Campaign of the Month: Grape Vine – November 2013

Drum roll please! The winner of the e-shot Campaign of the Month for November 2013 is in. And the award goes to… Vine Digital!

As usual the winning campaign hasn’t snatched victory for a single reason. Instead, Vine Digital’s email ticks many of the email marketing rules of best practice as well going above and beyond in areas such as brand identity and design:

  • Image to text ratio is perfectly balanced giving the message a striking but clear design.
  • The text concisely and effectively gets to the point and explains the purpose of the communication.
  • From the very top of the email the subject is obvious, there’s no misleading information or empty promises – simply a free invitation to their upcoming event.
  • Only important details are highlighted so your attention is only drawn to the most important points such as the date and time of the event.
  • The call to action – to register for the event – is obvious and easy to understand.
  • There’s a brilliantly designed and well-placed Twitter link at the bottom, completely in keeping with the identity and tone of the email whilst standing out enough to catch the eye, and all the while promoting cross-media social interaction and encouraging further positive brand recognition.
  • Vine Digital have provided a link to open the message in an internet browser and above their embedded video they have also included a hyperlink to open the video to ensure everyone can access the content.
  • Finally, a large reason the email has claimed the hotly contested e-shot prize is because of its excellent brand continuity.
  • The colour scheme, fonts and logos all reinforce the brand identity visible on their website as well as making the email distinctive. If you click a link in the email to their site you won’t be put off by a drastically different landing page, instead seeing enough design similarity to make sure everything feels professional and well planned.

Congratulations to Vine Digital – if the date hadn’t already passed I’d definitely be interested in their October event on the strength of this email alone!


November Campaign of the month

November Campaign of the month

B&Q Take a Sad Storm and Make It Better

Article written by: Tom Hughes

St. Jude – the ferocious storm that battered the South of England this week and caused considerable disruption, damage, power cuts and at least four deaths – meant I couldn’t get into work on Monday.


However, while I may not have made it in to the office, B&Q’s digital marketing department clearly weren’t sitting around at home waiting for the wind to die down. Within a day of the storm’s end the DIY and home improvement retailer had already taken inspiration from the gale’s national impact with an example of brilliantly clever and relevant real-time email marketing.

Displaying shed roofing felt, fence posts and fence panels, flood pumps and a chainsaw amongst other items, the hardware retailer picked products that are likely to be most pertinent in the aftermath of high winds and heavy rain.

You can see how the promotional email is well thought-out rather than totally reactionary. The subject line “Here to help”, is immediately followed by, “now the big storm has moved on, B&Q are on hand with plenty of tips and tools that can help you.” These touches present the email as simply providing assistance, rather than selling special offers or promotions, which is evident in the fact there’s no mention of price anywhere in the message. This lessens the potential for a feeling that they’re simply “cashing in” on the turmoil.

The impressive relevancy alongside the supportive nature of the email is a really good combination. B&Q should be commended for managing to use real-time marketing after a relatively destructive storm, yet maintaining a positive brand identity because of their helpful (rather than manipulative) tone.


Amazon & Argos Anticipate Christmas by Appointing Thousands of Holiday-Period Personnel

It was announced at the start of October that, the world’s largest online retailer, will be recruiting 70,000 new full-time members of staff specifically for the upcoming festive season. That gigantic figure is 40% higher than the number of people they hired for the same period last year and the company have even suggested that thousands of the workers are likely to be kept on beyond Christmas 2013.

On a more local level, the internet retailer will be employing more than 15,000 seasonal staff in the UK – which is good news for the struggling British job market.

This huge recruitment drive shows just how important the festive period is for businesses. Highlighting how intense it can get, Catherine McDermott, director of operations at, said to The Guardian: “On our busiest shopping day last Christmas, customers ordered a total of 3.5m items during one 24-hour period at a rate of 44 items a second.”

(Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian)

(Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian)

It’s not just international behemoths that are prepping for the festive sales flurry. Argos, the largest general-goods retailer in the UK, is set to recruit around 10,000 seasonal workers in the build-up to Christmas. While this is 2,000 less people than they added in 2012, considering the firm currently only has 30,000 employees it really is a substantial hiring burst for the busy season.

On the other hand, Amazon are adding 5,000 more new people in Britain this year than they did before Christmas 2012. The huge numbers for both companies show the sales boom they expect to have to deal with. But it’s important to remember that it isn’t not just somebody as huge as Amazon that needs to prepare.

