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Marketability eBulletin

Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on 12 May 2020. In this issue:

Jacquetta Megarry shares what happened next after a book giveaway offer

Our customers may be unlikely to buy from us at the moment, but our email marketing gives us the opportunity to stay in touch in a low key and sensitive way.

Jacquetta Megarry is the publisher behind Rucksack Readers, and decided to feature a one week giveaway of 20 copies of the West Highland Way guide. Subscribers simply had to email to say why they’d like a copy.

Rucksack Readers is a small niche publisher closely connected to its customers, as was clear as the emails started to arrive. Personal stories of somebody wanting one for her friend who is in lockdown alone, and who sent a warm message to her suggesting they do the West Highland Way together in future. There was the reader fundraising for MND, and the one recovering from a brain tumour, and the woman who’d escaped from domestic violence and for whom walking has been integral to recovery. “The whole exercise has been very humbling”, says Jacquetta.

Perhaps if this email had gone out from a multinational publisher the response would have been different. But would it? When Wiley’s ‘Because of you’ campaign invited researchers to share their stories the publisher was similarly inundated and we were reminded that we are all motivated by our life experiences.

As Jacquetta admits, giving books away is hardly a sustainable business model. But she has connected on a personal level with some of her subscribers and learned about what motivates them. And if the 20 who receive free books are delighted enough to talk about it on social media, then Rucksack Readers may even gain new loyal fans – and buyers.

“If you do write about this episode, please don’t make me out as virtuous, will you?” I promise I won’t, Jacquetta.

See the Rucksack Readers email for yourself.

Customers as ordinary people with worries, needs and aspirations are at the heart of all of our courses, from copywriting, to marketing planning, to email planning. Take a look at a few of them on our training courses at a glance page.


How bad is it possible for microcopy to be? Well, this takes some beating

My business bank recently relaunched its website, carefully making sure that its own priorities were front and centre. I should have known how bad it was going to be when my login details mysteriously failed and, baffled, I had no option but to call their support line. ‘Oh, the reason that customer ID number isn’t working is that we no longer count the first two digits.’ Quite how us customers, obviously on the periphery of things, were meant to know this remains a mystery.

Here’s the microcopy example. This is the message that warns that for security reasons I will be logged out due to inactivity:

This application will log out in xx seconds
Do you want to continue?
Cancel           OK

Now is this OK to continue what I was doing? OK to logout? Cancel to logout? Cancel the automatic logout? This copy and these buttons couldn’t be worse if they tried.

This example is a big bank that really should know better. How come they haven’t realised that making microcopy crystal clear is the key to a positive web experience?

The moral of this story is … don’t leave microcopy to someone else, and definitely not to the technical team whose expertise doesn’t usually extend to copywriting. And if this is something you’re intending to review in the near future, do get in touch:

And breathe.


OUP’s fascinating overhaul of the dictionary definition examples

Four years ago a (male) Canadian anthropologist complained to OUP about sexist examples used to illustrate definitions. For example, ‘nagging’ was inevitably followed by ‘a nagging wife’. Oxford University Press set about reviewing the examples and were shocked to find there really was a case to answer – and have been addressing it ever since. Housework is no longer illustrated by ‘she was doing the housework’ but by ‘I was busy doing housework when the doorbell rang’.

This is a fascinating story which reminds us yet again how the English language evolves to reflect cultural mores. OUP have the tricky job of ensuring that its dictionaries cover language as it’s really used, whilst acknowledging when vocabulary is no longer considered socially acceptable.

Read the ‘No more nagging wives’ story
for yourself.


On The Marketability Grapevine on Facebook

  • There’s some wonderful Zoom spoofs out there to make you laugh. And if you’re tempted to use a virtual background during your Zoom calls, how about a famous empty BBC TV stage set? Perhaps the bar of Fawlty Towers, or Ronnie Barker’s cell in Porridge?
  • A copywriter’s analysis of ‘Stay alert’.
  • Read something that hit the spot in this eBulletin? Click through and like the item or add a comment on Facebook
  • Watch the wall for postings of new jobs, or feel free to add to them.

Visit The Marketability Grapevine


Tip of the week: Why urgent calls to action may backfire

This was prompted by a subject line of ‘Time’s running out to sign up for our webinar’. Guess what? Right now I have other things on my mind, I’m deleting these emails without a second glance. The tip is to be very sensitive to your readers’ priorities. We may still be working, but this is definitely not business as usual.

See also our article ‘The best and the worst of email marketing during a crisis’ in our last eBulletin (which the author of the above clearly hadn’t read, since this email type featured at #5 on the list.)




Marketability (UK) Ltd

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Tel +44 (0)20 8977 2741