To some, Valentine’s Day is an excuse to celebrate and spend. To many others, it’s a corporate annoyance, a reminder of the romance they’ve lost or don’t have right now.
A handful of companies, including online marketplace
and British supermarket
PLC, are adapting their marketing strategies in response to customers’ sensitivities to the holiday, letting them block email blasts anchored to the day of love, as well as other dates on the calendar that can be difficult to handle.
“For those who are potentially grieving a loved one, struggling with mental health or have strained family relations, seeing constant reminders can make it even more difficult,” said Ryan Scott, chief marketing officer of Etsy. The company in 2021 offered customers the chance to opt out of emails related to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and this year extended the option to Valentine’s Day.
Companies employing the same tactic as Etsy say doing so shows their customers that they see them as humans, rather than data points, and therefore strengthens the consumer relationship.
The move is part of marketers’ wider attempts to make their brands more empathetic, and their email campaigns more personalized, said Adam Reader, senior vice president and head of strategy at Lida, a New York-based marketing agency specializing in customer relationship management.
At the same time, customers increasingly expect greater control over what types of marketing they receive, he said. Marketers now have access to the data and tools needed to help them send customers only the most relevant emails, including online browsing and purchasing data, newsletter preference settings, and feedback requests such as email opt-out mechanisms.
Holiday email opt-outs began with Mother’s Day.
British flower delivery company Bloom & Wild Ltd. was among the first to provide such an opt-out in March 2019 ahead of Mothering Sunday in Britain. The email it sent to customers attracted press and government attention, leading Bloom & Wild to create its Thoughtful Marketing Movement, a framework for other companies interested in establishing an opt-out marketing strategy around certain holidays.
Others that have let customers opt out of Mother’s Day email marketing include the jeweler Pandora AS, luggage company Away Travel, linen supplier Parachute Home and even hot-sauce brand Fly By Jing. The majority also offered a similar option around Father’s Day, and a handful expanded the program to Valentine’s Day in 2020.
“With the pandemic, there’s just more people who may be reminded of a lost one, be that a partner, a close friend, or any kind of loved one or relative,” said Sophie Agar, global brand director of Papier Ltd., a stationery company that began offering an opt-out for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in 2019 and Valentine’s Day in 2020.
Around 1.8% of the people on Papier’s email list opted out of email marketing around Valentine’s Day this year, compared with 2% who opted out of Mother’s Day and 2.5% who did so for Father’s Day last year.
This year, Papier will use marketing technology to also avoid showing Valentine’s Day-themed
ads to those who have unsubscribed from its Valentine’s Day emails, Ms. Agar said.
“We can essentially build suppression lists for our retargeting, just to make sure they’re not being blasted with Valentine’s Day messaging in other areas,” she said.
The paradox of the holiday email opt-outs is that it requires companies to email customers about the holiday in question to give them the choice.
An Etsy spokeswoman said the company offers the option around a month before each holiday, “which gives ample time to opt out before any marketing begins.”
Others have tried different tactics. Tesco last year sent an email giving customers the option to block its Valentine’s Day marketing emails. But following customer feedback, the company this year presented the opt-out link as a banner in two weekly emails, a Tesco spokeswoman said.
Ms. Agar said the content of Papier’s holiday opt-out emails is so functional it is unlikely to upset anyone. The emails are formatted in plain text and contain copy that is sensitive, but to the point.
“They’re not full of red hearts or emotive pics of mothers with their daughters,” she said. “That’s the content that people want to opt out of.”
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Write to Katie Deighton at [email protected]
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