(Photograph: Andrew Fox)

(Photograph: Andrew Fox)

While you might not have the budget to employ thousands of additional staff, or even a single extra helping hand, it’s important to note that these two stores are announcing their recruitment pushes in late September and the very start of October. They aren’t waiting for the weather to get colder, the days to get shorter and more neighbourhood attention-seekers to turn their houses into neon lit, inflatable-snowmen-covered abominations.

Amazon and Argos are acting early to have the infrastructure in place and ready because they know how important the upcoming time of year is, and your business should do the same.

Whether this involves devising email marketing campaigns, social media plans or other digital marketing tools, the more organised and well-equipped you are the better you’ll be able to handle a spike in business – or even encourage one.

Christmas Shopping Trend

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, goes the famous Christmas song by Andy Williams. But the festive period is also the busiest and most crucial time of the year for most businesses, and things might not be so wonderful if you don’t make the right preparations! As mobile and tablet use is booming and customers are spending right through the holidays – even days when shops were traditionally shut – marketing has to begin early, plan cleverly and adapt to seize the initiative of the yuletide rush.
Christmas Shopping Trends

You can find more of our info graphics by clicking here


Google Hummingbird



What do Panda, Caffeine, Buffy, Big Daddy, Penguin and Jagger have in common? While they might sound like bizarre names dished out to a litter of puppies by an infant, they’re actually some of the names given to Google’s search algorithm’s updates over the years.

With the latest update, Hummingbird, Google have made their biggest algorithm modifications since 2001. This time, Google picked the name because the precision and speed of the animal apparently encapsulates their engine’s newly-honed capabilities. Although, I’m not convinced that past updates were named with such allegorical significance – I mean, Big Daddy?!

If the word algorithm is already sailing a bit over your head, and online definitions like this just make things worse, try to think of it as simply the mathematical way Google’s search engine does what it does.

In this article I’ll be examining how the search-giant unveiled the news, try to simplify and clarify what the changes mean for Googlers everywhere, whilst also taking an in depth look the impact it will have on marketers – and what they can do to adapt.


The announcement.

The mammoth search engine’s news was announced in typically quirky and enigmatic style. With a healthy dose of nostalgia and history, the company rounded up busloads of tech reporters at their Googleplex California HQ, before sending the confused journalists to a bland looking suburban address.

Inside the house’s garage Google revealed details of Hummingbird.


And it was in that garage, owned by Susan Wojcicki, that Larry Page and Sergey Brin built their revolutionary tech company during the winter of 1998. In an extra special nod to that era, Google had even recreated the co-founders’ workplace in the back of the house, complete with original desks and chairs!


What does it do?

Hummingbird already affects around 90% of searches, which shows how far-reaching the changes are – although currently fairly unnoticeable.

To put it in as basic terms as possible, the main goal of the algorithm is that Google will now be able to quickly analyse full questions – long-tail queries – as opposed to deconstructing questions word-by-word. Then it identifies and ranks answers to those questions from the context they’re indexed.

Hummingbird aims to sift out “fluff” content that is designed exclusively for snatching SEO, in its place delivering superior, pertinent search results.

The algorithm focuses on searches that are more natural than simply lists of computer-friendly keywords. For instance, if I was to search “how to fix the hard drive on my PS3” Google now understands that I’m not shopping for a new PS3 hard drive, and will find me pages with repair guides and other answers to the question before all of the retail results.

Context is prioritised as much as the content, so that Google’s results are more relevant by accentuating the intention over simply matching phrases.

Basically, Google’s becoming more understanding – and, crucially, more conversational. When you consider the emergence of voice-activated searching, such as with Siri on the iPhone, it’s a big step that Google can now better handle the sort of questions you’d ask verbally.


What does it mean for marketers?

Well, former SEO signals, like inbound links and social shares, are still relevant. And Google’s response to marketing concerns is that, “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.” Which is essentially the inbound marketing mantra anyway – good news for some!

In essence, if you blog about topics of interest then Google will now be even better at making sure you get found.

However, it’s important to comprehend these changes and start putting less of a focus on keywords and more of a focus on semantic SEO and semantic search (terms that are explained in detail here).

