May 19, 2006
How To

Sony Ericsson on What Works for Multinational Email Programs -- USA, Europe, China & Beyond

SUMMARY: Based in Sweden, Agnes Gawel manages the email team sending newsletters and promos to 60 markets around the world. In MarketingSherpa's exclusive interview, Gawel gives practical tips on:

-> Creative strategies for different countries
-> Legal considerations
-> #1 way to keep click and open rates strong
-> Why eyetracking heatmaps are so helpful

Yes, includes creative samples in English and Chinese, plus an eyetracking heatmap result from a recent Sony Ericsson campaign.
As with most multinationals MarketingSherpa's been tracking, Sony Ericsson has centralized all email marketing programs.

Based in Lund, Sweden, with assistance from a Belgian agency, Sony Ericsson's eDM & CRM Manager Agnes Gawel, is the woman in the center of an email whirlwind.

Centralization is a glorious thing -- brand guidelines aren't forgotten or garbled across borders. Plus, it's a lot easier to maintain one single CRM database for the whole world than to build separate silos in multiple regions.

And, last but not least, a single team of highly trained email experts can apply their knowledge to every campaign going out.

Centralization is also incredibly difficult. Dozens of regional marketers have to trust you'll do the best possible campaign for them. Every nation has different email laws. Most nations have different languages. And what works for creative in one culture may not be remotely appealing to others.

How do you cope? In this exclusive MarketingSherpa interview Gawel graciously reveals her tips and tactics.

How to localize newsletters and promotions

Many of Sony Ericsson's campaigns are global ones. Promotions such as the product launch of the new Walkman(™) phone are sent to as many as 60 markets nearly simultaneously. Plus, newsletters are roughly the same for most markets. However, Gawel's team carefully localize global campaigns in these four ways, among others:

- Translations are doublechecked by natives. We've heard this from many global marketers -- never ever send out an email campaign without having a native currently located in the region in question check the translation.

- Hotlinks switched to land consumers onto Web pages built for the local marketplace in the language the email was delivered in. "We would not take someone in China to an English landing page."

- Actual send timing is often dictated by local time zones.

- Tone of voice and use of graphics might vary between regions. "In East Asia, they are much more colorful and not as clean in design as our other emails. We do make some adaptations from a cultural point of view."

However, one type of localization takes place less often than you might expect. Occasionally consumer images may be switched to ethnically appropriate images, but Gawel says this is *far* less important to results than great translations are.

"It's based on local feedback. You might not think, for example, we'd use an African consumer image for Asian emails, but it's not the case. We've been using everything all over the place. In the end results, we don't really see a difference."

(Note: We've heard anecdotal evidence from other marketers who've tested this that they agree. If your brand is a global one, localizing consumer images can actually hurt results in some cases because it feels false to the end consumer.)

Lessons learned from China, Latin America, Eastern Europe

"Email responses are related to market maturity and Internet penetration," notes Gawel. Specifics:

- "In general, Latin American consumers have a much higher tolerance level for email. They will sign up more and open more frequently."

- "In parts of the Asia Pacific region, email legislation is not always as strict, so there is a lot of spamming. In response, these consumers are less tolerant of email."

- "China is very difficult. It's not regulated so there's a lot of spamming. Although we do not rent lists, I understand frequently Chinese consumers end up on rented lists they never signed up for. On the other hand, they are very loyal. Once you've built a high quality [opt-in] database, you get pretty good results."

- "North Africa and South African are growing. It's been very positive for us. There are less activities in the central, south, middle and east of Africa."

- "Eastern Europe has developed in a very positive way in the past year. However, that's also to do with how popular Sony Ericsson is in Eastern Europe."

Coping with legal considerations around the globe

"We involve our legal department in all of our activities," notes Gawel. Overall, Sony Ericsson's legal pathway has been admirably one of better-safe-than-sorry.

- The company never buys names outright and almost never rents lists. "We are asked occasionally if we can make an exception for a local market's promotional activities with a partner. It's still legally checked in the local market, and normally we don't advise to do such things."

- Names are gathered on various company sites by double opt-in process only. No name is added to the main database unless that consumer has clicked on a link in their initial email agreeing that they wanted to be on that list.

- Sony Ericsson does not have 'refer a friend' functionality on its sites or emails. "It's used among a lot of international companies, but we are not allowed to do that purely because of spamming legislation regulations we have."

Three best ways to keep response rates consistently high around the world

"We are staying at the same response levels," says Gawel. "We're very happy with our results, and they are much higher than industry benchmark averages."

Like other marketers, she has seen a slight decline in open rates, which can be mainly attributed to technical measurement challenges rather than to a decrease in actual opens. This is born out by the fact that Sony Ericsson's clicks have not seen any sort of corresponding decrease. Also, the database is rigorously cleaned and monitored to keep bounces and filter problems to a minimum.

Gawel also attributes these three factors as key to email success:

#1. Careful frequency

"We try to keep frequency the same -- between every third and fourth week. I think consumer tolerance to frequent email is decreasing. Two weeks between emails is a little bit too tight. We need to be of real value to consumers. If they're getting content that's not of benefit in emails from Sony, after awhile they will sign out."

#2. No stagnant creative templates

Overall, Gawel's creative strategy is to use email as a jumping-off point for clicks, rather than the main message platform. "We see email as the cover of a magazine. It needs to highlight the things you want to promise, but the whole story is to be read and discovered once that person clicks through. This has an effect on the copy and text we're putting in our emails. It's always been short, on the spot."

Starting about 12 months ago, Gawel's team also decided to buck the trend to stick with established templates. "We test different graphics and positions of banners. We continuously update our designs and structure. It's never a static template"

Why? "We want people to feel it's alive. It changes."

To make sure their ever-changing templates will work, Gawel's team have invested in an in-house eyetracking test facilities. They run eyetracking tests on almost every campaign they send. (See link below for sample test.) For typical tweaks, they use in-house staff who are not directly involved with the campaign's design to view emails in the lab. For big tests, they may pull in consumers from the outside world to test as well.

(Note: Gawel is the first email marketer we've met who invests so consistently in eyetracking. Most folks run a test every year or so. Link to more info on eyetracking below.)

#3. Segmentation

"We do not recommend to blast emails to the whole database. You must take into consideration your user's profile. Just because someone bought specific offerings doesn't mean they are open to any offering. Be careful of who you are sending to and why!" exclaims Gawel.

"Segmentation is the key to the challenges we are facing with the number of emails being increased, and with increased competition. If you don't have anything of value to say to that individual, just don't send the email. It does more harm than good."

Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples from Sony Ericsson email campaigns and a sample eyetracking test heatmap:

Luon - the email marketing agency (based in Belgium) Sony Ericsson relies on:

Past MarketingSherpa blog, "Eyetracking Testing Comes of Age: Recommended for Web, Search & Email Marketing Campaigns"

Past MarketingSherpa article: "Special Report Part II: Internet Marketing in China -- 100 Million Chinese Online & Counting"

Sony Ericsson

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions