Monday, 19 July 2010

The same but different

Last Thursday, I received two emails from Shop Direct Group, the parent company of Empire Stores and Littlewoods. The emails had an almost identical subject line: “NEWSFLASH! £15 off your first order + new arrivals”. The only difference was that Littlewoods called its new arrivals “hot”.

Recycling the headline is rather lazy from Shop Direct, which surely could have come up with two separate subject lines (unless all its brands went with this offensive to see which of them had the biggest response). What’s more, Empire Stores had tried the previous week to tempt us with “£15 off your first order + our new season collection”, further showing a relaxed attitude to email-subject-line brainstorming.

Back to the emails at hand though—what, aside from the subject line, do these emails have in common?
Where’s the deal?
Both emails dive straight in, displaying the offer above the fold. In a move I presume saves on back-end administration, both brands use the same offer code. I would have thought a slightly different code for each brand would better aid tracking—especially as codes so quickly end up online on websites like where they are used by non-email recipients and lose all connection to the original marketing channel.

The emails then lead into the second part of the subject line: the new collections. However, where Littlewoods (below) displays a selection of new arrivals, Empire Stores (above) devotes the space to a message that harks back to its agency catalogue days and reiterates its “buy now, pay later” terms. The Littlewoods’ range is also more expensive—a Diesel dress for £170, a South sequin jacket for £69. The most expensive item in the Empire Stores email is a jacket that costs £79.

Twiggy vs Coleen
There is a clear age divide in these emails too. Empire Stores is obviously targeting a more mature market—for a start, the outfits promoted are not as figure-hugging or skimpy as the Littlewoods new arrivals. Second, Empire Stores is using 60s model Twiggy as its face, compared with Littlewoods’ use of top WAG Colleen Rooney as its “style editor”. Another indication that Empire Stores is targeting an older demographic is the reinforcement that larger sizes are available and the copy’s emphasis on comfort, rather than trendiness.
In the jeans
Both emails also feature a Denim Store section. In the Littlewoods email, the item is illustrated by a graphic—no product pictures—and the copy: “Women’s Jeans 100s of styles from classic to big brands, from all the latest fits: skinny, bootcut and more”. The Empire Stores email has an expanded Denim Store section that features three pairs of jeans next to their price per week: “So Fabulous Distresses Tapered Jeans £30 or £1.50 per week.” The main copy for the Denim Store also highlights “great value” and the availability of plus-sizes.

Despite these emails having twin subject lines and a similar layout, Shop Direct has set out clear brand guidelines, based on age, size and financial status. We previously blogged about Shop Direct supporting two separate, but nearly identical, brands. It seems that this time round it’s had a rethink and set its brands apart.--MT

As an aside, I noticed a technical difference too. Littlewoods had a "click here to view the email in a browser" link, whereas Empire Stores didn't. The reason why is something I cannot work out.

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