Would You Open An Email From Don Draper? [Part II]

Would you open an email from Don Draper? I did and without having the foggiest idea who Don Draper was.

Before continuing, please read Part I – I promise it will help give some context around the rest of this post.

Ok. Welcome back.

As mentioned in Part I (you did read that first, right?), I loved the Don Draper email from MarketingProfs. So much so that I shared it with my Twitter followers and Facebook friends. One of those friends – Joanna Roberts, Account Manager at Return Path, former co-worker at Blue Sky Factory, and friend for life – replied that she didn’t love the email … not at all.

Why Joanna Deleted The Don Draper Email

Joanna was kind enough to share her thoughts – as well as a few “lessons” – with us. Check out what she had to say below:

Note: These are Joanna’s words, verbatim. Emphasis in various sections is mine.


I’ll admit it, I watch a lot of TV. Put on some “Hell’s Kitchen,” “House Hunters” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” and I’m there. But one show I don’t and have never watched is “Mad Men.” I’m probably one of the few women in America that doesn’t know the name Don Draper. So imagine my confusion when I received an email from him (see email).

The email came to my Outlook inbox simply from “Don Draper”. In Outlook 2007, the list of emails in your inbox only shows the Friendly From Name and the Subject Line (not the From Address, which, for the record, did reference MarketingProfs). I scanned the email quickly … do I know a Don Draper and do I care why he’s not attending the MarketingProfs B2B Forum? Nope – delete without reading!

As I deleted, I wondered how Don Draper got my email address. Because in my mind his name was now associated with MarketingProfs through the subject line, I wondered if MarketingProfs had sold their email list to someone. I hoped this wasn’t the case, as MarketingProfs is a reputable resource for online and email marketing. But I still didn’t know who Don Draper was and why he was emailing me.

I forgot about the email until DJ mentioned on Facebook how great it was. Great? I don’t even know who it was from! So I retrieved the email from my deleted folder and realized it was a joke from MarketingProfs, intended to come from Don Draper of “Mad Men”. Obviously the joke was lost on me.

According to an Epsilon study from 2009, 68% of North American consumers surveyed said that they base their opening of an email on the From line. This is huge and shows the importance of using an easily-recognizable and consistent Friendly From Name and From Address. If readers come to expect your emails to come from a particular name, be it your company, brand or even a known person associated with your brand (think: Mickey Mouse or Bill Gates), you should use that name consistently. If you sway from that recognized name, recipients may not easily or quickly understand who the email is from and could delete your email without reading it or mark it as junk.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of using humor or doing something a little different from time to time with your email campaigns. It’s good to spice things up a bit and keep things interesting for your readers. But when doing so, it’s important that you don’t confuse the reader. Make sure they still understand who the email is from and that the intent of the email remains consistent with your company or brand. As email marketers, we’ve created a “personality” for our email campaigns, and it’s best practice to stay true to this personality, as it’s what readers have come to expect from us.

So in the end, what are the lessons here?

Lesson #1: Your Friendly From Name should be recognizable to all recipients so that when they see your email in their inbox, they know immediately who it’s from and want to read it. You only have a matter of seconds to catch your readers’ attention and stand out in the inbox. Don’t let those seconds slip away with an unrecognizable from line.

Lesson #2: Be careful with pop culture references, as not all readers will understand what you are talking about. Centering a campaign around a pop culture reference might cause those not-in-the-know to feel isolated and confused about your email message.


While I agree with Joanna on most points above, I will add this: There is no such thing as best practices – only practices that are best for your audience. As long as you are testing and the “rule breakers” are working for you, then by all means go for it. That’s pretty much the main takeaway in the book I just co-authored with Jason Falls – The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing [plug].

Speaking of testing and breaking the rules, stay tuned next week for Part III of “Would You Open An Email From Don Draper? In this next blog post, we’ll hear directly from the MarketingProfs crew – specifically Chief Content Officer Ann Handley. Ann will share the backstory on what inspired this email as well as some metrics.

Anyone want to predict how it compared to other event emails? Feel free to take some guesses in the comments below.

DJ Waldow


MarketingProfs certainly “breaks the rules” in this email campaign from Don Draper. Jason Falls and I talk about being rebellious and breaking some of the “best practices” of email marketing in our new book, The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win. In fact, we have a couple of sections where we mention MarketingProfs!

Grab your copy today. PRE-ORDER NOW!


With all due respect, if you don't know who Don Draper is, than this brilliant email promotion wasn't designed for you. So you deleted it, while Mad Men fans on the Marketing Profs list were absolutely thrilled (I know I was).

Changing the sender to Draper was brilliant for fans of the show. It created an experience out of an otherwise mundane conference promotion. Again, only for the people who love Mad Men (or at least have watched it, which I would guess is a large percentage of MarketingProfs subscribers given the subject matter of the show).

Arguing that MP shouldn't have done this promo because some people, including you, didn't get it is ridiculous (and a tad egocentric, I'm afraid). That's like saying a person at a cocktail party shouldn't tell a joke that only 7 out of the 10 people there got. Can you imagine one of the those clueless three making a scene by arguing that the joke shouldn't have been told because they were excluded from the humor of it? That's essentially what's happening here.

Great copy engages the people it's aimed at, to the exclusion of those who it's not aimed at. In this case, the promo is aimed at those familiar with Mad Men (again, a pretty safe bet among marketing and advertising folks). 

You deleted the email, but didn't unsubscribe. Maybe the next promotion will appeal to you (that's the beauty of email marketing -- it's not a one-shot all of nothing thing). Maybe I'll delete the next one because it's bland generic marketing drivel designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator (which you seem to be advocating with your "lessons").

All that said, there's only one thing that matters ... did the promo convert? Everything else is armchair quarterbacking, including everything I've just said. ;)


@copyblogger Thanks for reading and for your comments!  I will echo DJ's thoughts and reiterate that I don't think MP should not have sent out this email, and agree with you that for the MP audience, the Don Draper reference seems to have worked.  But it's all about knowing your audience, isn't it?  The purpose of my blog was to explain why it didn't work for me, and caution others (maybe those that don't know their audience as well) from trying something so out-of-the-box without testing first.

Interesting conversations coming up as a result of this email!  Looking forward to seeing Ann's take and results tomorrow.

djwaldow moderator

@copyblogger Thanks for your comments Brian. I agree that - for the average MarketingProfs email subscriber - the name "Don Draper" was not foreign. Then again, it was to me. It was to Joanna (who wrote this main contents of this blog post).

I don't think Joanna is implying that MarketingProfs should not have sent this email. Instead, I think she's more giving some thoughts on what the consequences of trying a tactic like this could be. While I still think the email - from name, copy, etc. - was brilliant (BRILLIANT), Joanna has some very valid points about how *some* may view this email - certainly not all, but some. This approach would not work for every marketer.

As it turns out, MarketingProfs uses over a dozen different from names (by my count): 

MarketingProfsMarketingProfs TodayMarketingProfs SupportMarketingProfs Events TeamMarketingProfs: Social Media NewsletterMarketingProfs: Email NewsletterSharon, MarketingProfsCorey, MarketingProfsAnn Handley, MarketingProfsNotice that all use the company name/brand (MarketingProfs). By sending an email from Don Draper (with no mention of MarketingProfs), they took a risk. As we'll find out in tomorrow's post, Ann will share whether this risk was worth it. I think you know the answer.

As you know, I'm a big fan of breaking "the rules" of email marketing (see: The Rebel's Guide to Email Marketing ... available for pre-order - ha!). Best practices are practices that are best for YOUR audience. If you test it and it works for YOUR audience, then by all means do it. In this case, that's exactly what MarketingProfs did.

Thanks again for weighing in. I always value your opinion.


@djwaldow @copyblogger @JoannaLM @marketingprofs very cool letter!