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How Jessica Biel Got My Money: Why Vogue’s Email Acquisition Tactics are Smart and Effective


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I swear, I’m not easily manipulated by celebrity endorsements. So when I recently received an email with the subject line “A breakthrough moment” and saw that it was from Jessica Biel and Vogue, I will admit to having several snarky thoughts. (For anyone who has endured the movie “Stealth,” you’ll understand why.)

My snark doesn’t extend to Vogue, though. I’m a former subscriber and have always admired the magazine’s content, design and overall quality. So I took the time to read this email, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

Not everyone can see your stuff.

First rule of smart email marketing: don’t assume. Not everyone will have images turned on, so if you want your message to be clear, be sure to design the email in a way that the images enhance it, not drive it. Vogue did a nice job with this.

Not everyone wants to hear about Jessica Biel’s fabulous life.

The email is positioned as a personal letter from Ms. Biel. I’m a copywriter, so I appreciate words. But I skimmed through the majority of this, because the content was mostly fluff. I know some people are fascinated with celebrities, though, and I think this was a clever approach to grabbing attention.

If you’re providing a link, make sure it fits your audience.

The inline link in this email entices fashion fans to watch a behind-the-scenes video of Jessica’s fashion shoot for the cover. When images are on, a still from the video is embedded, providing a beautiful and intriguing reason to click. Seeing Mario Testino’s name in the copy doesn’t hurt interest, either.

It’s an acquisition in Jessica’s clothing.

Though the body copy of this email is all about Jessica Biel and her cover experience, it is in fact an acquisition piece. Hence the giant red buttons to the right of the video capture (or the links in the case of the images off version). You’re given the option of subscribing or giving a gift subscription to Vogue. Additional subscription links are at the footer of the email.

Make your email work hard.

When I clicked through on the video, I landed on a very clever page.

Yes, this is a subscription path. And yes, the video that was promised is there as well. I watched the whole thing, which was actually kind of charming. And effective. It reminded me how much I love the fashion, photography and editorial of Vogue, and I subsequently filled out the subscription form. It’s clever to merge the two, without making them dependent on each other. Plus, there’s messaging that guarantees you’ll receive the issue that is featured in the video—further incentive to subscribe.

Say thank you, and then upsell.

Upon subscribing, I was taken to a Thank You page, which contains a lot of smart marketing content. (I call this smarketing). At the top, a nav bar lets you jump around to several pages of the Vogue Website.

Under the picture of February’s cover, they get their social media on with a Twitter share and an invitation to join Vogue on Facebook. And to the right of this, Vogue encourages you to share the fashion love with a pre-filled subscription email that can be sent to multiple addresses. Yet more smarketing.

Finish with a bang, not a whimper.

The final piece of this Vogue path was a thank-you email that came minutes after subscribing.

In comparison to the rest of the elements, this seems a bit ho-hum to me. Two in-line links drive you to sign up for the Vogue online community and to check out the latest videos, respectively. Since I had just watched the Jessica Biel video, it seemed redundant and assumptive to mention that specific video again. I see this email as a chance to get subscribers on the Vogue site to look at content and to generate excitement about their decision, and this falls short of that potential.

All in all, though, I’m impressed with the tactics used by Vogue in this acquisition path. Not only is it on brand, it’s effective. With just a few clicks, Jessica Biel got my money. Now, if I could just have some of hers…