Content created just for the sake of getting traffic-boosting words on a page won’t have the effect it had before. With Hummingbird’s evolution, your content really has to answer questions that Google users might be asking. It’s vital that marketing objectives adapt to place a higher premium on content, but Google’s algorithm changes could also mean a new lease of life for forgotten content that may have lacked the SEO keywords before, but been undeniably worthwhile.

Even if you are placing a larger importance on your content, there are several methods to ensure Hummingbird doesn’t fly past you:

  • Put yourself in your customer’s shoes

Consider why existing customers need or want your product in the first place. Check that your content answers questions that your audience might be asking, or create content on topics they will find relevant and interesting.

  • Don’t be boring.

Even though you’re being helpful and informative, it doesn’t mean you can’t be hilarious. Or at least mildly entertaining.

  • A blog’s not the be all and end all.

Content comes in many shapes and sizes, such as infographics, videos, whitepapers, games quizzes and more. Utilise them to increase your chances of Hummingbird sending users your way. The more variety in your content, the wider the array of Googlers that will stumble across your site.

  • Analytics are your friend

If your site has a search tool, have a look at the data on what people are looking for on your site. If they’re often searching for existing content then it makes sense to produce further stuff along the same lines – but without too much repetition! If people are hunting for topics that you don’t have on your site, then it’s a pretty clear indicator that there’s demand there and you should produce something related, pronto.

  • Be social.

Hummingbird or no Hummingbird, this goes without saying; make it easy to share your content! Don’t stop at Facebook and Twitter, consider the whole range of social media – Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, StumbleUpon, Reddit etc. It’s easy to get the codes for simple and quick input of the buttons on your site, and it will really boost sharing potential by making it as easy as a couple of clicks for users to share – whatever their desired platform.

  • Love your language.

As explained earlier, a lot of Google’s changes are designed with mobile and voice searching in mind. So ensure your content’s language is clear and intelligent, while carefully thinking about sentence structure, to perform properly. In a brilliant development for content writers everywhere, now Google recognises synonyms! So you won’t end up reading articles that repeat the same words over and over and over again for hits, and Google will identify that even though you searched “incredible deals” you may have meant “great deals” etc.

Tip of the Month: Maximising the opportunity at Christmas – November

Seeing shops decked in wreaths and fairy lights in mid-Autumn might be painful. However, when it comes to email marketing it’s essential to grit your teeth, pretend Last Christmas isn’t already stuck on a jingly loop in your head and plan for the season’s festivities in advance.

e-shot’s Tip of the Month for November is our guide to ensuring you’re prepared to take advantage of the festive rush, step by step pointers for the season and the ways that good Christmas marketing can boost your brand in the long run.

Brand Building

Downloadable Content

This never goes amiss. By adding something that customers can take away from you – whether it’s a PDF guide, an app, a brochure etc. – means you can also increase your click-through rate (CTR).

Promotional Value

Promoting a special offer can really help your brand. 78% of shoppers feel positive towards a brand that offers vouchers as an incentive and 62% feel that offering a voucher improved a company’s brand image so clearly it’s a very worthwhile technique.

Free Shipping

With everyone shopping online, delivery rates will sky rocket this season and customers will find themselves spending more and more on receiving their goods on top of the retail price. One way to capitalise on this is by offering a free shipping promotion. For example, “free shipping when you spend over £50”, which would also entice people spend that little bit more money in your shop to attain the free shipping reward.

Customer Service

Welcome Email

Your first impression with new customers is important. Sending a welcome email can tip the scale when it comes to purchasing – a welcome email will have a positive aftereffect for customers because you look more reliable and friendly.

Email Confirmation

Confirming an order or updating the progress of an order creates a more trustworthy picture to your customers. Email silence after making an order is worrying for the customer!

Rebuilding the Relationship with Inactive Users

Check in on long-time inactive subscribers. Awakening your ‘sleeping beauties’ during the busiest time of the year can make them valuable once more!


Segment new data coming in

Segmenting data are perfect for separating your contacts into precise groups and subgroups. So the right people get the right emails for their location, age, interests – or any other category you desire.

Haven’t segmented your data yet? Don’t worry! The best time to segment your data is now! Dividing your data in and around the Christmas period will allow you to get fully ready for campaigns in the New Year.

And remember, you will most likely collect more data in the festive season than any other time of the year. But like a loveable puppy, data’s not just for Christmas! With e-shot you can store it, segment it, and use it to your benefit later on.

