If You Don’t Read This Blog Post, We’ll Kill This Dog

Not really, but we'd still like you to read this post.

William Randolph Hearst allegedly said, “Give me a magazine cover with a beautiful girl, a dog, or a baby on it, and I'll give you a magazine that sells.” I say “allegedly” because I came across this quote only once, on a cover of the late, lamented National Lampoon.

Dog: It’s the new white meat?

Several marketers seem to have adopted that axiom for email subject lines this holiday season, referring to dogs even though their products had nothing to do with canines.

Take this November 6 email from apparel retailer Club Monaco. The subject line: “The best gifts + the cutest puppy.” Opening the email did indeed reveal a gif of a damn cute puppy snuggling in a soft blanket.


Sadly, once I clicked through to the website, no other puppies were immediately apparent. If only Club Monaco had carried the theme through—why not show puppies alongside the models flaunting the clothes? Though to be fair, the company’s Christmas Day email did feature the pup again, along with a sibling:

Double awww!

Timbuk2, which sells bags and travel accessories, followed suit with its December 18 email. You have to admire the blatant cheekiness with which it didn’t even pretend that dogs had anything to do with its marketing message; the subject line read “Puppies! Up to 50% Off Tech Tested [sic] Favorites.” The email itself continued the tenuous theme:

Again, though, no puppies showed their adorable floppy ears or cute yearning eyes anywhere on the Timbuk2 website—except on the product page for the Muttmover Backpack, a backpack designed to carry, well, you can figure it out. This sort of irreverence seemed to work well for Timbuk2, however; after all, this is a website with a tab titled “Super Exciting Fine Print.”

The canine reference was relevant to womenswear brand MM.LaFleur’s November 28 promotion. “Treat yourself. Save a puppy” implored the subject line. The email itself explain why, “instead of slashing prices for Black Friday,” the company would donate 10% of each sale that day to the animal shelter from which it had adopted “the fluffiest and most beloved member of the MM team.”

Apparently Dot, the fluffy staffer, even got a promotion out of the deal.

If I’d been in the market for MM.LaFleur’s tailored apparel, I would have made a purchase from the company on the basis of its email. I wonder if the promotion did indeed goose sales. Although Black Friday has evolved (devolved?) to focus on sales and bargains, the holiday season is also the time to appeal to people’s better, more charitable selves.

Both as a canine-lover and as someone whose day job requires her to write 12 subject lines a week, I appreciate how these seemingly irrelevant emails break the monotony of the usual “here’s what we’ve got; please open and click through.” I imagine that, used sparingly, such tactics provide a lift in response. The trick is to make sure that recipients aren’t disappointed when they do click through... and of course, to come up with other concepts for the occasional disruptor message.

Also to avoid comparisons with another classic National Lampoon cover.

1 comment:

  1. Some writers I know and have worked with do not understand the importance of subject lines. It is maddening.