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

Would you open an email from Don Draper? As mentioned in Part I of this 3-part series, I did in fact open an email from Don Draper without having a clue who Don Draper was. When I did open it, I loved what I saw.

However, not everyone had glowing reviews for this MarketingProfs email. As discussed in Part II, Joanna Roberts shared some reasons why she deleted the email without ever opening it.

I’d highly encourage you to take a few minutes to read both Part I and Part II before continuing below. It will help set the stage for what you are about to read.

Now that you are all caught up …

MarketingProfs Shares The Data

MarketingProfs took a risk. They broke some of the “rules” Joanna cautioned email marketers against. They used a from name that was not necessarily recognizable by all recipients (at least, not to Joanna and me). They used a pop culture reference – again, one that was lost on Joanna and me.

But did it work?

I asked Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs that very question. Here is what Ann had to say:

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


Don’s email earned a 25-30 percent increase in open rates from previous B2B Marketing Forum emails (depending on segment, hence the varying percent), and with double the click-thru rate.

We did experience a sizable jump in unsubs from Don’s mailing as well. But our unsub rate per mailing is pretty low anyway — so we didn’t see it as significant.

The mailing also netted 3 sales in the first hour. On the other hand, purchasing an event registration is not an impulse buy — it’s not like we were selling, say, t-shirts or tires. So we weigh other metrics more heavily when we consider the success of this email (and any event email, for that matter) — i.e., more people looked at this message and clicked through — which will definitely net indirect sales down the road, based on our history with selling event seats.

The idea for this email came to me in the shower (it’s where I do my best thinking — you?), but truly I can’t take credit for it, because the genesis of the whole concept came from our Event Marketing team (led by Jo Roberts) and the way they positioned the event: “This is Not Your Father’s B2B” with the retro graphics — and complete with the concept that this is the premier B2B event for marketers, but not just ANY B2B marketer.

The positioning is a little edgy — implying it’s not an event for everyone, but only forward-thinking B2B marketers who want to embrace the new challenges and opportunities inherent in digital marketing — especially social, content, search. So I thought — I wonder if anyone is annoyed by that? And who would be? And then suddenly Draper — the poster child for old-school tactics, broadcast techniques and the campaign-centric, one-and-done approach — came to me. Not literally. Because my shower isn’t that big. And it would have been a little weird, too.

Team member Corey O’Loughlin ran [with the concept] and hired a copywriter to handle it. Corey provided the writer tons of guidance on the creative — including the email’s overall look and feel. We loved the results.

It’s without a doubt probably one of the emails I’m most proud of our team for producing almost ever at MarketingProfs — not only because I love the way that it really got people really excited on social channels. I also had a number of folks on our list reach out to me personally with kudos — so that was cool. The buzz was pretty awesome for us — and our job is just to keep that buzz going and translate buzz into butts-in-seats.


If you ask me, this email was a success.

  • 25-30 percent increase in open rates and double the click-through rates compared to previous B2B Marketing Forum emails.
  • While the unsubscribe numbers were higher than normal, Marketing Profs didn’t see it as significant.
  • 3 sales in the first hour.
  • One of the emails that Ann is most proud of the team for producing.
  • Ann had a folks personally contact her with kudos.
  • Good buzz. As Ann said, their “job is just to keep that buzz going and translate buzz into butts-in-seats.”
More than anything, I like that MarketingProfs broke some of the “rules” of email marketing. Then again, Ann is a bit on the rebellious side. I mean, don’t you agree? (one more)
What do you think? Was the risk worth the reward? Have you every tried this approach?
And finally, will I see you in Boston for the MarketingProfs B2B event? I wonder if Don Draper will be making a guest appearance. Ann?

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!


Hi DJ,

Did MarketingProfs have to pay AMC to use the Don Draper character for the email? If so, how did the cost affect the ROI?


@djwaldow @marketingprofs Oh how nice you are, thank you. :)


I think Ann is terrific, I love what she does.

The first sin of marketing is to be boring. If you can't capture attention, you can't go any further with your message. This was intriguing, interesting, possibly slightly polarizing, but without any real potential to damage the brand.

I also think it's important that although this was a "clever" campaign, it also clearly communicates a benefit -- the idea that this is a cutting-edge, forward-thinking event.  Cleverness for its own sake, where the prospect can't really figure out the benefit of moving forward, tends to bomb. :) 


Love it! I think it's critical that email marketers betray the norm and try something new. The *worst* case is they sent an apology if they upset people. The best case is they open it, engage with it, purchase from it and even blog about it. 

I enjoyed the email myself and shared it with our team. I could see a new column starting up, "WWDDD" (What Would Don Draper Do?).


@SoniaSimone Good point, Sonia, and well said -- you articulated the idea of Not Just Clever for Clever's Sake better than I did. (And thanks for your kind words.)

djwaldow moderator

@SoniaSimone Thanks for your comment Sonia!. I also think Ann is pretty awesome ... so is the team at MarketingProfs.

I totally agree that "boring" usually does not work. That being said, we talk a bit in The Rebel's Guide to Email Marketing about individuals and companies who are quite successful with "boring." Have to know your audience, right?

Great point too about the campaign communicating a benefit. Sounds like it worked!

djwaldow moderator

@JoeManna Break the rules a bit, right Joe? Ha!

Love your WWDDD suggestion. Email Ann!


@djwaldow Thanks DJ. Sometimes the cost of using licensed characters offsets the return.