Email marketing with video – direct, personal, captivating and devastatingly effective

15th March 2021

Video is a core tool in driving the results of email campaigns. In this video, our MD explores why it works, how to do it properly, why email is a key part of a video marketing plan and some new technology that is changing the results marketers can expect from their campaigns.


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Here is a transcript of the video so you can get the notes you need easily!

Hello everyone, so today I’m going to start with the gratuitous use of a prop.

This is a Spork… the one I have here is a spoon, a fork, a knife and a bottle opener … and it even has a little clip to attach to your outdoor utility belt… it’s a winner!

Now for some people, this is the height of utility, it does many things and weighs next to nothing, and for other people, this is the ultimate spendthrift investment. So many things for so little money.

It’s true.. some people can’t get enough of a good Spork.. but I’m not one of them. Have you ever actually tried to use one of these, it gets your hands dirty, it’s uncomfortable in your mouth, and god forbid you should try to open a bottle with it… you’ll be lucky not to lose a finger. The Spork is the perfect analogy for decision making that can make marketing campaigns go wrong… but more on that later. For now, I’m going to introduce the subject of today’s talk …using video to improve email performance …let’s start with the stats.

Wyzowl’s State of Video Marketing report shows that 93 per cent of marketing professionals think that video is an important part of their marketing strategy. Nearly nine out of 10 feel they get a good return on investment on video and my favourite stat is that 94 per cent of the marketers feel that video leads to a greater understanding of their product or service. And that’s why almost every part of marketing is looking to incorporate video in some way and indeed why I want to talk today about putting video at the core part of your email marketing strategy. The effect of video on conversion and click-through rates in your emails is impressive. An email including a video can increase CTRs’ by up to 300%, it can reduce unsubscribe rate by 75% and numerous studies have found that just including the word “video” is enough to increase email open rates — by as much as 13%.

Before I get going into the details, I’ll just give you a quick overview of my experience, so you know, that I know what I’m talking about. I was a filmmaker at the BBC for over 10 years and in that time I created documentaries and features that covered everything from monkey smuggling and cheetah tracking to helicopter rescue, heroin addiction and history. And it all got a bit crazy when I decided to spend 5 months living with the royal marines during the second gulf war! Since then I’ve founded Hurricane, which a really experienced video marketing agency that creates video campaigns for brands and charities of all sizes and to top it all off. We make tv commercials, brand promos, content marketing campaigns and online events. I’m the author of a book called Video Marketing Strategy which is just going to its second edition and which proves that I am a total marketing nerd!

So, let’s get back to the content. Why can’t you stop watching bobsleigh footage on the TV in a hotel lobby? Why does a bank put up screens near queueing customers? Why have bus-stop display ads turned from dog-eared posters to flashy animations? The answer is that video is an intensely distracting medium. But in these cases, the content is, mute. There may be captions, subtitles or taglines, but they are capable of arresting our attention and in front of a moving audience, so how effective can they be at communicating complex messages?

Video on social media is far more effective, it’s held in someone’s hand on their device and it gets more attention. But again, it is often viewed on the go, people will probably be doing other things, and sound is not guaranteed. In fact, 75% of Facebook videos are watched mute, But once again it still delivers results.

Now just imagine how effective a video can be when it’s served up with voice over and music and delivered to viewers in a private environment where it can be absorbed at leisure. At a time when they are taking time to assimilate data and respond. This is exactly what email marketing videos allow you to do. Although 81% of all emails are now opened and read on mobile devices you are still sitting in someone’s in-box ready to revisited when they want to know more.

So, How do you do it well! To help you we’re going to cover a few technical things, then we are revisiting the Spork, and finally, I’m going to introduce you to personalised video which, as far as I’m concerned, is the nirvana of email marketing.

So let’s start with a few technical bits that maximise open rates of videos in email

Firstly, just because having a video in your email doesn’t mean you can skip on text. You’ll need to also include the normal amount of words. Text in an email provides spam filters with evidence that your email is genuine and if an email client blocks your video link, copy will give customers faith that it’s a thing worth watching. But above all, the main driver for text is that you can give personalisation, easily. Yes, video is great, but don’t rely on the video to do all the heavy lifting when using someone’s name in the subject line is an easy win to drive open rates.

While you’re at it, don’t forget the basics that you would use in a non-video email. Creating a single column layout, use email-safe fonts and making sure all CSS are inline before sending…. all that stuff is just as relevant when sending a video.

The next thing to think about is the mechanics of how people will view your video. Putting it directly into your email is clearly out of the window because of file size – unless you want to make something that’s 4 seconds long, but instead, we look to embed a highly clickable thumbnail image that links to a landing page where your video plays. So far so obvious right, the real magic in all this is to integrate video into your standard CRM. There’s a wide range of platforms that will tie video into your Hubspot, Salesforce, and so on, and it’s worth looking around. I won’t lie, this isn’t a super quick process, but it’s getting easier every day and video gives you so many useful metrics that the pain of implementation will soon be forgotten.

If this is something you’re keen to consider I’d say take a look at the Twenty Three Platform platform. These guys are nailing at the moment and it’s my favourite as it has a really good focus on how video helps across the sales funnel. For example, When your email recipient watches a video, everything they do, from open rates and view times are logged directly into your CRM so your sales can team jump in. Or indeed, your CMS can trigger messages back to Twenty Three to automatically adjust the content that customers watch, to reflects where they are in the sales journey. This is super helpful to move people from initial brand messages, through an ongoing conversation into conversion with drivers like discounts and limited-time offers

Before moving on to look at the content of the videos themselves, here are just a couple of other points. Autoplay. People hate it. Period. Don’t do it. No matter how amazing you think your video is, auto-playing the video is irritating. And of course, now that you are up to date with a “mute first’ approach, you’ll want to include captions, many people will turn the sound on, which is why email is better than many other ways of sending video, but some will choose sound off. Captions not only cover these people, but they help with message retention when read alongside the audio track.

