NO JOKE! I wrote an April Fool’s Roundup post!

April Fool’s day is one of my favorite days as a marketer. I like my content creative, weird, and funny. I haven’t done a roundup of emails in a billion years, but this morning I woke up to some gems (and some “No Jokes”, which are just….no). I talked about how to do April Fool’s Day emails at Litmus’s Email Design Conference two years ago.

In my presentation, I talked about a few guidelines for successfully executing an April Fool’s Day marketing campaign:

  • Your April Fool’s marketing email should be a joke, not a prank.
  • Ideal reaction: You want to make people do a double take, maybe fool them for a moment, but not upset them.
  • Be funny and clever.
  • Do something similar enough to something that your brand would normally do that it throws people off, but make it very clear that it’s not real.
  • Involve cute animals in some way. It just works.

Email Content Cliches (April Fool’s section starts at slide 16) >>

And stop using “No Joke” and “No Fooling!” SO boring and overdone. You might as well do just a regular email.

It’s only 10 AM as I’m writing this, and I’ve already had some great April Fool’s emails!

  1. Mood Fabrics – “Thank you For your swatch order”
    This was genius. Mood Fabrics is a lovely, huge fabric store in the garment district. I take classes and shop there VERY regularly. You may know the store from Project Runway – it’s where they get their fabric for their challenges. So, fabric is expensive, and is bought by the yard. It has to be cut off a large bolt in whatever amount you want to buy. At Mood, you can get a “swatch” (small cut square) before buying it to make sure it’s what you want for your project, because it can’t be returned once cut. Mood Fabrics also has a store mascot – an adorable Boston Terrier who can frequently be found sleeping in the store. His name is Swatch.

    Their April Fool’s email was a shipping confirmation for a swatch order – only the order was for Swatch the Dog. It was funny, well-designed, and involved a cute animal. YES! The only downside is – now I want to order a Swatch.


    Lower in the email, they clarified that it was an April Fool’s joke, and offered 10% off everything. They also featured some of their products that have Swatch the dog on them. All in all, it was perfect. View full email >>

  2. Boden: You won’t BELIEVE what we’ve done to our dresses

    Boden’s done it again! A few years ago, they did a hilarious “recall” of a dress that had a print of a beach scene that “accidentally” had very tiny naked people on it. That email made me buy the skirt in that print.

    This year – it’s a clickbait subject line, with scented clothing for sale! Their products are very bright, cheery, and colorful. I WISH they were scented to match the patterns. I think what I like about this the most – on mobile, they probably tricked some people into scratching the “scratch and sniff” icon that had a gif of a hand scratching it. This was cute and silly.  View full email >>

  3.  Kate Gabrielle – limited release: chocolate scented easter bunny brooches 🐰
    Kate Gabrielle is a jewelry and accessories company I probably found through a Buzzfeed roundup of cute feminist things I need to buy immediately. I bought this  (immediately when I saw it) from her a while ago:


    Kate sent her (maybe) April Fool’s email late Friday night. It features cute Easter bunny brooches that look – and smell – like chocolate. When I got the email, I thought it was cute… but also wasn’t sure if it was an April Fool’s joke or an actual product. If it is real… I want one.


    It seemed plausible and timely – Easter’s in a few weeks, and her designs are quirky and always have a “wink” to them. Clicking through to the email shows them as sold out, and restocking at 12PM on 4/1 – which kind if indicates it’s an April Fool’s joke. She has a signup for a waitlist/restock email. I signed up. (I’ll update this post if/when she sends something).
    View full email >>

I’m not even going to bother featuring the less clever April Fool’s emails. I’ve had a lot of “No Joke!” emails that essentially just did a normal email with some reference to their amazing deals not being a joke. Yawn.

What were your favorite (and least favorite) April Fool’s emails this year, internet?


How to make a 4th of July email in 4 easy steps

Step 1: Timing

As with any holiday, it’s important to begin marketing about 4th of July immediately after the previous holiday. In this case, it’s Father’s Day. Otherwise, how else will everyone know how culturally relevant you are?

Step 2: Subject lines

Since you’re a clever brand that knows what people associate with Independence Day, it’s absolutely crucial that you use any (or all!) of the following words and phrases in your subject lines.

