Lauren Merkin Pinterest promotion: 3 easy steps

I received the below email yesterday from, announcing a Pinterest sweepstakes. I’ve seen a number of brands conduct Pinterest sweepstakes/contests, and this stood out to me in a positive way as one of the cleaner and easier implementations for users to understand what is required of them.  I particularly liked the way they broke it down into simple steps/directions for users to follow.  All too often, I’ve seen brands include paragraphs of text, where users really need to focus and digest the instructions. Lauren Merkin made it clear and straightforward as to what is required to enter.

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My main suggestion to improve this communication would be to add a prominent call-to-action, like a “go now” or “enter now” button that links to their Pinterest page. Currently if you click the image, it does link there, but this isn’t readily apparent.

When I searched Pinterest for #LMWishlist, nothing came up. This seemed strange to me because I would expect that they’d seed content themselves. Perhaps there is a delay on Pinterest before search results for hashtags appear.  When I search for “Lauren Merkin”, I do see a handful of entrants, but the hashtag is noted in the comments instead of the description so it’s not clickable.  According to articles on Oh So Pinteresting and Hashtracking, hashtags are only searchable and linkable when they are in the Pin description (not the board or account description). I am unclear on what happens if users include a hashtag in the comments section but this may be the problem.  (ex. See sparkly bag in 3rd column below):


Lauren Merkin’s account does pin quite a bit (1,000+ pins) and have adorable cover photos for each of their boards, but it looks like their Pinterest offering is in its infancy (under 200 followers). I am under the impression that this promotion is an attempt to spark growth in their # of followers. This is likely important for them during the holiday season since it’s so widely reported that Pinterest is effective as a channel for retailers to generate sales.  I’ll be curious to check in a few weeks and see how effective this was for them in terms of new follower growth.

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Old Navy Boyz II Men White Jeans Spot: Memorable!

Not sure if my dear friend Anne Montgomery Cambria was the brains and energy behind the Old Navy White Jeans TV spot I recently saw, but the messaging definitely cut through! Typically, I find the Old Navy TV spots to be nothing short of  cheeky, juvenile, and overall annoying, but this one stood out in a good way.  A few reasons:

  • The use of Boyz II Men as the celebrity talent was great, as it hit home with their target audience (assuming I am in the target as a late 20s/early 30s woman). The song choice instantly conjured a positive association (and fondly remember 7th grade), and made me look at the TV to see if it was the real Boyz II Men performing.  It was ear-catching!
  • The spot focused on a specific product, white jeans. After watching the spot, I knew that I could go to Old Navy and find an assortment of white jeans. They showcased multiple styles (skinny jeans, flare leg, kids) to convey the idea that regardless of your body type, there may be a cut you’re interested in.  Instead of just a “summer styles are here” type messaging, I found the focus on one specific product to be wise and memorable.
  • The price-point was clearly highlighted ($19 for women, $8 for girls). Especially for a seasonal product like white jeans, shoppers likely want to participate in the trend but not spend a fortune on this style. They can so easily get dirty and who knows if you’ll want the same pair next year. Again, very smart in my opinion to not only highlight the availability of the trend, but also display how affordably shoppers can get the product for at Old Navy.

Here it is. What do you think?

Gap Inc. beta tests “Find In Store” functionality

Looks like the Gap Inc. brands are piloting “Find in Store” functionality.  I just noticed this on their site last week.


See “Find In Store – Beta” button underneath “Add To Bag” (click to enlarge)

For now, it seems this feature is restricted to information-gathering only. Once you click the “Find in Store” button, there’s the option to enter your zipcode and it then shows you which stores have that inventory available in your size. However, as of right now, you cannot put an item on hold at the store, or purchase/pay for it online and have the store keep it for you (like Nordstrom offers).


After entering zipcode and size, see the stores that have that item in stock (click to enlarge)

I’m guessing this is a first step toward a more robust “find in store” functionality.  Seems they’ve integrated their online/offline inventory systems which is an important starting place. If Gap Inc. demonstrates enough appetite for this feature (if they see a significant # of users utilizing this functionality), then they’d likely build out the fulfillment aspects so individuals can purchase and pick up from any store.

Makes sense from a lean start-up methodology to try to assess whether the demand is there before fully building out the feature set.  I’m excited to see how this evolves, and would wager that we’ll see this introduced with the e-commerce functionality build in at some point this year.  Online/offline integration is bound to only be more prevalent and seamless in the future.

Us Weekly Renewal Notice Made Me Smile

I so often receive direct mail/statements from the various credit card companies or magazine renewal forms that promptly get pitched to the trash. This one from UsWeekly magazine however made me stop and look twice. Cute, witty, and playful, it got my attention:


Opportunity calls!  Bland mailers could be made more fun and infused with personality like this one. Would lead to less of a visceral negative reaction or feeling of dread when opening the mailbox…

A Nordstrom email that got it right

I received the below email from Nordstrom on Friday, and in my opinion, they nailed a number of things with this communication.  I also noted a few areas of opportunity.


What Nordstrom got right:

1) Subject line: “Customer Faves: Our Most-Wanted Sandals” instantly got my attention. I was curious what’s popular among their shoppers (social proof at its best).

2) Simple and straightforward creative: the imagery was easy to follow, brand names were called out prominently, and it wasn’t too busy.  This email was easy to navigate quickly.

3) Casual hand-drawn arrows: The hand-drawn arrows moved my eye toward each product (shoe as the hero), and conveyed a fun/lighthearted and casual tone to the email.

