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Digital Services

  • 04 Feb 2022
  • 5 min read

Thoughtful Marketing: Opting Out Of Valentine's Day Emails

Marketing Manager Holly hears from strategists Nicola, Caitlin, Theo and Girdy in what might be the least romantic blog you read this Valentine's Day. They discuss email marketing and how brands are thinking about the consumer.

Roses are red, violets are blue. You've opted in, but you don't need to.

Valentine's Day. A day every year where many people no doubt feel isolated and, let's face it, probably a little bit lonely. You’re bombarded with marketing emails on the best deals to make the most of this romantic celebration. Add a global pandemic, social distancing and a culture built on living your best life (well, at least showing Instagram that you are) into the mix and those feelings are heightened.

That sounds a bit depressing. But it doesn't have to be that way! This year, in a first for brands, we're seeing several big players, such as The Coop, Tesco and Etsy, allowing their customers to opt-out of receiving this type of email content only. Usually, this option might be limited to Mother's or Father's Day, where some people might be more obviously triggered by this type of message. But this year, we've noticed a trend towards increased personalisation at potentially sensitive calendar events - allowing brands to tailor communications better and consumers to protect their own mental health.

But has it gone too far? Where do brands draw the line when they attempt to tread so carefully, in case someone might take their email the wrong way? Or is this, in actual fact, the way forward - a way of building trust between brands and consumers and creating a better flow of data, allowing marketers to personalise even further in the future?

I caught up with some of our top digital strategists at Leith to get their view on this latest trend in email marketing - here’s what they had to say.

1. Personalised marketing is here to stay

Marketing Analyst Theo highlights a recent McKinsey survey which suggests that a whopping 70% of consumers now expect personalisation, so it’s not a complete shock that we’re already seeing a step towards more tailored email marketing in 2022. If brands fail to move with the times and the expectations of their customers, then they will lag behind competitors - simple as that.

Our client Nando's nailed this in a Christmas campaign that offered customers personalised rewards, based on the number of chilli points left on their loyalty cards. A great way to make customers feel valued is through tailoring messages to them.

2. It builds trust between brands and consumers

Digital Strategist Nicola Easton highlights that there’s also the impact on the brand's reputation to think about:

"If brands make it difficult to opt-out from email communications (spoiler alert: emails should make it easy for people to opt-out at any point) then perhaps customers are less likely to trust the brands. If a brand is willing to make it difficult to opt-out of email comms, for the sake of a few extra names on their mailing list, what else are they willing to do?

Florist Bloom and Wild led the way with their Mother’s Day personalisation last year - a tasteful campaign that went above and beyond by allowing users to hide this content, not only in their email inbox but when visiting the website too. This strikes the perfect balance between personalisation and relevance; we know that retention is key, and by allowing customers to opt-out of specific campaigns yet remain on newsletter lists, this optimises further opportunities for conversions.”

3. It risks losing customers

Reminding people to update their preferences might mean that you lose some subscribers - but we’re here to tell you that this is actually a good thing.

Why? The best customers are the ones you already have. Retention is key to growth and, in a world where we receive up to 121 business emails per day, it’s so important to look after your existing database by providing them value and building trust.

4. Data is the key to good marketing

Just like flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day, data and good marketing go hand in hand. Data is personalisation. Personalisation is good digital marketing.

If brands are able to use an occasion like this to learn more about their customers, they can also use this to their advantage in the future. Do customers who have unsubscribed from Valentine’s Day content want to hear about the most romantic Christmas gifts for partners in December?

Andrew Girdwood, Head of Media Technology at Leith, says “It’s absolutely possible, and wise, to build segments in a company’s analytics or media targeting based on anonymous clicks that reach, for example, a Valentine’s Day unsubscribe page. This segment targeting does not have to be a binary target or not target either and can be used as training data or as a bid adjustment audience for Google PPC.”

Checking in at major calendar events allows brands to get to grips with their customers and tailor their future communications in a way that’s meaningful to them.

5. Mental health matters

The pandemic has increased anxiety and depression and it’s never been more important for brands to be socially conscious if they’re to last.

Since the aforementioned Bloom and Wild Mother’s Day campaign, over 150 brands have joined their “Thoughtful Marketing Movement”, including The Telegraph, stationery company Paperchase and restaurant chain Wagamama.

Brands that ‘do the right thing’ and consider the feelings of their customers will be the ones that stand the test of time. To put it simply, “one size fits all” just doesn’t fly any more and brands need to show they care, in a way that’s authentic and really matters in the mind of the consumer.

Caitlin Mackie, Senior Strategist at Leith, agrees: "Many brands have gathered loyal followings by putting topics like wellness, self-care and mental health at the centre of their propositions; while others have paid lip service to these issues without properly thinking through a credible stance from their brand's perspective.

We've seen examples of this from #MeToo to #BlackLivesMatter, where brands have spoken up in the pursuit of "good publicity" rather than legitimately caring about their customers, and this I think, can be more damaging and risks de-platforming credible voices who are speaking out about these issues. This is particularly true if it's an empty message of support without any investment in those organisations who are fighting for change."

6. Not so fast

It's sometimes easier to aspire to be thoughtful than it actually is in practice. A Valentine's Day unsubscribe offer might be warmly welcomed by some customers, and for lots of reasons, but it is not impossible that others might resent any implication that they should be, or might want to be, invisible during the day.

Equally, is a brand really bold enough to offer all its customers the option to opt out of all Christmas marketing messages? What's the justification for providing customers with the opportunity to unsubscribe from one emotional trigger but not another? Where does it end?

Partners can cause complications to your carefully considered communications calendar as well. Imagine leading customers to believe they will not get any Mother's Day marketing messages from the brand, only for a cashback site or delivery service to leaderboard your logo in a string of emails.

Data + Good Marketing = Perfect Match

Personalisation is here to stay. In a world where the best marketing is built on access to quality data, allowing customers to update their preferences so you can tailor your communications has to be a good thing. What’s more, is that it creates a two way street between the brand and the consumer - building a new level of trust that allows brands to improve their reputation and increase repeat custom.

Watch this space - I think we can expect to see more of this to come as brands aim to leverage special occasions and holidays to monitor how their database interacts.