Buy The Flatware, Skip The Husband

Wedding season is coming. Congratulation to all the blushing brides out there and a high five to the ladies who remain single and happy (read: sane). E-mail marketing has a funny way of taking the sweet sound of wedding bells chiming to a small population and turning it into nails on a chalk board for everyone else. Crate & Barrel recently send out an eblast with the subject line “Engaged? Attend our Wedding Parties events. RSVP at stores today”

crate & barrel

*image source Crate & Barrel e-mail blast on 1/17/2011

I did an e-mail marketing *facepalm* because I am neither engaged nor in a serious relationship and asked, “Why did I receive this?” I hit twitter to see if I was alone in my disdain for inappropriate e-marketing.
karen nicole costa

I was not alone in my confusion.
twitter vanillabean45

Out of all the things I’ve learned about e-mail marketing during my time at Compete, I remember my boss/mentor, Drew telling me two things that sounded almost holy in nature:

“Thou shalt always insert alt text for images”
“Know thy audience”

This e-mail from Crate & Barrel could have easily been avoided or made more relevant by allowing customers to sign up for e-mails and edit their account based on life milestones. Or, include an image that links to and allow people to create an account, edit fields based on life milestones (engagements, pregnancy, graduation, etc) and create segments for e-mail marketing. The result? More relevant e-mails and happier customers. For b2c e-mails, it’s important to understand your customer and capture small bits of information to send relevant e-mails. For example, you can capture a customer’s birthday and then send them an e-mail on their birthday with a free shipping coupon. Less effective? Random wedding registry e-mails to everyone on your e-marketing list. Send me free shipping deals, Mari Kimono exclusive bedding e-mails, Kitchenaid accessories, but please don’t send me bridal e-mails or I’ll get cold feet and unsubscribe.

I get why it happened. Wedding registry is a big initiative for Crate & Barrel. I looked up the term “wedding registry” to see what websites receive the most traffic from this keyword search. The results:
wedding registry

Crate & Barrel is in the top 10 websites that receive traffic from the search “wedding registry,” and they’re spending money on paid search to acquire customers for this term. Volume of referrals is low, so they’re trying to beef up their marketing strategy, but I’d say that they’re probably barking up the wrong tree for blanket e-blasts to their whole list.

When it comes to e-mail marketing, know your audience or know when to not say anything at all. Remember that time you asked your friend if she was pregnant and she wasn’t. Oops. Foot, meet mouth. Same goes for e-mail marketing. Unless you’re sure about my status, don’t ask. In the meantime, I’ll buy my own flatware and skip the husband.

About Karen Costa:
As the Online Marketing Specialist at Compete, Karen Costa specializes in the day-to-day online marketing functions for search, email marketing, social media, affiliate, etc. Before Karen joined the Compete team she was an online marketing coordinator for Bliss Spa and then worked for a couple of start ups. Karen says, "I'm not sure what I want to be when I grow up!" Find Karen on Twitter as vanillabean45 or connect with her on LinkedIn at

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  1. Jenny

    They serve free champagne at these events. Maybe they know you better than you think they do.


  2. Karen Costa

    On second thought, I’d like to be invited to all wedding registry events on the east coast.


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  4. Justin Sherratt

    Had you purchased anything wedding related at CB? or had any of your friends registered with them and you participated through that system?

    Here’s another look:

    If I was CB I would email you every time, because instead of you attending, they received a blog writeup.

    In the sense of viral email marketing, you were not the intended target, yourself being immune. But you have inadvertently been a carrier, so the viral strategy (if it was designed this way) has been successful.

    I’m just making the point that the specific email marketing target is not you, but the overall goal seems to have been accomplished.


    • Karen Costa

      Justin, I agree that all press is good press, but if the overbearing messaging about weddings keeps coming, I’m going to have to safe unsubscribe to their e-mails. Williams Sonoma has managed to send me relevant e-mails. It’s really not that hard to target the right audience.


  5. Lindsey Mark

    Justin, I must respectfully disagree. I think it would have been more appropriate to send to the list generically based on behavoir i.e. email users who bought from a wedding registry an email that’s “get prepared for wedding season” or something to that affect.

    People in their mid-late 20’s and 30’s generally go to a lot of weddings, so this wouldn’t offend me. On the other hand assuming the whole list is engaged or maybe is almost as bad as a pushy parent asking why you haven’t met “a nice boy/girl yet”. I’m certain that there are smart marketers at Crate and Barrel, ones that can find a better way to target their customers.


    • Karen Costa

      If this blog had a like button, i’d hit it.


    • Justin Sherratt

      Oh I definitely see both sides of the coin on this.

      I also was very curious about if Karen had been part of the CB registry cycle at any turn.

      I also have no idea about “keeps coming”, as in how many have they sent, indeed if they are overbearing, or if they would have a select out compared to an opt out (no bride email just the bar accessories plz). Or was this just one email.

      What I’m mentioning, is that in Email Marketing, like DM, targeting is king. However unlike DM, Email marketing can be social.

      I’m on the fence. Did Karen partake in a CB registry? I’m sure I have at some point. would I laugh if I got sent this? of course as I’m neither engaged nor soon to be.

      But would I send it to a friend? Free Drinks and Food? Heck I might just send it to every girlfriend of every guy I know just for fun, followed by a “so sorry. I thought it was last weekend, act surprised”.

      All kidding aside,

      I’m fascinated by bounce marketing and this is a good example. Its like the Singing Fish on the wall. No one buys it for themselves. So once they realized they had to market to the person NEXT to the target. it was a goldmine.


  6. Karen Costa

    Nope, no wedding registry for me. My left ring finger is hyperventilating at the thought of it.

    Yesterday, about an hour after this blog was posted, ANOTHER wedding e-mail came from Crate & Barrel. I just re-registered for Crate & Barrel e-mails to see if they have any opt-in/opt-out options. Their homepage has been posessed by a bridezilla monster, too.

    Totally agree about slinging fish on the wall. This e-mail messaging could have changed completely.

    A simple subject line change like “It’s wedding season” and having a split message e-mail:

    1- “how to find a registry” message for potential wedding guests or a free shipping offer for purchasing a gift for someone off of their registry

    2- “how to register for an event/create your registry” for brides to be.

    It eliminates the assumption and the messaging is a little softer for those not in the bridal bucket.


  7. Karen Costa

    I feel like “Mommy Dearest” a la hanger scene. “No more wire hangers” has become “No more wedding e-mails!”


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  9. Karen Costa

    I love! I’ve used it for christmas/birthdays. Great for us ladies who aren’t hearing wedding bells…yet.