  • Made in the USA

  • ☆, ✰, or ☀
  • Star Spangled Sale
  • Star Spangled Savings
  • Star Spangled Coupon

  • Red, white and blue

  • Red, white and NEW (aren’t you clever?)

Step 3: Images

If you don’t have a gif of fireworks in your email, what are you thinking?!? Everyone loves gifs (pronounced the CORRECT way, with a hard G). Gifs can go in emails. HOW COOL. HOW ORIGINAL. HOW PATRIOTIC.

Americans also love a good artfully curated picnic table covered in red, white and blue items. We like to have cookouts on summer holidays (HECK YEAH WE DO!), and everything on our tables must be color-coordinated to match the holiday we’re celebrating.

Some of us even go so far as to dump out our purses filled with expensive patriotic items all over the table so that everyone else at the cookout can see how much more patriotic we are than everyone else.

  Step 4: Unless you’re Bonobos, just go home and try again next year. ‘Murica.

Happy 4th of July!

Daddy issues: Father’s Day email roundup

I have 105 emails in my “Father’s Day” label right now. I haven’t even opened about half of them – I just lazily did searches for Father’s day and applied the label.  It’s no surprise that certain brands really pushed it hard with the Father’s day emails – Lowe’s, Jack Spade, Bonobos, and Nordstrom Rack – Men’s are sending a lot of emails. (None of these are stores at which I would buy something for my dad, but whatever. Okay, maybe Lowe’s. If I lived near one. Or if I lived near my dad.) I wanted to write about cringe-worthy/bad father’s day emails, but I honestly didn’t get that many. So most of these emails are really good.

Except this first one… It’s for a fondue restaurant chain, The Melting Pot. The email has information about a specific location at the bottom, so I’m not sure if this promotion was national or what.

1. The Melting Pot (Sent 6/6)

Subject Line: Celebrate your H.O.T.T.Y on Father’s Day

Just…. just look at this. I can’t.

hotty1 hotty2

Yeaaaaah. Wow.


2. Sephora – (Sent 6/3)

This next email was a bit of a surprise. I enjoy Sephora’s emails a lot, and I think they do a great job with their loyalty program. But it’s not exactly the first place I would think of to purchase a father’s day gift. (Or, perhaps it’s genius. I buy my dad a grooming kit or cologne or whatever, and then get the free gift of the month/points for the loyalty program. Everyone wins.) The email was nicely designed, as usual for Sephora.

Subject line: Our Father’s Day gift guide

sephora1 sephora2 sephora3 sephora4



3. Spades on Spades (Jack and Kate)

The Spade brands are really on top of their game with emails. Anyone who’s read at least 3 consecutive posts on this blog (any three, doesn’t even matter) could easily see that I’m totally obsessed with Saturday. I thought these brands did a nice job of leveraging each other’s audiences and strengths. Jack Spade obviously has plenty of products geared toward men, and they’re certainly nice enough to be father’s day gifts (and they even steer away from ties and golf stuff!).

I particularly liked this one – it took the angle of wives (or husbands…) shopping for their husband who happens to be a father. I guess that’s totally normal. I’m still coming to terms with the idea that my peers are becoming parents, and this type of email would be just right for my demographic.

Jack Spade  (Sent 6/2)
Subject line: Look What the Stork Just Brought In

jackspade1 jackspade2 jackspade3


And Kate Spade smartly directed its subscribers to the Jack Spade site with this simple gif email (the background in the letters looks like it’s running through a field)

Kate Spade (Sent 6/4)

Subject line: hey daddio! the jack spade father’s day gift guide is here



4. J.Crew

This subject line was great, and I bet it performed really well. The email was really nice, and it definitely made me think of shopping for my dad. (Apologies for the spliced screenshots – the images were staggered weirdly.)

Subject line: Open this or we’ll tell your father

jcrewfd1 jcrewfd2 jcrewfd3 jcrewfd4



5. Bonobos (Sent 6/2)

This email was just good. The pre-header and content were funny, it had a neat gift with purchase, and they promoted blog content with dad-inspired outfits.

Subject Line: Dress shirts for Dad + a unique gift with purchase

bonobosfd1 bonobosfd2


Happy Father’s day!

Subject Line Sunday: June 1

Here are the most noteworthy subject lines I received last week. Several brands referenced the long weekend for Memorial Day, and others seemed to be very cognizant that people weren’t very focused on work during the week. Here we go…


Over the course of several days, they sent out a few emails that kind of felt like work emails. Subject lines referenced “High Priority,” “Deadline,” and “Check your calendar.” Of course, they were all about a sale. But they sent them starting on a Thursday before a holiday weekend, and continued them throughout the weekend. I like to keep my work and shopping separate, J. Crew. The actual email designs looked like they had memos in them and used a courier font. (You know, because most people still use typewriters to send memos at work these days.)

5/22/2014 – High priority: shopping for summer weekends


5/24/2014 – Sale deadline approaching…


5/24/2014 – Check your calendar…


5/26/2014 – OK, seriously, check your calendar!!

I will say, this last one was a nice way to follow up to the other “Check your calendar” email. I hadn’t engaged with the first one. Many email marketers struggle with how to give certain promotions an extra push when they don’t have extra content to send, I thought this was a fun way to bring urgency to the email.



This next subject line from Walmart caught my eye for a few reasons. $10.42 is kind of a weird number. I know there are data out there that says specific dollar amounts and percentages that don’t end in 5 or 0 grab more attention, so maybe that was their angle. But $10.42 seems kind of low for a graduation gift…

Walmart – 5/23/2014
Subject: From $10.42! Get gifts grads love.

These next few were about Memorial Day weekend without actually talking about Memorial Day, which I kind of liked. There seemed to be a common theme with these (and the J.Crew series above): We would all rather shop and focus on getting our summers started than be at work.

Express – 5/26/2014
Subject: Day off? It’s time to shop!

Banana Republic – 5/26/2014
Subject: Going back to work tomorrow? – 40% off should make it easier.

New York & Company – 5/27/2014
Subject: We just couldn’t let go of the long weekend…
Pre-header: Extra day to shop the Shorts & Crops Sale, NY Deals and more! Shop NOW

Then we all went back to work on Tuesday, and Kohl’s sent this gem of a subject line (at 5:30 AM. I would have like to see it arrive around 11 given the subject line, since it referenced lunch.) The hamburger ingredients appeared on the sandwich one at a time as a gif. I just loved how silly and fun the subject line and email were. They threw in a Father’s day module at the bottom of the email, because everyone knows that in the marketing world, as soon as one holiday is over, you’re already behind in promoting the next holiday.

Kohl’s – 5/27/2014
Subject: What’s for Lunch? How ‘Bout Extra 20% Off with Cheese




Quit trying to make “Spring Black Friday” happen, Lowe’s

When I got my first “Spring Black Friday” email from Lowe’s on May 1, I tensed up a little. Is this really a thing? Am I going to start getting Spring Black Friday emails on top of the 40 Mother’s Day emails I’m already getting every day too? Over the next few days, I kept my eyes out for Spring Black Friday emails from other brands.

Like it or not, Black Friday is powerful and works because just about every brand participates. They pretty much have to. Even brands that don’t do promotions (like mine) still have to send some sort of counter Black Friday email to stay relevant.

But Spring Black Friday? I’m sorry Lowe’s, but this is the Fetch to your Gretchen Weiners. As in, stop trying to make it happen. It’s not going to happen.

Don’t worry, marketers. Spring Black Friday isn’t a thing. Lowe’s is the only brand I saw sending emails about it. And it wasn’t even a Friday. It was two whole weekends. The whole campaign was executed so poorly they’ve pretty much guaranteed this will NEVER be a thing.

First up, the subject lines I received:

May 1: Heads Up, New York! Spring Black Friday Starts Today

May 2: Spring Black Friday Is in Full Swing

May 3: Amazing Spring Black Friday Offers Continue

May 4: Don’t Miss Spring Black Friday Savings

May 8: Final Days! Spring Black Friday Savings! 

May 9: Hey New York! It’s the Final Spring Black Friday Weekend

May 10: Spring Black Friday is Almost Over!

