Picture this: a great service for prepping your email campaign’s images

Adding photos to your stylish emails can now be a walk in the park with the help of Picnik, a free online service that allows you to edit, crop, & re-size your photos.

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Services like Picnik can add a lot to the look and feel of your email newsletter design. Do you have any large or oddly-sized photos lying around that you'd like to include in an email campaign? With Picnik, you can easily pull those photos from your desktop, scale or crop them to the perfect size and save the new and improved image. Having a consistent image size throughout your campaign will improve the overall aesthetic and increase the readability of the content, not to mention all the positive feedback you'll receive from your audience members! For an example, check out Ad Age's email.

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Still not convinced? Here's another good reason to give this site a try. For those of you who simply want to pull the header from your website and resize it for use in emails, Picnik's got you covered. In addition to editing photos from your desktop, Picnik enables you to edit them directly from any website (including sites like Photobucket or Facebook ). Type in the URL to your personal or business website and, like magic, all of the images hosted there will appear on Picnik. Just choose the header image & scale it down! We recommend keeping the width of your email header between 600 and 650 pixels.

After using a tool as fabulous as Picnik, you'll be able to create visually stunning emails in no time. You might even have time for a real picnic…

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

And the tree total to date is…

Emma plants five trees for every customer who chooses us for their email marketing campaigns.
With June behind us, we're officially halfway through 2008, the year we set out to plant a tree for every new customer who joins Emma. I'm pleased to announce that we've planted a whopping 10,855 trees so far this year, with the latest batch from June on their way to Wisconsin soil to find a home.

Of course, now it's July, and that means it's time to vote on a new location for half of this month's trees. Remember, the other half goes to the equatorial region of Plant-It 2020′s choice (they're our fabulous partner in all this tree planting business). Also, remember that the states we ask you to vote on come from Plant-It 2020′s list of pre-approved non-harvest sites – it's not that we're biased toward states like Wisconsin, although few Emma staffers would turn down a lovely aged white cheddar. Anyway, take a moment and tell us where you'd like to send some trees…

[poll=7]

Good inspiration, better design.

This week, I took a moment to ask my fellow comrades in Emma's design department to share some web goodness with the rest of the world and share where they go to get inspired. What are some of their sites to live by (or at least design by)? Here are a few gems:

For some good design talk, Jessica never passes up a good read at Speak Up.
"There is always a hot debate about a new design or theory. Reading everyone's feedback is not only entertaining, but very informative. There are often good tips and tricks mentioned throughout."

Taylor keeps her homepage locked on goodmagazine.com.
"They're always really interesting and informative, but usually more on a positive note. I love the design of both the magazine and the site. And they have a blog too."
This is a great resource for information on topics such as creative ways to do good in the world and the extinction of bananas.

As for me, I like to get my daily dose of inspiration from Design*Sponge. With an average of 6-10 posts a day, the site covers everything that is design, from modernistic chandeliers to typography to where to find a good art gallery in Denmark. Also, the D-I-Y section can bring out the creative in anyone.

What design site keeps you coming back for more? Please leave a comment & inspire us.

What’s on your walls?

When we moved into the new Emma digs in January, we weren't sure what to do with all the extra wall space (not to mention other amenities like "more than two restrooms" and "hey, it doesn't smell weird"). We framed some marketing and campaign creative and put up some of those famous Hatch Show Prints, but when it came to painted stuff, we just didn't think a corporate art rental program was our style.

Instead, we invited the kids of Emma employees who attend Children's House Montessori School in Nashville to create the art for us, asking them to look at Emma's logo and create an entire picture of Emma around it. Another team helped to paint a cityscape. So now we have something of an art gallery to welcome folks who visit the shop, complete with gallery-like descriptions for each work of art. Here are a few for your artistic enrichment…

Emma with Tiny Chicken Arms, and Perfectly Okay About It

Emma Art
Watercolor on Canvas

A classic study in human and fowl proportion, Tiny Chicken Arms is believed by some art critics to be the first attempt to combine a human body and chicken arms in a blouse that was clearly intended for much larger, non-chicken-like appendages.

At first glance, the work appears to feature legs of differing lengths, almost in an accidental way, but note how the subject's earrings follow the same long-short pattern.

Also, the subject has no nose.

