Can Bruno Mars Make Email Hip Again? Brands Are Finding Out

Mead Johnson and others test pop music in their direct-marketing blasts

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DMI Music, a 16-year-old shop that aims to bring brands and music together, is launching a platform that lets email marketers include popular tunes with their messages. Nutritional supplement maker Mead Johnson is one of the brands testing the idea that tunes from artists ranging from Bruno Mars to Bach can ramp up click-through rates and sales conversions for direct marketers.

The program, dubbed Engine 1, is first and foremost designed to create loyalty through emotional connections with music, said Tena Clark, CEO of Los Angeles-based DMI. The second most-important benefit is increased engagement and reengagement, she said.

The songs play when recipients click a button within the message. In a preliminary campaign, 75 percent of openers listened to the music, and 43 percent of those that did came back and listened to the music two or more times.

"That's a lot of time customers are spending with your brand," she said.

Clark said that in addition to Mead Johnson, two national and two global firms are testing Engine 1, but declined to name them. 

Of course, any email marketer worth his or her salt will immediately want to know what the embedded music does to deliverability rates. Historically, multimedia has caused email messages to bounce instead of ending up in consumers' inboxes. Clark said the music doesn't hinder deliverability, though.

"There is code in the email, but the actual music is stored in the cloud and streamed to the user, so the email size isn't any larger than a brand's existing emails, and there's no added concern of bouncing back," she said. "Some of the companies we're working with will be running the campaign through their email service provider, and in that case, they rely on us to curate, license and host the music. But when a client does ask us to run the campaign, we optimize delivery."

DMI works with major and independent music labels to legally use tunes from not only Bruno Mars and Bach, but also names like Elton John, Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Aretha Franklin and Maroon 5.

Email, digital marketing's underappreciated workhorse, continues to bring enviable return-on-investment for brands on a daily basis. Getting consumers to hum along with a message sounds appealing, but is it pricey?

"The cost of the campaign depends on the number of songs, the licensing cost and the quantity of emails," Clark said. "The brand pays per email."

And in a world that pays so much attention to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, DMI's service could make old email a bit more hip. 

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.