July 29, 2013, 9:53 AM
Blogger

Royal baby ignored—at least in U.S. marketing e-mail.

Thad Rueter

Senior Editor

After an exhaustive search that would have impressed Capt. Cook, I have finally found the one place on all the globe where news of the birth of Prince George of Cambridge—the new royal baby—has yet to fully penetrate.

E-mail marketing messages.

No, really.

Granted, the nature of my search merely involved checking my various inboxes, reaching out to some e-retailers and placing a call this week to Chad White. The e-mail expert works as principal of marketing research for ExactTarget, a company that sells e-mail marketing services to such retailers as Best Buy Co. Inc. and The Home Depot Inc. To keep up with the latest trends, White monitors the e-mail activity of some 150 business-to-consumer brands.

White told me he spotted only a handful of organizations with e-mail messages that took advantage of the royal birth: U.K.-based department store chain Marks & Spencer (No. 18 in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Europe 500), pottery and home décor merchant Jonathan Adler and web marketplace Etsy.com. The latter two are based in the United States.

If you’ve ever talked with White, chances are you consider him an affable guy. He certainly kept up that reputation during our conversation, though I detected a note of moral outrage under his easy-going tone—well, the moral outrage that can only come from marketing professionals. He was perplexed …. no, surprised …. no, make that disappointed … that marketers didn’t do more with the royal birth in their e-mails to consumers.

“It’s gotten a ton of news coverage. People know about it,” he said, chuckling in that same way that parents often do when describing the misadventures of their children. “It’s not like there hadn’t been a lot of forewarning.”

In fact,  nine months’ worth of it.

White brought up hurricanes and snowstorms, other types of predictable events that marketers can—and have—responded to effectively. Of course, the purchasing desires of most people on the planet differ when it comes to storms and other events that don’t involve the latest member of the House of Windsor, but the point was the same. “It is incumbent upon marketers to try to be topical,” he said.

So did retailers miss out on significant sales because of this lack of attention to the infant George Alexander Louis? White wouldn’t go that far, nor will I—British understatement seems the proper course here.

But I will point out that the U.K.-based Centre for Retail Research projects that British retailers of all kinds will take in at least $240 million in book, DVD, toy and souvenir sales from royally inclined consumers, including those who live in lands formally ruled by the empire and some of George’s ancestors (Australia, New Zealand and North America). Understandably, the trade group expects baby gear such as prams and pushchairs (carriages and strollers for those of you still holding a grudge against George III) to increase. Target Corp., in the United States., this week was selling online the infant car seat used by the young royal parents to bring their new son home, but a spokeswoman said that while “we carry baby product that is fit for a prince, [we carry] nothing specifically British-related.”

The most interesting example I found of using the royal birth to gin up sales came from U.S.-based CandyFavorites.com, which specializes in stocking retro-style candies and has at least 80,000 e-mail subscribers. Immediately after the new prince greeted the world on Monday, the retailer set out an e-mail with the subject line “It’s a Royal Baby Boy!” A 5% discount offer link hovered above one of those ubiquitous take-offs of the famous British World War II home-front morale signs: “Keep Calm and Celebrate the Prince” read the copy, just below the shape of a crawling infant.

The company’s president, John H. Prince (yes, really) described himself as an Anglophile who spent some time living in London. That wasn’t the only reason he employed the royal birth to sell sweets, though. “A lot of Internet sites have become uncreative in promotional responses,” he said. “This is fun and whimsical. In the dog days of summer, it’s hard to find something whimsical.”

When discussing the campaign, Prince wouldn’t give away too many of the crown’s secrets, but allowed that the conversion rate for the promotion “was well above 2%. We had a very good day.”

The English infant who now holds the third spot in the line of U.K. succession may bring more good days for other retailers. A spokesman for Overstock.com Inc. (No. 31 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide) told me that the mass merchant plans to soon promote such products as a “Personalized Pacifiers Blue Prince Charming Pacifier” a Union Jack rug and—apparently for those babies with a taste for luxury—Burberry baby clothes.

Rule Britannia.

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