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The recipe for Mario Batali’s amazing email click rate

You know what they say: Behind every celebrity chef is a master email marketer. (Do they not say that? We could have sworn…)

For celebrity chef and media personality Mario Batali, that marketer is his Communications Director, Pam Lewy. Pam has over a decade of experience in PR, food media, and communications – and as far as we’re concerned, she officially gets three Michelin stars for email expertise. With her help, the Batali brand stays on the forefront of the latest marketing trends, and their email program always reflects that same high level of thought leadership.

That's Pam!

That’s why we were super excited when Emma Account Manager Claire Burns got the opportunity to talk one-on-one with Pam about her experience marketing for Mario and hear some real-life examples from the Batali brand. We learned a lot, and we think you will, too!

How involved is Mario in your team's marketing decisions?

Despite how incredibly busy he is, you’d be very surprised at how involved Mario is in our marketing efforts. Of course, a good deal of his involvement is on the macro level. So he’ll discuss new concepts with us and sign off on ideas and plans, but we'll do most of the ground-level work.

For example, I’ll craft the language for something, then Mario will “Mario-ize” it and give his thoughts. Our team often executes things on his behalf because usually what we’re doing is very time-sensitive. So in that way, he is directly involved in our marketing efforts, but we’re usually the ones pressing the send button.

While all brands have a specific voice, you’re working with an actual person’s voice – how does that translate for your team?

When it comes to brand personality, having direct access to Mario is really crucial to our brand’s continuity and authenticity. Our team helps get information out to the public and tell Mario’s story, but he plays a huge role in all of it, as well. I would say that 80-90% of the tweets and Instagrams that Mario posts are his own. And if you follow Mario on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll know that it’s genuinely him, for better or worse. And I think that's why Mario’s brand is so successful – because it’s obvious that it’s all authentic. And I have to thank him for that, because it makes my job a lot easier and a lot more fun!

Can you talk a little about your current email sign up process?

We’ve been trying to engage fans with video for a while. So when email automation came on the scene, I was really excited to use it and to engage Mario with it, too. We started by creating four seasonal videos accompanied by four seasonal recipes – so now, when someone signs up for our email list, they’re automatically directed to a "thank you for signing up" page on our website. And on that page is a short video of Mario thanking the new subscriber for signing up and explaining the seasonal dish. By the time the video is over, the subscriber gets the recipe and a photo of the dish in their email inbox. It’s been working out really well; we have about a 58% open rate on that mailing!

We also put a lot of focus on growing our list organically. We place ads to sign up for our email list on high-traffic pages and like to make our ads into attention-grabbing GIFs. We’re also working on incentivizing people to join the list – for example, our most recent signup form says you get that exclusive fall recipe. And over the summer we added a lightbox form – it gave us a 138% jump in email signups.

Have you had any email campaign that weren’t so successful?

Absolutely! So we have a series on our website called “Watch This, Cook This.” It pairs a how-to video on a cooking technique with a relevant recipe that uses that technique. It does really well on the website. So our natural thought was that it’d be a useful pairing for email – that it would just be a slam dunk if we sent out the same thing in weekly email series. But after about 4 or 5 emails, we realized that it wasn’t doing very well at all. What we eventually gathered was that the email was too specific and narrowly focused for our email audience and that the pairing worked much better online. So that was a mistake, but we bounced back and learned from it.

How has your email design evolved over the years?

We have a few people involved in the design aspect of our emails – Lisa Eaton leads our creative team, and she’s played a huge role in creating Mario’s look and brand. We change up our email design about once a year to keep things fresh, and our recent revamp was designed by Kate Previtt. When we do have updates, Mario usually signs off first, but generally in terms of design direction he trusts us.

Here’s a look at how much our design has changed just over the past few years:

The last update was an effort to keep our look really clean. We really wanted our beautiful food photography to take the spotlight and to emphasize our social sharing buttons, so we added a lot more white space and kept everything very streamlined. And it’s given us some really amazing results – our weekly “Molto Mail” goes out to over 75,000 subscribers, and these days we’re averaging about a 25% clickthrough rate on those emails!

Want more from Pam? Check out our full video Q&A with her here!