Marketers explore e-mail campaign strategies aimed at women

It has started as a trickle, but could soon be a flood, according to the marketing gurus. Indeed, both viral and permission-based e-mail campaigns targeted at women are being ballyhooed as the next big thing....

It has started as a trickle, but could soon be a flood, according to the marketing gurus. Indeed, both viral and permission-based e-mail campaigns targeted at women are being ballyhooed as the next big thing.

Just ask Andrea Sampson, interactive group account director at TBWA/Chiat/Day, who helped spearhead Seagram Canada’s first e-mail marketing campaign targeted at women over the May Victoria Day weekend.

”We know that women are the heaviest users of e-mail, and that there has been a great gender equalization in the past year on the Internet,” says Sampson.

It was with that in mind that Seagram and TBWA/Chiat/Day began to develop a strategy to target women between ages 25 and 34 with an e-mail campaign that was also tied to the launch of Seagram’s Frost Cooler in Alberta and Ontario.

The e-mail told them they had been ‘frostbitten by Seagram,’ and directed them to its Web site, www.frostyreception.com, where they were encouraged to send e-cards to their friends. The Web site included animated images of women depicted in typical scenes from their daily lives, including a woman snowed under work at her desk and another surrounded by screaming babies while waiting in a line for daycare. Each scene ended with the women reminiscing about a more youthful time in their lives – one in which she was surrounded by good friends, handsome men and alcohol. The scenes reinforced the importance of maintaining the relationships women have with each other.

In devising the creative for the e-mail campaign, Sampson said the company sought to take advantage of the fact that sending greeting cards over e-mail ranks as the fourth most popular use of the Internet.

‘It’s something that women love to do. We thought it would be really cool to come up with cards that spoke to them. Women really love to use to e-mail for conversations; to connect with old friends, particularly now that their lives are so hectic,” she says.

The response was overwhelming – the company clocked a 14% click-through rate on the 50,000-plus e-mails that were sent out. Of the approximately 7,000 respondents, half forwarded an e-mail to a friend and 50% of those women opened the e-mails. The contest allowed women to choose prizes, such as frosted mugs, keychains and product coupons.

The company’s Web strategy also included the introduction of Vokens, animated graphic images that appeared on the Web pages that could walk, talk and sing or drop into a page that a Web surfer is viewing. Sampson says that purpose of the Vokens was to provide a more interactive experience for the viewer – a new technology as likely to engage women as well as men.

Seagram isn’t alone.

‘This is a break-out year for women online,’ adds Roman Bodnarchuk, the president of Toronto-based online marketing agency N5R.com, ‘and the year that most of the big brands are beginning to realize that many of the buying decisions are being made by women and the importance of reaching them online.’

But e-mail marketing – to both sexes – is still in its infancy in Canada. And only a handful of marketers have fully begun to exploit the potential of targeting women with viral and permission-based e-mail campaigns, say the experts.

Recent figures appear to bolster any argument to be made for the possibilities associated with e-mail marketing. The number of Canadians online has grown by 14% since last May. Even more compelling for companies with an eye to marketing by e-mail is the news that Canadians are spending much more time online an average of 15.5 hours online each month, compared with 8.5 hours a year ago, according to recent data compiled by Media Metrix Canada.

While the Internet once skewed more heavily toward men, women between ages 45 and 49 are now its biggest users. They spend nearly 22 hours a month online and 96% of them use e-mail, the figures show.

Not only do women influence 75% of all household purchases, 49% of female Internet users made purchases online, as of July 2000, according to the Canadian Women Online Study conducted by J.C. Williams Group.

Bodnarchuk counts himself among the Canadian pioneers. In the past several months, he has spearheaded two e-mail campaigns targeted at women – campaigns that proved to be successful, he adds.

One campaign, launched last fall for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, offered up an ”Escape Reality” day in which women could win a glamor and shopping session at Holt Renfrew, a trip to the spa and dinner with the symphony’s conductor. Targeting an affluent audience of women ages 55 and older using the orchestra’s main mailing list, contestants were invited to enter the contest by way of e-mail and offered subsequent entry ballots for providing the names of friends who could also be targeted with the e-mail.

In the final tally, 9,000 women were driven to the Toronto Symphony Web site, where the company was able to mine valuable information about its target market.

The viral aspect of the campaign – getting referrals from friends of the women – also helped the TSO to reach its target market because the women tended to forward names of others in the same demographic and psychographic group, adds Bodnarchuk.

‘Marketing through e-mail is powerful because you can market directly to people at work and get your prospects to market for you. If your friend passes on an e-mail, it’s also an incredible endorsement.’

Of the 9,000 surfers who visited the Web site, 70% of the women came from sources other than the original database.

But not everyone is a proponent of viral campaigns.

‘I haven’t seen that many viral campaigns that work,’ explains James McIntosh, marketing manager for Shick, which launched its first permission-based e-mail campaign targeted at both men and women in November. ‘I think that most people find it annoying.’

He believes the future of e-mail marketing will lie in permission-based campaigns, such as its own campaign for the Shick Xtreme III razor. McIntosh says the e-mail campaign proved ‘reasonably’ effective, with 20,000 samples handed out so far, 9,000 of them to women. The company is working out the details for its next e-mail campaign, which will also target men and women.

He also says that any e-mail campaign is much more effective if it is simple in its message and text. It’s also important not to roll out all of the bells and whistles when marketing through e-mail because many Canadians’ computers are still not sophisticated enough to handle all of the available technology, according to the experts.

Hugh Furneaux, president of Ariad Custom Communications, agrees that simplicity is most effective and that the future is in permission-based campaigns. But he expects e-mail marketing to grow by leaps and bounds in the next few years.

‘E-mail is here to stay,’ says Furneaux, adding that the volume of e-mail is expected to grow tenfold by 2005. Despite the fact that it will grow in importance in the marketing manager’s arsenal of tools, it will always only be part of the marketing mix, accounting for about 12% of the marketing budget, he adds.