A Third of Brand Emails Offer Free or Discounted Services Amid Pandemic

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Companies prioritize empathy during COVID-19 communications

Crenshaw Communications, a New York-based public relations agency specializing in technology, announced the analysis of dozens of B2C brand email marketing communications sent during the COVID-19 pandemic between mid-March and mid-May. Brands in the analysis include Dunkin’, Rothy’s, H&M, Anthropologie, Uber, Williams Sonoma, and Crate and Barrel, among others. In reviewing their communications, Crenshaw found that one-third of the brands offered free or discounted services, while almost all emails conveyed empathetic and encouraging words to subscribers.

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“To strengthen relationships with customers and support sales, brands are wrapping deals and discounts in a care package of empathy,” said Dorothy Crenshaw, CEO of Crenshaw Communications. “We observed comforting and empathic language across all the email campaigns reviewed, from legacy retailers to newer DTC brands.”

A quarter of the emails spoke about being “home” or “indoors” to convey their understanding of customers being socially isolated, and/or having to work remotely. Another 20% emphasized that consumers were not alone in their predicament, emphasizing words like “together” and  “community.” Other emails mentioned the difficulty of “these times” (16%) and offered well wishes of “safety” (13%) and “comfort” (10%). 

Empathy wasn’t only conveyed through words, however; it was also seen through the creative content of the emails. Of the 75% of the email campaigns that included images, only two campaigns didn’t include images that reflect the current environment of social distancing. 

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Additional findings include:

  • Subject line: The average word count was about 6 words, which is fairly standard. However, some campaigns had up to 14 words, which is far above the usual.

  • Overall Tone: About 50% of the campaigns analyzed were uplifting or upbeat in tone.

“Every business has been forced to reevaluate marketing materials amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Crenshaw. “Inappropriate or irrelevant copy or creative in emails, ads or branded content can turn off customers and even have a negative reputation impact.” 

According to HubSpot, email marketers are sending 27% more emails than they then did pre-coronavirus.i Even more significantly, people-based marketing platform LiveIntent recently released data showing email newsletter engagement has grown during the pandemic, with particularly sharp gains for email newsletters that cover finance (43%), hard news (38%) and especially shopping (83%). 

“Although marketing across the board has been affected by coronavirus, email has actually seen increased activity as consumers have stayed glued to their devices as they social distance,” added Crenshaw. “And as America begins to open for business again, the messages may change, but the email communications are likely to stay strong.”

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