Targeted campaign

It’s a great idea to target particular customers with relevant emails for the highest chance that they’ll have an interest in your content. Tailoring communications and targeting the appropriate customers in the future should help you expand, plus it avoids hassling and annoying users with email content that patently isn’t for them.

Diverting Traffic

Social Networking (Cross Marketing).

Promoting a sale on your social media will hopefully bring traffic in to your online store. Why not create a competition to increase your conversation/interaction rate?

Don’t always push sales, sometimes just encouraging social media conversation with users is the best way to boost your brand’s positive reputation. Encourage everything to be sharable too, the wider things are spread around the web the better for your reputation.

Real-Time Marketing.

“Limited time offer! Hurry, offer ends in 2 hours!”

Having this sort of real-time marketing will give a sense of urgency to you customers inspiring them to buy now or lose out. For marketing a sense of urgency is a great way to make a sale quickly. Capitalise on impulse buying!


It’s always fun to design with a theme. And since its Christmas why not design the email with that in mind as many of you customers will be in the holiday spirit. However do not forget that the content of the email is relevant to your customers, it’s clear and easy to read and the email is not overrun with images as this can be portrayed by spam filters as ‘spammy’. Having a good image to text ratio will reduce your chances of going into your customers spam box.

Check out Christmas Shopping trends by clicking here

British Airways’ Creative Race the Plane Campaign

A novel social-media based competition by British Airways really took off in September. The United Kingdom’s flag-carrying airline tempted entrants with the opportunity to win one of five pairs of tickets to Toronto or LA.

The competition was publicised using Twitter’s Promoted Trends and the entry requirement simply involved tweeting with the hashtag #RaceThePlane. But rather than just another bland Twitter hashtag competition that lacked the wings to get off the ground, BA’s concept was unique. And so interest really soared.




User’s tweets powered BA’s Tweetliner, a virtual plane. It raced against a real aircraft – the Boeing 787 Dreamliner – during flights between London and Toronto on September 19th, and between London and LAX on September 24th . The more tweets mentioning the hashtag, the faster the virtual plane flew and progress of these races could be tracked on a specially created website (see photos).

According to the social search and analytics company Topsy, there were over 30,000 tweets with the hashtag in 30 days.




It certainly encouraged huge social participation and ramped up positive brand awareness. Although BA did have some social media PR repair-work to do following negative publicity and press attention when a man went to the lengths of buying a promoted tweet to complain about the company’s customer service at the start of September.



Yet it doesn’t feel like BA were winging it with a hastily arranged effort to patch up the negativity from one disgruntled user’s tweet. The #RaceThePlane campaign felt carefully planned to really engage Twitter users and encourage mass-participation.

When their micro-site first launched there was some ambiguity about its purpose which fuelled anticipation and intrigue, and it certainly achieved its goal perfectly in advertising their new plane. A combination of the site’s sleek, impressive design alongside the considerable allure of the prize meant BA’s social media scheme was a huge success – as well as providing a flying start to rebuilding brand positivity.

What do you do to awaken your ‘sleeping beauties’?

We’ve all done it, signed up for a website and then never visited again or once used it frequently but not visited for years; I wrote an article about Myspace and this same topic recently. Anyway, earlier in the week I received an email from Channel 4, but this time telling me my account will be closed because I haven’t been active on their website for a ‘couple of years’ (exaggerating maybe?).

The message told me that it was my last chance to keep my account open by simply logging back in. I thought this was a great idea to awaken your sleeping beauties that have signed up but haven’t revisited in a while. Having subscribers that are non-active can be seen as a waste of time and space, so keeping in contact with them is a great idea to try to wake them up and make them valuable once more.

However sometimes keeping in contact with your subscribers is not enough to awaken them from their deep sleep, so the best way is to pull the plug and close their account and say goodbye – for now – to create room. Give them a final warning though, just in case that’s the nudge it takes to get them to reengage!

This shows a great example of data cleansing. It keeps the database live ‘n’ kicking, healthy with loyal subscribers, by getting rid of the old uninterested ones. On our social media sites I posted an article that said “It’s not how big your data is. It’s how you use it”, explaining that the volume of the data is not particularly important, but what is important is how you use your vast amount of information in your marketing efforts. But it is also important to keep it healthy. By cleaning your database it will allow you to save time and effort when contacting your subscribers, weeding out the time wasters and fakers. A little cleaning never hurt anyone.