4) Customer testimonials: The quotes provided were simple and in the voice of a consumer. Even if I didn’t read these word for word, it made me feel that there would be other reviews on the site if I clicked through, and gave credibility to these styles being customer favorites (vs. simply styles Nordstrom wants to promote).  Whether that is true or not is another question, but the perception was there that these are legitimate customer quotes.

How this email could improve:
1) Add a link at the bottom with an image of a bunch of similar customer favorites “…and 50 more!”.  I wasn’t personally smitten by any of these sandals, but may have clicked through to see other styles if they were easily accessible.  There was a link to “Shop Sandals” at the top of the email but by the time I scrolled down beyond this, I wasn’t of the mindset to scroll back up, so I wouldn’t have clicked through this email at all.  I think one other small image may have enticed me to continue shopping sandals, but didn’t happen in reality.

2) If a user does click through, the experience should be more tailored.  Currently, if you do click on one of the particular sandals, you’re taken to a general sandals page, with the top row of sandals shown being the four highlighted in the email.  I expected that you’d be taken to the specific product detail page of the sandals you clicked on, or at least a page largely emphasizing that individual style. It seems Nordstrom could have created a more customized experience based on which sandal you click from the email – showing you that one most prominently, with others similar in style or from the same brand below.  I understand why technically their implementation was an easier solution (one large image in the email, so anywhere you click takes you to the same place), but it was less customized/tailored than the experience could be.  I also imagine that the email marketing team is a different team than controls the product pages, and has less influence/control over what happens once users click through, but are primarily charged with generating clicks to the overall Nordstrom site.

Overall, I was impressed by this email though – nice work, Nordstrom!

How to be memorable: Give consumers the choice

This past weekend I stayed at a Westin hotel in Chicago, and a few elements stood out to me as novel approaches. I encountered two specific instances where they put the choice into the hands of the consumer, empowering their guest with the final decision, which I think was effective at creating a memorable experience.

Upon checking in, the front desk told us “Since you’re Starwood Gold, you get the choice of perks – would you like complimentary internet during your stay or 250 Starwood points?”  My husband and I took the internet (a no-brainer since we are device addicted/internet-reliant), but I thought the approach was unique.  Giving customers the choice of reward likely leads to greater satisfaction, a feeling of pride and creating a more memorable stand-out moment.  Aside from simply a sense of gratitude and extra thanks for the perk (“they even let me choose”), there’s an additional sense of achievement that customers remember: “I did that” or “I chose that for myself”.


Separately, we noticed a hang-tag that guests could elect to hang on their door (where the do-not-disturb sign goes) that presented the offer “Skip your housekeeping and get a $5 credit daily to the restaurant”. Another way of putting the choice in the hands of the consumers – allowing them to decide what is most important or which they value more highly.  Not only is this part of Westin’s “green initiative” reducing waste, but makes sense economically as the cost of fully cleaning a room is likely greater than $5 when you consider staffing needs and associated salaries, laundry, electricity/overhead and other supplies.  I’m curious how many guests actually choose this option, and of those that do – what part is most compelling to them – knowing that they are helping environmental practices or the attached monetary incentive.  Regardless though of the reason they’d opt for the $5 credit over a clean room, I again think that putting the choice into the hands of the consumers is a wise move.

When a promotional email gets it right and wrong

Received an email from American Express yesterday that stuck out:


First, on a positive note:

Messaging about Father’s Day immediately after Mother’s Day seemed incredibly wise to me. AMEX jumped while the holiday is top-of-mind for consumers.  As gifts were just exchanged for Mother’s Day the day prior, for many gift-givers it’s a logical thing to now consider what you’re getting dad for the next upcoming celebration.  Also, since this was likely sent to a number of women who just received gifts themselves, there’s probably an element of reciprocity involved — leading them to want to give back something of equal or higher value than what they just received.  I haven’t yet seen other promotional messaging about Father’s Day so this was unique (a bit shocking when you consider the adage that as soon as the Halloween candy comes out of stores the Christmas decorations go up). To me, the timing was impeccable sending this message on the heels of Mother’s Day.  I would expect and encourage AMEX to send a follow-up email closer to the actual Father’s Day holiday which would likely result in higher sales, but this probably captured some initial interest, before the Father’s Day gift-giving messaging is widespread/overwhelming.

On a negative note:

Aside from the broken image (weird line in the middle of it), which I won’t dwell on but does look unprofessional, the issue I’ve had with similar pre-paid gift cards in the past is that there is always a processing fee of some sort. So your options are to either buy a gift card for a store/restaurant you know the recipient will love, get one for somewhere like Amazon with a huge selection, or pay an extra fee for this type of card.  (And it sometimes seems the fee 2-sided, applying to both the purchaser and redeemer).  The subject line of this AMEX email was “Order No Purchase Fee Gift Cards for Fathers Day” so I was intrigued.  Under the “Great Value” bullet it then says “…there are no customer service or activation fees, and funds don’t expire”.  Yet, I was still wary given my past experiences trying to purchase similar cards.  And, for good reason. Check out what happens as soon as you click “Order now”:


There, prominently displayed is a $3.95 Purchase Charge.  Confusion ensues!  I then went back to the email and noticed that in very very tiny print at the bottom is a small code you can type in to avoid this fee (EMDADCM). They are basically touting that there are no fees associated with these cards only to initially disappoint/shock/confuse members after clicking through.  Seems that a more optimal experience would be highlighting the code as a prominent aspect of the email itself. Also, upon clicking through, say you either saw a place to enter the code immediately, or the purchase charge lines were crossed off so you get a sense of immediate gratification, not that you need to hunt around.  Imagine your satisfaction and increased likelihood to purchase if you saw something like this instead: