It’s been several weeks since my post on Chubbies–a men’s apparel brand for short inseam aficionados. In that post, I called out some of the unique and entertaining aspects of their email program, one of which was their creative usage of the “friendly from.” With Chubbies emails landing in the inbox with friendlies such as “Whoops.” “Henry Chubdini,” and those mentioned in the title of this post, their approach is way outside of the consistent and well-branded best practice recommendation that most of us take for granted. You can check out a few of their inbox gems below sorted by date (including the “friendly from,” the subject line, and some of the pre-header summary).
Since this is such an unusual approach to a box that many of us check and forget, there isn’t much analysis on the topic. By looking into the crystal ball of competitive analysis that is Inbox Insight, I was able to dig into their performance data and review the impact this approach had on their campaigns. Since many of you are not playing around with Inbox Insight on a regular basis (although high-five if you are), I’ll go ahead and define the metrics I looked at. You can read more about these metrics (and their importance in regards to spam filtering) in this guide.
For this analysis, I focused on four key metrics that are major components of inbox placement and subscriber engagement:
Now, for the fun stuff! I went through my inbox and tagged campaigns based on their usage of a standard or interesting “friendly from.” I tagged over 40% of the campaigns in Inbox Insight from 12/11/15 through 3/17/16.
As you can see in the graph below, campaigns using the standard from address saw slightly better inbox placement rates and fewer subscriber complaints, but this didn’t translate to higher read rates. Campaigns using fun and unusual “friendly froms” saw higher read rates and lower delete without reading rates. Even though the read rate difference is minor, this translates to 10 more sets of eyeballs for every 1000 emails sent. Depending on your total list size, that can add up.
Chubbies employed several different “friendly from” approaches, so I decided to group them and look at any additional detail that might lead to a potential differential impact.
I tagged campaigns with the following:
Interestingly, it looks like both subscribers and mailbox providers seemed to like the “Completely Random” messages more than the “Includes Chub” campaigns. As I thought this through, it made sense. While the “Includes Chub” friendlies are almost like word puzzles (i.e. we have to know that “Chubmiral Ackbar” is a play on Admiral Ackbar, a character from Return of the Jedi), the “Completely Random” friendlies were often easier to process when doing a quick skim. Since subscribers do not devote much time to messages before they determine value, complex subject lines could be less compelling.
Along those same lines, the “Completely Random” friendlies were much shorter, averaging only eight characters compared to 16 for the “Includes Chub” “friendly froms.”
Let’s not neglect the fact that the “Completely Random” subject lines might just be more fun and engaging for the audience.
As for the good ol’ dependable brand name, a standard and all-caps treatment was used during this time frame. Since I was already in here and running numbers, I looked at that too. The all-caps CHUBBIES drove read rates more aligned with what we saw for the “Completely Random” approach but maintained mailbox provider marked spam rates in line with plain old Chubbies. This technique also had the highest average user marked spam rate, because hey, people usually don’t like getting yelled at.
Hold Your Horses
Before rushing out to employ a similar tactic, let’s talk this over for a second. No, Chubbies didn’t get completely banished to the spam folder when they used odd friendlies and yes, they did appear to see a lift in engagement that was associated with them. Is this a good tactic to try out in your own program? Maybe. And if you do, do it carefully.
I couldn’t identify the exact time this tactic was implemented, so couldn’t develop a before and after analysis to indicate whether this impacted total performance for the brand as associated with the sending domain. I also wasn’t able to find other brands that employ a similar tactic so this is relatively anecdotal at this point.
Finally, and probably most importantly, you may be walking a fine line with the CAN-SPAM Act. The part about “intentionally misleading” sending addresses is open for interpretation but how far do you really want to push it? I’m going to just go ahead and leave this here (CAN-SPAM Act of 2003) and it’s up to you to sort it out. I’m not a lawyer and this blog post (or any blog post for that matter) is the last place you want to look for legal advice.
If you’re going to try something like this, I have a few recommendations:
Know of other brands that get creative with their “friendly froms”? Let me know in the comments so I can review the data and piece together a clearer picture of the impact this approach has on performance.