Patrons interested in further researching the early career of O. Smith can see also:

Figure with Large, Bulbous Right Leg and Normal-Sized Left Leg, Four Fingers with Two More Sticking Out of the Wrist Area, and Boy With Unintentional Extra Neck.

Artist: Owen Smith (age 5), Children's House Montessori

Emma with Blue Hair and Dark Skirt/Innertube

Emma Art
Watercolor on Canvas

Hooper is widely considered to be the philosophical leader of the Buoyant Attire movement, a group devoted to furthering the idea of clothes that can also be used as flotation devices.

In this particular work, it's as if the subject is saying, I can stand here possibly waving at you, or I can tube down Category Four rapids if the mood strikes me.

Many believe the artist's later effort, Look At Me, Now I'm Tubing Down Category Four Rapids, may be the logical companion piece to this canvas. Innertube is not without controversy, as some scholars question its inclusion in the Buoyant Attire movement.

They point to the artist's use of a dinner napkin already tucked in as a clear nod to the Post-Tubing Cheese Crackers movement, a splinter artist group fervently opposed to the idea of tubing without proper snacks.

They are based out of Nebraska.

Artist: Maggie Hooper (age 4), Children's House Montessori

Emma in Purply Gown and Red Gloves or Possibly Smeared Cupcake

Emma Art
Watercolor on Canvas

Known for her work in carefully arranging wood blocks, artist Julia Spessard displays her versatility with Emma in Purply Gown.

This work is her first foray into painting — or, in her words, "making pretty pretty."

With its use of heavy brush strokes, serious tone and tiny nose, Gown is at once a commentary on the absurdity of society life and a challenge to the world of fashion designers.

This challenge is namely to make more things that are purple.

This is a theme that would resurface in J. Spessard's subsequent oil series, My Purple Daddy and His Giraffe, Which is Also Purple. Allusions to smeared cupcakes in her later works are more pronounced.

Artist: Julia Spessard (age 3), Children's House Montessori

Emma in Slightly Mannish Sweater Suit

Emma Art
Watercolor on Canvas

Part of the watercolor series Sweaters: Not As Ladylike As You Might Think, Slightly Mannish is generally considered to be artist Woods Spessard's most important work.

This triumph follows on the heels of the somewhat less regarded efforts Half Flower, Inside My Nose and Orange-y Blob.

Note the use of the horizontal lines, earth tones, and large, gangly google-y eyes favored by artists of this period.

(This period refers to the time right after nap time and before plastic stove baking time).

Discerning viewers may also spot the subtle influences of Van Gogh and Cezanne.

Other views may note the subtle influences of the Dress Barn's winter line, circa 1997.

Artist: Woods Spessard (age 5), Children's House Montessori

Future, and Possibly Architecturally Unstable, City

Emma Art
Watercolor on canvas

One of three works in the series Whimsical Buildings You Might Not Want to Stand Underneath, Future City re-imagines the modern skyline in vivid blues, yellows, reds, and the ever-popular architectural color Bubblegum Pink.

The work blends whimsy and irreverence to create an abstract paradise for everyone but building inspectors, window makers, and the poor sap who rented the elevator-less rocket-launcher penthouse.

Artists: The boys and girls of Children's House Montessori (ages 3 through 6)

Help us plant 326 trees.

If you're new to Emma's blog, you might not know that we plant 5 trees for each new customer that chooses us as their email marketing service provider. You also might not know that we ask our fearless blog readers to help us choose where each month's batch of trees should go. Ohio was the winner of last month's poll, so we'll be working with Plant-It 2020 to plant half of May's 1,630 trees in the Buckeye State and the other half in the equatorial region of Plant-It 2020′s choice.

Of course, it's a new month, which means it's time for a new poll:

[poll=6]

Thanks for voting, compadre…

How long should my subject lines be, anyway?

If you often peruse email marketing statistics (which is perfectly fine, by the way, but maybe the kind of personal information you'll want to gloss over at parties), you may have run across a fair amount of research on the length of subject lines. MailerMailer reported that shorter ones perform better than longer ones. Then MarketingSherpa's research just came right out and said that 35 characters was the magic number. But we experimented with subject lines here at the Emma shop and found just the opposite – our longer subject line boasted both higher open and clickthrough rates than its shorter counterpart.

