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Dear Rosetta Stone, More Isn't More

The language educator sent me 96 emails in one month. That's insane in any language

Rosetta Stone really wants me to learn a foreign language. How do I know? Because in December it sent me 96 emails promoting its language-education products.


image: Rosetta Stone


That averages out to more than three emails a day. In fact, as the month and the year raced to a close, the company upped its frequency hugely: I received 10 emails on 30 December and 9 emails the following day.


Most of the subject lines touted the special price of $189: "$189! You're on the NICE LIST!" (once a day from 18 December to 24 December); "This one's for you—$189" (three times); and on 26 December, "Last Day! $189 Download Special" and "Final Hours! $189 Download Special." Apparently Rosetta Stone defines "final" differently from me, however: The following day I received five emails from the company, including "Extended! $189 Download Special"; "Last chance to download today and SAVE $310"; and "Final hours! It's not too late."


Indeed, it wasn't too late at all. Among the five subject lines from Rosetta Stone that landed in my inbox the next day (28 December) was "This one's for you—$189." And then the following morning, "It's not too late! $189 is yours." (If only it really did mean the company was going to pay me $189 for having my inbox clogged this way...)


Rosetta Stone ramped up the ol' urgency gambit even more on 30 December: "Stop everything. $189 ends today"; "This.Is.It. $189 Ends Today"; "Hurry! $189 is going...going..."; "Less than ONE hour left to get $189"; blah blah blah. And then, the next day, the last day of the year: "Deja vu! $189 is back for one final day"; "Get your $189 offer before the ball drops"; "LAST CALL for $189."


The barrage of emails did not encourage me to click through. It did encourage me to opt out from receiving more messages from the company, however.


Perhaps Rosetta Stone has found this sort of incessant emailing effective in the past. I tend to doubt it, though. There's almost inevitably a correlation between an increase in email frequency and an increase in opt-outs and reports of spam, which can hurt email deliverability down the road.


And not only were the emails annoyingly frequent, but they were also redundant. If, as the trope goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result, Rosetta Stone is in need of a prescription for psychotropic drugs and intensive therapy.


I can't help with the drugs. But I can prescribe some email therapy that just might help Rosetta Stone:



1) Vary the price messaging with percentage-off messaging.

The package being sold for $189 was regularly priced at $499. That's a 62% discount. So at the very least, I'd suggest that Rosetta Stone test a few subject lines that touted "62% off! Because you're on the nice list" rather than continually mentioning $189—especially because $189 in and of itself doesn't mean all that much. For all I knew prior to opening the email (which I did only for the purposes of this article, don't forget), the package normally cost $199—or $179. There was nothing to indicate just how much of a deal the "special" price was.



2) Vary the email creative too.

Dedicated though I am to this blog, I did not open all 96 emails from Rosetta Stone. (A girl's gotta sleep sometime.) But many of those that I did open featured the same copy, the same imagery, the same design—like this one:


image: Rosetta Stone


All mentions of benefits were below the fold:


image: Rosetta Stone


Why not vary the email template so that in some emails, the benefits appear above the fold? Or why not test imagery that shows people using the product, or headlines that inject a bit more fun and personality?


And that line "Here's a little something extra for being a loyal email subscriber": In other words, here's an offer for not having unsubscribed yet—pretty weak.



3) Try personalisation.

Rosetta Stone offers instruction for 31 languages, from Arabic to Vietnamese. Ideally once I'd signed on to receive emails, the company would have onboarded me with a welcome email that allowed me to set some preferences—in this case, asking me which languages I was interested in learning, and maybe even why. Someone who wants to learn French because she's planning a trip to Paris would then be sent emails with French-specific subject lines, and perhaps even subject lines that tap into the travel-fantasy aspect ("Make your Paris trip even more magnifique—for just $189!").



4) Promote gifting prior to Christmas, then self-improvement afterward.

According to Nielsen, in 2015 "learn something new" tied with "travel more" as the seventh most popular New Year's resolution last year—and there's no reason to suspect that things would be much different this year. Rosetta Stone missed out on appealing directly to those consumers. It could easily have done so with a subject line or two referencing "A resolution that's easy to keep" or some such thing. Similarly, in the weeks prior to Christmas, it could have been more explicit with the gifting messages: "Give them something REALLY unexpected—and save while you're at it" or "Here's a gift that keeps on giving."



5) Don't cry "last chance" until it's really the last chance.

By being disingenuous with its urgency messaging, Rosetta Stone eroded any faith the consumer might have had in the company—the "boy who cried wolf" effect.


Now, for all I know, this campaign worked wonders for Rosetta Stone. If that's the case, I'd love to hear about it and would help myself to a big serving of crow, followed by humble pie for dessert. In the meantime, though, I won't be planning any dietary changes—nor will I be learning a new language courtesy of Rosetta Stone.


author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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