Branding Your EMails


How do you achieve effective, branded e-letters? Well, last week I introduced the idea of branded email, and I’ll explore the topic further this time, but, first, an anecdote…

A friend of mine happens to be a big Dr Pepper fan. Yet every time I see him he’s just bought a six-pack of Pepsi. Why? I asked him about this apparent incongruity, and I discovered he shows up with Pepsi rather than his favored Dr Pepper because of loyalty. That’s loyalty to his local store, not loyalty to one brand over another.

Even though this friend of mine is a loyal Dr Pepper consumer, his loyalty toward the store owner, with whom he’s built a relationship over the years, overrides his personal preference for Dr Pepper. His purchasing choice, in the case of sparkling beverages anyway, is governed by his connection to his community rather than his individual preferences.

Here’s a fact. Apparently, the number of syndicated TV series available to programmers is decreasing. The North American audience has responded by foregoing the entertainment offered by canned shows from around the world, and tuning in to local shows such as news and quiz programs.

So, what on earth do my friend’s personal loyalties and the increasing popularity of local TV shows have to do with electronic newsletters? Plenty.

My message is the notion of the local community has achieved significant resonance in consumers’ lives. I’m not saying global communications have been superannuated — not by a long shot. I am saying the importance and value of communication at the local level has reached a distinct and significant peak.

I’m sure you’ll agree most corporate e-newsletters and direct marketing e-mail have been framed according to national contexts. Rarely have I seen an example of corporate e-mailing that takes a local approach. The frame of reference — the offers made, the address — is usually countrywide or global. Sometimes you might perceive minor adjustments have been made to personalize an e-newsletter, but you don’t often find a real local consciousness evidenced in a company’s communications.

A newsletter I received recently from Harley-Davidson was an exception. This was no ordinary newsletter from corporate headquarters. It had been sent from the local Harley-Davidson dealership. Clearly, this local business had invested a substantial amount of time developing the newsletter. It was very well crafted. A cynic might conclude the owner had a relative working in Web programming. But then I discovered this e-newsletter wasn’t an innovation confined to one dealer. It turned out every Harley-Davidson dealership was sending local newsletters to its local customers. And, guess what. These localized newsletters sported the same branded graphics.

Harley-Davidson had handed over the responsibility for local communications to local dealers. Now the people who know their audiences and environments best were doing the talking.

What’s more, I found Harley-Davidson had established a series of national templates with an interface to allow every local dealership to customize newsletters. But most impressive of all is the comprehensive database, loaded with hundreds of articles, that Harley-Davidson and the e-letter company it is working with (SubscriberMail) had established. This enables those local dealers to provide articles of interest to their customer groups. The result? A relevant, localized e-newsletter that conveys the Harley-Davidson tone of voice and is well written and Harley-Davidson branded.

This column isn’t about Dr Pepper, Pepsi, or Harley-Davidson, but about this imperative: Brands must have a local focus. My Dr Pepper friend proves the point. The strongest brand loyalty is created between people or, if this is not possible, between people who know people — local communities.

Our everyday lives are defined by human relationships, and it’s upon these that our loyalties are built. Consumer loyalties are toward things they know and trust; things that are local and relevant to them. And therein lies the imperative for your brand building: Your brand’s communication strategy must have a local voice. Tie your message, whether it’s global or national, to local topics. Make it relevant. This is how brands can shed their arrogance, build consumer awareness in human terms, and win loyalty like they’ve never seen before.

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