How do I incorporate video into e-mail?

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Incorporating video into e-mail offers a unique opportunity for marketers to connect more strongly with their audience. But using video in an e-mail campaign has to be done correctly. The wrong kind of video will frustrate recipients, whereas the right one will create a powerful brand experience.

First and foremost, it’s important for marketers to be realistic. Most e-mail clients, including Outlook 2007 and the majority of Web-based providers, disable the scripting mechanisms that enable video to be played. This means few recipients will be able to view a video directly from an e-mail.

Several companies are introducing new programs and technologies that will ensure not only your e-mails are delivered and rendered properly but that the video will actually play within them as well. As more ISPs get onboard with supporting video in e-mail, the more opportunities marketers will have to explore this new channel to influence their customers.

Until then, marketers should use a click-to-view link—whether in the form of a graphic simulating a video player or a prominent call-out—in the e-mail that directs the viewer to an external landing page that plays the video.

The best video content also includes tangible calls to action, such as “learn more” or “get 10% off now.” And since video is viral in nature, smart marketers are also adding a “forward to a friend” button in their e-mail campaigns, because it’s always more impactful to receive a video from a friend rather than a company.

Always remember: If viewers cannot decide whether or not to view the video, pause it or control the volume, they’ll likely be annoyed or frustrated. Also, if the content is not relevant and engaging, a marketer risks doing more harm than good to its brand. Before jumping too fast, marketers must make sure it makes business sense to test the waters with video and understand the potential risks.

Julian Scott is executive creative director at e-mail marketing provider Responsys (

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