So I was thrilled to see some new research on subject lines hit the wires this morning, from Mediapost's Email Insiders' Summit. One of the conference speakers, Dala Quist, presented his own research about subject line length. He reinforced the idea that shorter subjects – 50 characters or so – garner better open rates, but he didn't stop there. His research showed another spike in performance for subject lines around the 80-character mark. The slump in open rates happened in the middle range (60-70 characters).

From the article at MediaPost:

Research culled from 250 million messages sent over the past two years, with 660 different subject lines, has led him to believe that a 50-character subject line touting a "powerful" offer is appealing (30% off Spring Getaway flights to Florida on Delta).

And a longer 80-character-plus line describing a newsletter in enticing fashion works (Find out Secrets to Spice up your Barbecue this weekend and all Summer Long and enter to win a New Weber Grill.)

It's great news for a couple of reasons – one, it helps me feel better about our own longer subject lines, of course, but second, it recognizes that the ideal subject line's length depends on what you're trying to accomplish with your campaign. If it's an offer you're promoting or a particular call to action you want people to take, shorter's better. But if you're using your email newsletter with an eye toward retention, relationship-building and content, a longer subject line will give you more chances to tease the content that'll get your readers engaged with your email.

Not sure what'll work for you? Try splitting your audience in half and try two different subject lines for the same campaign, and let us know how it goes…

Calling all designers who like prizes.

create awards 2008
For all you designers out there, here's a friendly reminder that the folks at Create are accepting submissions for this year's Create Awards. If there's something stylish in your portfolio this year that you feel particularly proud of – whether it's advertising, photography, print, interactive, or something else – you can submit it to Create for, you know, prizes and stuff. The early-bird deadline is May 31, and the final cut-off for submissions is July 7. Good luck!

Trees, meet New York. New York, trees.

As a part of our continuing efforts to plant a whole lotta trees in 2008, we've just asked our friends at Plant-It 2020 to send 1,920 indigenous saplings in honor of the 383 folks who joined Emma in April (like who?). Those trees are heading to the state of New York, where you voted to plant April's trees. Where May's trees go is up to you, as always:

[poll=5]

Oh, and thanks to all the lovely people who joined us in April. By signing up with Emma for their email marketing, they're not only planting *new* trees – they're also doing something nice for *all* trees by sending paperless email newsletters and campaigns.

[tags]environment, myemma.com, new york, plant-it 2020, trees[/tags]

What candidates are on your From Name list?

From Address sample
Back in August, I spent a quick thirty minutes surrendering my email address to a handful of presidential hopefuls. I wasn't picking sides, mind you – just hoping to learn something about email's place in our political process.

Today's observation happens to focus on Barack Obama's email strategy with From Names. Over the last eight months, his emails have appeared in my inbox with several different names in the From Line. Here are seven unique ones worth mentioning and some quick notes on why Obama's marketing team chose to use 'em instead of the standard 'Barack Obama.'

Sen. Ted Kennedy - An endorsement from a member of one of the most prominent political families of all time.

Michelle Obama - A personal message from a family member.

John Kerry – An endorsement from a Senator and well known presidential candidate of recent years.

Jennifer Buck Wallace, Tennessee State Coordinator – A quick primer on early voting in *my* state.

Bob Tuke - A locally known name for folks in Tennessee (Former Chairman of my state's Democratic Party) with a message that encouraged voting in the Tennessee primary.

David Plouffe, Campaign Manager – An insider's message about the campaign.

Chelsea Kammerer, Ohio Field Director – A message about Obama's status in a key primary state.

Even though many of these names are brands in their own right, there may be an application for your own From Name strategy. Take a few minutes to make sure yours is making the strongest connection possible with your audience. Would changing the From Name better suit the message or grab the attention of the particular audience you're aiming to reach? For example, your emails to stockholders might come from the CEO while your newsletter sticks with the standard company name in the From line.

Of course, on the other hand, there's a real benefit to keeping a consistent From Name,* and it's possible that some readers overlooked emails from the Obama campaign because they lacked instant name recognition. Why not divide up your audience and do a little experimenting? Put your trusty default to the challenge by mixing it up. If you do, please let us know how it goes…

*In case you're curious, the *From Email* was pretty consistent throughout the eight months. A few messages were from state-specific email addresses like tennessee@barackobama.com, for example. Our recommendation for you, though, is to stick with one address, since your audience may already have it stored in their address books.