to do just that.

The variety of work

Variety is what I love about working at an ad agency. Not only is the subject matter varied, but so is the medium. One day I can be working on content for a website, the next day copy for a print brochure, billboards or even bus signage. Heck, it’s more like one minute I’m working on one project, then have to shift gears and work on something totally different. It definitely keeps you on your toes.

The content itself varies from B2B (promoting Ann Arbor as a convention destination, for instance) to B2C (promoting community college courses ). While many copywriters focus on a niche, I love the fact that my job requires me to be versatile. I could be called upon to write news releases, blog posts, articles… emails, banner ads, social media posts… copy for pharma, tourism/travel, nonprofits, higher ed… you name it.

The actual work

It helps if you truly love your work. I can say that I do. I love to write. I love the challenge of coming up with different ways to convey a message. I love capturing the reader’s attention — and compelling the reader to take action, whether it’s clicking on a link, making a purchase, registering online, or whatever.

I love the power of language. I love the impact that words can have — either positive or negative — on someone.

I must admit that I’m partial to online writing. As someone who thrives on instant gratification, I love the immediacy of the medium. You can get a quick read on your promotion and tweak it on the fly for optimal results. I love the one-to-one communication that the Internet allows us.

Is it all rosy? Of course not. We face last-minute changes and needed-it-yesterday projects on a daily basis. But we deal with it and move on to the next task at hand. Like eating some Valentine’s Day chocolates.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

photo credit: Cottage 960 via photopin cc


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