Man City for the Win!

In an age where individual footballers like Gareth Bale are worth over 80 million pounds and Manchester United claim that one in 10 of the world’s seven billion people are interested in their matches, it’s surprising how backwards a football club’s email marketing can be. Especially when a worldwide market is out there, just waiting to be seduced.

After reading this article on which praises the forward thinking newsletters and landing page of Manchester City, it seemed odd that other teams are not making as clever efforts to expand their fan base with intelligent email marketing.

Champion campaign

As Andrew King points out in his article, it feels like a lot of other football clubs, “don’t want you to join their mailing list”, by making their sign-up forms hidden and obscure. On the other hand, “Manchester City make it easy with this big, bold call-to-action on their homepage.”

When you have opted-in, Manchester City use a number of methods to engage with their audience. Their emails include a stylish mixture of images and copy, a strong brand-reinforcing colour scheme, clear social media links, pre-header text and simply laid out contents. Most importantly of all, their content – a wide mixture of videos, competitions, photo galleries and more – is obviously compelling to subscribers.

To top it all off, they send out ingeniously personalised birthday emails. They go beyond merely wishing the reader a happy birthday, also tailoring the email with interesting facts about the club from whichever year they were born. Then as a subtle but enticing call-to-action they provide a two-for-one deal on stadium tours at the bottom.

I support Crystal Palace Football Club. But before you accidently break your computer laughing, I mention this for a reason. The regular email marketing newsletters I receive from the club would do well to take a leaf out of Manchester City’s book.

They aren’t terrible emails, often visually appealing and sometimes cleverly laid out. However, from time to time social media links are hidden at the end of the emails, and more importantly the emails often don’t contain any content beyond match ticket details or new kit information.

It’s all very formal and clearly designed to sell. None of the competitions, galleries, gossip, behind-the-scenes footage and match highlights that Manchester City prioritise. These elements are available on the Crystal Palace website, but rarely in their emails.

Worst of all, their emails generally follow a predefined template – exactly the same layout and design, apart from colour scheme, to other clubs using the same provider (FL Interactive) such as Hull City, Southampton, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion.

Whereas Manchester City’s designs are bespoke. The unique approach really benefits their brand identity and gives their email campaigns a personal touch. An approach that sadly other clubs either lack the resources or ambition to match.

Marmite Marketing

Marmite’s “Love it or Hate it” slogan seems to have been around for as long as time itself. Yet remarkably the love/hate campaign was only launched in 1996, 94 years after the product first hit British shelves. It feels like such an ancient tagline simply because of how deeply it has sunk into popular culture. Marmite has become a way of describing something that polarises opinion, and nothing’s safe from the description; from films to music to somebody’s personality.

What the yeast-extract spread’s legendary campaign proves is that good advertising is not always safe advertising. Mentioning in your adverts that some people hate your product probably breaks endless previously-accepted advertising rules.

Now, seventeen years later, the tar-like substance’s marketing team have been at it again with another ingenious (and controversial) marketing campaign.

The 90-second mockumentary advert shows a rescue team saving abandoned jars of Marmite from the backs of kitchen cupboards. After finding a small unopened jar one officer says tearfully, “I just hadn’t seen one that small.” A minor storm of controversy was kicked up by 504 complaints lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority, saying it belittled the work of welfare agencies and the abuse of animals and children.

In a mind-boggling example of inter-referencing, a spokeswoman for Marmite responded to these complaints by saying, “We have made every effort to ensure that this commercial entertains anyone who watches it. We believe we have created an unmistakably Marmite ad – people will either love it or hate it and they certainly won’t forget it.”


The posters for the campaign are almost as bold as the TV advert, relying on the phrasing “Love it. Hate it. Just don’t forget it” entirely for their brand recognition, and only allowing a miniscule glimpse of the Marmite jar to show from behind other packets and tins in a cupboard. Normal advertising logic would be appalled at the suggestion that the product was to be buried at the back of an advert, hidden from view.

Clearly, Marmite still aren’t happy to play it safe. Whether it’s admitting some people hate their spread, inciting the wrath of animal-lovers or hiding their product in promotional material, their risk-taking works. They should be an inspiration to all the bland adverts out there who are wondering why they’re being lost in the crowd.