Tuesday Morning’s Newsletter Sucks

Tuesday Morning has one of the most generic corporate newsletters I’ve ever had the displeasure of signing up for. However, Tuesday Morning is a more unique company than something like Olive Garden emailing you about endless pasta bowls coming back. Today I’d like to deviate from my normal articles and look into your brand and shaping your channels around it…

the store

For anyone who wasn’t dragged to the store by their mom or grandmother, let me give a bit of context. Tuesday Morning is a retailer that provides “name-brand home décor at 20-60% off department store prices”. One of their taglines is “rewarding bargain hunters with name brand deals since 1974”.

The store itself is comparable to something like TJ Maxx- a retailer that provides an assortment of home décor at discounted prices. However, most Tuesday Morning locations are much, much smaller than a typical TJ Maxx location (at least compared to the ones I’ve been to). While a typical TJ Maxx location can be around 30,000 square feet according to a 2004 SEC filing, a 1998 SEC filing for Tuesday Morning states that their average store size is 6,800 square feet (though some more recent articles claim it’s grown to around 12,000 square feet). This is all to say that these stores aren’t as big as bigger retailers and have smaller spaces to work with.

When you go into a store, you can find an assortment of small furniture, bedding, luggage, decorations, art supplies, snacks, and more. Similar to somewhere like TJ Maxx or Ross, their tags have a price the items would normally be listed for at bigger retails and then the (lower) price you pay in their store.

Tuesday Morning has a few gimmicks that make it different than somewhere like TJ Maxx, though. I’d say the main one is that Tuesday Morning doesn’t have an online store. Tuesday Morning has a website I’ll be referencing several times, but there is no online shop to purchase items from their stores. Why?

it’s the thrill of the hunt

Stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshalls, and more all feed in to a trend for bargain hunting and thrifting for those who don’t want second-hand items, instead giving them bargains on leftover and excess merchandise from big names.

To enhance this idea of finding just the right item, Tuesday Morning has no set list of items you can buy as the selection changes seasonally and from location to location. If you find one item you like at a store, that might be the only item of that kind at that store- maybe even in your region.

This idea of scarcity is meant to enhance the “thrill of the hunt”, another one of their slogans.

world’s greatest garage sale

I think we have and idea of how the store functions, so now let’s look at their history that lead into their branding.

According to their Our Story page, the founder Lloyd Ross saw that big-name manufacturers had an excess in inventory. Seeing a business opportunity, he bought some and hosted “the world’s greatest garage sale in Dallas on a Tuesday morning”. He decided on Tuesday because “he believed it was the first positive part of the week”.

According to them, the appeal was threefold:

  • customers found high-quality products
  • said products were discounted
  • customers had to find (hunt for) the products

the newsletter

We’ve got a solid grasp on what their brand is. Now let’s finally open up those emails…

These are (cropped) screenshots from their January 27th, 2023 newsletter.

The typical newsletter goes:

  • logo with the tagline and a link to find a store near you
  • gif with various images of inventory (the screenshot above is a png)
  • quick line on what they’re showcasing in this email
  • “20%-60% off department store prices”
  • various inventory images with the caption “selection varies by location”
  • image that advertises tips/ideas on their website or asks users to post images of their finds on social media
  • one more image advertising “20%-60% off department store prices” and a “find your store” button

Lots of images and no content. Pretty typical of corporate emails where they focus on selling you something (come into our stores and you might find some of these items!) rather than not wasting your time.

why is it so bad?

If you’ve ever signed up (accidentally, I hope) to any large company’s newsletter, this email looks pretty familiar. But it doesn’t have to be. And with Tuesday Morning’s branding, it’s especially egregious.

Their customer experience, the things that their customers value, are these three things:

  • customers found high-quality products
  • said products were discounted
  • customers had to find (hunt for) the products

In some corporate workers’ head, this email format probably fills these needs. It shows off quality products that customers can hunt for in the stores and reaffirms that they’re at discounted prices. However, in practice this email format is bland, overused and outdated. To put this in more definitive words- this email is a waste of time.

Maybe it results in sales for them- I imagine it’s hard to measure the success of it since the call to action is to come into the stores rather than click on links and directly purchase something online. But this format only serves to hammer in that this is a corporate brand rather than a more personal one.

how could it improve?

This section is entirely my opinion (as are most of my articles, but I digress) and is what I would pitch if I were running the newsletter. I assume the people who currently run the newsletter have been told to use the current format by upper management rather than given any creative freedom.

consistent branding

I think the most obvious problem with the newsletter is simple- it doesn’t match the company’s branding. For one, it doesn’t come out on Tuesday mornings, it comes out whenever at random times! If I sign up for a newsletter from something called Tuesday Morning, a company that was supposedly founded on the belief that Tuesday is “the first positive part of the week”, then I expect a positive thing to start off the week in my inbox- that is, an email from them.

The newsletter currently emails around 3-4 times a week, as per usual for most corporate emails. I would have the first email of the week be on Tuesday morning in the US, and possibly a second email later in the week.

The contents of the email are also inconsistent with the company’s branding, which we’ll talk about with value…

providing value

When you open the email, it’s all just an ad. That’s it.

But Arimia, isn’t that the point of corporate emails?

Okay, yeah it is according to most CEOs, but hear me out- what if they provided value instead?

What if the emails contained ads and provided value to the reader?

First off, let’s define “providing value”. Business-minded people might think “my company is providing value to the consumer by just existing” but no, it’s not. “Providing value” is enriching somebody’s life; it’s not being useless to the consumer but rather giving them something instead of taking.

Sometimes a company’s product is providing value by simply existing, such as medical care. But right now we’re talking about a retail store, and specifically their marketing efforts.

Marketing can provide value- I would argue that it should provide value more often than not. Decent marketing is us, marketers, aiming to not waste the time of others. Good marketing is us providing value to others.

Some newsletters provide value to their customers by giving them coupons or sales- because Tuesday Morning is already a discount store, these coupons are few and far between and rarely reserved for only newsletter subscribers.

How can Tuesday Morning provide value in their newsletter in other ways? Well, they already do sometimes…

Sometimes, when it fits, at the bottom of their newsletters is an extra image like “Rug Tips & Ideas”. It’s not a lot, but it’s something that’s not clearly just an advertisement. A small part of the email that says “here, let me give you something”.

In an attempt to gain new customers years ago, Tuesday Morning started posting more frequently on social media like YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. According to a 2019 call with investors, the average age of their customers dropped by several years thanks in part to their digital marketing. If you go to their Instagram and look at their comments- on posts from before they announced their recent bankruptcy- so many are supportive of the company, of their posts, etc.

I would change the body of the emails to include one/some of these posts, with it being varied. Maybe the email for one week will center around a featured item where the item is actually talked about rather than just rotating images, or a comment from social media about that item is highlighted. Maybe another week the email is to highlight how versatile a rug can be and link to an article on their website or one of their Pinterest posts explaining this rather than having this useful content be the footnote of the email. You could even have the email focused on user-generated content where people submit photos of their Tuesday Morning finds.

Basically, anything highlighting the products that’s not just images of it. This works even better if you can tie some value to it such as guides, tutorials, tips, etc.

what can I take from this?

Okay, now let’s wrap it all up. What does this mean for us, all the people out there who don’t do marketing for giant corporations?

1) let your brand guide you.

Establish your brand and go with it. If your marketing isn’t matching your brand, then something has to change.

2) don’t waste people’s time.

People’s time is precious. Don’t waste it on trying to nickel and dime them with ads.

Respect their time. