Get Smart About Video Email

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Get Smart About Video Email

For most marketing professionals, the notion of sending a video file via email has long been out of reach.  Like peanut butter and chocolate, video and email are the Reese’s of the marketing world.  They make so much yummy sense together.  Combining the emotional engagement made possible by motion picture storytelling with the ability to digitally deliver the content directly to the user’s desktop/laptop/tablet/phone. Seriously, that’s marketing Nirvana. Am I right?

But, it was technically impossible. Bandwidth and video file size made it so.  Instead, we have resorted to the sending of links and thumbnails that, when clicked, trigger streaming of the video from a service like YouTube or Vimeo. An imperfect workaround (in the perfect world the embedded video could be playing when you open the email  – ohhhhhh yeah).

But all that started to change last year with the rapid acceptance of HTML5. No longer is it technically impossible. In fact, it’s actually happening.  And now, in the true spirit of Capitalism, there are untold numbers of video email service providers coming out of the woodwork offering to make the video email dream a reality for you. And the American Dream a reality for them.

But how real is it? Because, while HTML5 and brainy engineers may have resolved file size concerns for us, new matters have cropped up that have kept the dream from reaching its full potential – at least for now.  So here are some resources to help you get smart on the current state of affairs in video email technology.

As I said earlier, people are doing it. The ability to send video files embedded in emails so they play in the body of the message is here and it’s being used by major brands as part of the marketing mix. How great is that? It opens the door to a new genre of creative storytelling.  In her article “Mythbusting: Video in Email”  from, Lynn Baus of Responsys provides much greater detail about the technical issues surrounding problems overcome and solutions found in order to make video email – finally – technically possible.

But the picture Lynn paints is a bit too pretty. Unfortunately, in spite of the breakthroughs in video file format/management, there are still significant compatibility issues with many email clients, that make even HTML5 videos problematic. As a result, those email campaigns that opt to employ a video message must also take measures to develop several alternate messages that will display in the event that the email lands in an Inbox that doesn’t support video.

This so-called “waterfall approach” is discussed on In “Embedded Video In email: Best Practices Q&A”  Justin Foster talks about the need for the waterfall approach.  It should be pointed out that the author of this article is the co-founder of  startup service provider VideoEmail. His honest, transparent assessment of the “non-universal support” issue is quite refreshing actually.  I suspect it’s one of the big reasons why heavy-hitters like Constant Contact and Mail Chimp are not offering embedded video emails yet.  Justin also makes some interesting, and probably self-serving claims about the effectiveness of emails with embedded video.

If you take the time to read both these articles, you will likely come to the conclusion that embedded videos in emails is not quite ready yet for full implementation.  But it’s coming – probably sooner than later.  And when it does, based on the earliest results, it stands to be a game changer for the marketing experts who use it well.