May 11: Don’t Wait! Spring Black Friday Ends Tomorrow.


S0, of these days, May 2 and May 9 were the only Fridays.  Yet this one “Friday” seems to extend Thursday-Sunday, for two weekends in a row. Why call them Black Friday at all? For me (and this may be the extreme introvert talking), “Black Friday” conjures up thoughts of getting up way too early, cold weather, stampedes, extreme crowds, and a lot of anxiety. However, Spring, gardening, and working on making my apartment nicer… don’t. I don’t want to make a sexist generalization here, but I’d imagine their target demographic is men. Men probably don’t react to Black Friday the same way women do (other than camping out at Best Buy, I guess), and I bet they care about Black Friday even less.

Then there’s the personalization by city thing. Lowe’s has a few locations in Brooklyn and eastern NJ, but they’re way too far away for most people in New York City to want to shop at. Most purchases at this type of store are generally bigger and require a car (or, you know, owning a home or yard that needs improvement). We have several Home Depot locations in Manhattan (near subway stations, no less!), and a few in Queens.

Since this campaign was a pretty big deal for Lowe’s (I guess?), and they sent eight emails about it, surely the emails were at least really good, right?

Meh. Granted, I’m not exactly their target market (despite my NYC location. Or something). I have no idea if these are even good deals, since I never really purchase any of these items, and won’t need to for the forseeable future. Lowe’s emails always have a very – basic design that just screams “I was built in in a WYSIWYG.”  I don’t even mind that it’s simple. Really simple.

I’m a little curious about the language of the green buttons – some say “Shop now” and some day “Buy now.” Was that an A/B test within the email (which wouldn’t work, since it’s totally different products and price points), or just inconsistent copy editing?

lowes1 lowes2 lowes3 lowes4

I’m just glad we all survived another Black Friday.

Countdown to Mother’s day: Weird messaging

I’ve received about 70 emails specifically about Mother’s day (in this account) since April 7 (maybe more, I dunno. They all blur together.). Some of the emails have been helpful, some have been overkill, and some have been flat-out weird. Here are the weirdest.


I realize that Mother’s day is a pretty big deal for flower companies. Flowers are probably the easiest/most obvious Mother’s day gift there is. And flowers can get pricey, so it totally makes sense that frequent discounts are a great way to market them. That doesn’t make it okay for them to violate CAN-SPAM. But even before the broken unsubscribe link incident, some of their Mother’s day messaging was already on my list for this post.

First, they’ve been playing around with different from names/icons in from names. Okay, fine. But as someone who hasn’t purchased from you yet, this can be confusing. Why are you calling me a VIP? What, exactly, makes ME a “great customer”? If I’m a great customer (me, someone who doesn’t order flowers from you and instead writes cranky blog posts), I’m a little concerned about the stability of your business.

proflowers from name

Here are some of their recent subject lines from the last few weeks:

  • 4/24: LAST CHANCE! Prices go up for Mother’s Day Tomorrow – Get The Best Deal on Mom’s Bouquet: Save up to 44%
  • 4/26: Thanks for being a great customer. Here’s up to 52% off Mother’s Day bouquets
  • 4/28: 57% off. ProFlowers tested, Mother’s Day approved
  • 4/29: ✿ Stunning bouquets for Mom, from $19.99!
  • 4/30: You only have ➊ week left to Avoid Rush Delivery Rates. Don’t wait!
  • 5/1: URGENT: Last Chance for a $19.99 Special for Mother’s Day!
  • 5/2: Get 61% off this Mother’s Day Email Exclusive. Through This Weekend Only!
  • 5/2: Oops! We fixed our links. Please accept an Extra 25% off for any inconvenience!
    (That one may have been a direct result of an interaction I had with them on Twitter….)
  • 5/3: Don’t Forget Mom! Save 54% and Avoid Rush Delivery Rates
  • 5/4: Only 3 Days Left to Avoid Rush Delivery Rates and Save 52%
  • 5/5: Use Your $20 Mother’s Day Credit…

I wonder if their copywriter’s mother ever read him/her “The Boy who Cried Wolf.”

