A woman checks her email on a laptop while drinking a cup of tea.


This is uncharted waters for everybody right now.

Email Marketing During COVID-19: Is Your Brand Still on Autopilot?

Your messaging should reflect the sentiment that your guest’s presence and support is missed.

When March Madness was cancelled, followed quickly by virtually every other sport in a matter of hours, many restaurants immediately started adjusting planned marketing campaigns and social media posts. But triggered email campaigns have been overlooked or ignored by many marketers. Guests who receive a "we haven't seen you lately" email will be forgiven for thinking "duh ... have you turned on your TV lately?" 

Everyone Is a Lapsed User 

The truth is that sales are down almost universally, so now may be the time to press pause or adjust a lapsed-user campaign. At the very least, your messaging should reflect the sentiment that your guest’s presence and support is missed. "We'd love to see you soon at our curbside."

They Say It’s Your Birthday

While we’re stuck at home, the world keeps turning and some of us might complete one more trip around the sun while we shelter in place. The reality is that our birthday celebrations are going to look very different. Now might be the time to consider changing up your birthday offer, even if it’s a temporary move. While a free dessert may have been an enticing offer last week, it may make more sense to offer something of greater value today. Every brand is competing for attention and you must find ways to cut through the clutter. 


We may be physically distanced, but we still want to connect and celebrate with friends and family. Successful brands will find a way to help their guests celebrate in a meaningful way. Can you allow your offer to be forwarded or shared with a friend for a virtual celebration? Can you offer to include candles and a party hat? September and October may be filled with half-birthday and do-over celebrations! 

Whatever you decide should be on-brand but unique for our new normal. 

One Size Does Not Fit All

With many brands sending out daily or weekly messages, you may need to consider tiered segmentation. If an email subscriber isn’t opening your emails, be sensitive to the new reality that they may need a different or stronger offer. Now may be the time to create new segments and test new strategies.

The Fine Print

If your offer is dine-in only, or even online only, it's time to adapt and make redemption more flexible. Guests are looking for brands that can meet their changing needs. While a short redemption period may create urgency, you can create more goodwill if you allow the offer to be redeemed later in the year. And, don’t forget that receiving an offer that cannot be redeemed may actually create the opposite effect and frustrate someone who used to be a fan. Instead of creating brand affinity, you could be turning off a potential customer. 

Don’t Forget the Subject Line

We're all scrambling to move at breakneck speed. But don’t forget to slow down and test your emails.  (And then test them and test them some more.) There’s nothing worse than reading a compelling subject line only to open the email and find out that the offer doesn’t apply.

Many of us with March 2020 birthdays are getting emails that just don't make sense in today's world. Buy one, get one entrées (in-store dining only)? Offers like this not only come off as impersonal and tone-deaf, they can backfire on your brand.

Let's be careful out there. Not only in our personal interactions, but with our e-mail outreach, too!

Kimberly Turman is a Senior Account Execution for Champion. Kimberly has spent over 20 years in the restaurant industry. She honed her chops in operation at Texas Land & Cattle Steakhouse before moving to marketing and communications. She has a unique perspective that has earned her a reputation as an industry thought leader in the digital space. Prior to joining Champion, she was the Senior Director of Marketing at Gigi’s Cupcakes and led digital marketing at Pie Five Pizza.