The next thing I’m going to talk you through is how to make more effective content. Now, if you’ve seen me talk before. It’s almost guaranteed I’d have been banging on about emotional drivers. And I’m afraid today is no different. You can’t sell to people if they don’t care, and the only way they will care is if you make them feel something. Sending video in an email is no different, and in fact, I’d say that in order to improve click-throughs, you have to be able to make that emotional connection within the call to action. Defining the emotional driver for your film is as easy as considering which levers you can pull that resonate at an emotional level. This includes their hopes and fears and their goals in life … both public… and private. When I’m running workshops around this I ask brands to think of the things that will make their customers care about their product. We start with the optimistic. the things that you would hope your customers care about… saving the planet, making the world better, delivering a better service… all those things. The key is to find the one big driver that will make people sit up and think because it engages them emotionally. This is not the time for a huge list of services and benefits.

Next, I ask brands to be a little more cynical in what benefits think their customers want .. for example, they might want to look great to their boss and get a promotion, they may just want an easy life, they might just want a bargain, or they may just need to keep their job.

Many companies have nailed this approach and prove that no matter what your product or service, there is a driver that you can use. sometimes people say to me that their product is too boring to have any emotion around it, they only talk about benefits and features. And to these people, I show a video created by Taulia. Now, meaning no disrespect to Taulia, their product is insanely dull. but they have still found an emotional driver to engage people… and they’ve had some fun along the way.

The final step in finding the right emotional driver for your audience is to look back at the list and find the most realistic, engaging and original one that you can get away with saying… you might find you have two or three really strong ones. if one doesn’t leap out as a clear winner it’s worth AB testing your messages in some test films. At Hurricane, we created a video for an investment app, basically an online tool that gave insights about investment decisions. after the messaging session, we had two potential motivators to use in an email campaign. one was that the app gave you great insight to make better decisions, the other motivator was that the app was cool, felt great to use and would make you look like you had the best investment tools. We didn’t know which would work and AB tested the results. and the film that got the best results was not the one that promised better results, but the one that showed off what a cool bit of technology it was. It shows you never know till you test.

The final content tip for me takes us back to our prop. The Spork.

Videos cost time and money to produce, and there is a temptation to make them do loads of different thing, to say lots of things and to drive people to take lots of actions. Having been doing this for 20 plus years I’ve got some very simple advice. Have one goal for your film, have one key message and have one very clear call to action. If you make a video that tries to do more than this, you’ve just made a Spork. It will work, but it won’t do anything well. If you have lots of things to achieve, simply plan to make use of your video assets in different ways

The very final thing I want to cover today is the use of personalised video in email. Now, this is the tool that is going to revolutionise your open and engagement rates, Personalised video allows for unique data to be incorporated into every film, making it highly focused on the person to whom you are sending it. If you can put data about someone onto a spreadsheet it can go into a film. Personalised films are perfectly suited to an email campaign as you already have data on people.

The easiest way to understand what personalised video is to watch it in action

I’m going to show you the opening of a film that was created for Barclays to encourage people to take out a loan to bring their dreams into reality. Look out for how the viewer’s name is cleverly used in voice-over right at the start, and then personal data is shown in various places through the film to bring it to life.

The film is cool, but what’s really cool is the results films like this get. The loans industry benchmark email open rate is 26%, and this more than doubled that. Rates like this aren’t uncommon. People love having themselves reflected back, one might even go as far as saying we are our own favourite topics, so open rates of 60% and above in personalised campaigns can happen.

Moving onto CTR, the industry benchmark is 1.2% and the film again far exceeded that by a massive order of magnitude.

We know personalised videos deliver results, but how do they work? To bring the process to life let’s take a film Hurricane made recently for Unilever. The film was an internal campaign designed to get people to save more and it was emailed to every member of Unilever staff. Here’s the process.

First, we create an animation, just like normal but instead of filling in key text, we leave some areas blank. The after-effects files are then uploaded to the tech platform. We always use Idamoo which is solid and nice to work with. but other personalised platforms are available. While we’re doing that, the client uploads a spreadsheet of emails and variables onto the Idomoo server. This is done by them so we don’t need to handle any data. The whole system is GDPR compliant but to be honest, holding the data isn’t something we need to do so we try to avoid it. OK, now in the cloud we have a blank generic film and a database. At this point, people are sent an email that contains a personalised thumbnail. As you’d expect, the best results come from making this as clear as possible with the viewer’s name and a big play button.

The viewer clicks the link and is taken to a landing page where they watch the film. Idomoo charges us a credit off our account for a view. The brand gets a report on who’s watched and everyone’s happy. Especially as the brand only pays for videos that are actually watched.

The other nice thing about this process is that unlike the old days we don’t need to render out hundreds or even thousands of individual films and wait for people to watch them, instead, this is all done, on the fly in real-time in the cloud.

As we’re here, how did the film do, well it had a completion rate of 91% and a click-through from the CTA of 96.8% .. we’ll take that!

So, there you have it, a whirlwind tour of using video in email. We’ve covered why you should do it. Some helpful hints and some new technology that is going to drive your results in the right direction.

Thank you for watching, if you want to hear more about all things video marketing please don’t forget to subscribe and like, I look forward to seeing you again soon


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Do you have further questions about using video to boost your email marketing engagement? Or perhaps you’re looking to explore using video in your email campaigns, but are unsure of the next steps? We can help.

Ask us about using video in email marketing


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