It’s hard to take any of these extremely urgent subject lines seriously, especially since they’ve already shown a pattern of offering increasingly better discounts. The $20 credit seems like the best deal so far. They have a minimum purchase price of $29.99 (so that $19.99 special from 4/29? It’s an upselling trick to get you to add on chocolates and a colorful vase), but if the $20 credit counts toward that, it might actually be worth ordering some flowers. Maybe I will.  (Does that mean their emails worked, or does it mean I’m just curious to see what kind of messaging they’ll send next year since they’d have some info about me and who I might send flowers? I’ll just say it’s the latter.).



I hope you’re not buying anything more than a card as a Mother’s day gift from Walgreen’s, but if you are, they have some interesting suggestions. The subject line is probably something most people can relate to – Hey, I ❤ Mom too! Maybe this email will have something relevant to that.

Let me just stress that while I did my weird campy spliced screenshot method, this is the full email. I didn’t accidentally forget to take a screenshot of the copy explaining that fragrances might be a good gift idea for Mom. I didn’t cut out any kind of sub-head that might have said, “Okay, now we’re moving on to feature other products we also sell. Don’t buy Rogaine for your mom for Mother’s day.” Nope, the full email is right here for your viewing pleasure.

Subject line: We ♥ Mom15% OFF ALL Fragrances + Other Deals | 20OFF Contacts


walgreens2_05052014 walgreens3_05052014 walgreens5_05052014 walgreens6_05052014

But seriously – don’t buy your mom Rogaine for Mother’s day.

For Mother’s day, I got you an unsubscribe link from Proflowers emails

Yesterday morning while I was in the waiting room for an eye exam, my best friend texted me:


Uh oh. I had a ton of emails from Proflowers in my “to write about” label in my Gmail account, because they had been pretty persistent with their Mother’s Day emails. They’ve been trying a bunch of weird tactics with icons in their from name and going pretty over the top with their urgency messaging. So I was already planning a post about them for next week when I do my Mother’s day roundups.

proflowers from name

But a CAN-SPAM violation? Now THAT gives me a sense of urgency.

I checked the link from my phone to be sure, and there it wasn’t. I could SUBSCRIBE to their emails, but the only thing remotely resembling an unsub was a preference center. I clicked on that, and the link didn’t work.

(I was planning on putting a screenshot of their footer here, but the font was such a light shade of grey that it’s almost impossible to read. But that could be due to me testing out a new contacts prescription).

So like any modern email subscriber activist (Is that a thing? Can we make that a thing? Hashtag #emaillorax), I took to Twitter to see what’s up. Mind you, I never asked to unsubscribe.

proflowers twitter

This isn’t my first online run-in with this company. A few years ago, my boyfriend (now husband!) sweetly ordered me flowers for Valentine’s day to be sent to my office. He gchatted me around 5 PM and asked if I got them. They never came. So, trying to be a good boyfriend, he just went to a local florist and got me other flowers. There were a few missed deliveries over the next few days. I was mad at Proflowers for making him worry about it (and for me not getting flowers at work on Valentine’s day), so I wrote a post on my blog at the time, and eventually people from their customer service team contacted me, gave him a refund and sent me free flowers in March. (Which was awkward when my coworkers asked about them. “Oh, they’re for Valentine’s day! I just got them!”). So, yes, they screw up sometimes, but they do try to make it right.

Yesterday afternoon, hours after all the twitter action, I got this email:

proflowers oops email

They didn’t exactly acknowledge that it was the unsubscribe link that was broken (but for all I know, there were others), but they at least had in fact fixed the preference center link. And they had an opportunity to have another touchpoint with their subscribers. Not that they’ve been remotely conservative in that department – I’ve gotten nearly daily emails from them in the last few weeks, and they’re all pretty “urgent.” They keep saying that it’s the last chance to get a certain discount, and then sending a better discount 2 days later. I’ll look at all of them after Mother’s day and see when the best discount actually happened.

Once I got to the preference center, it was actually pretty nice – it lets you opt-down for email frequency, and you can check if you want promotions for holidays (which is what I’ve been getting). It even allows you to select to receive reminders based on previous purchases, which seems like a great idea for birthdays and anniversaries.

So, Proflowers – we’re okay now. But I’ll be watching you.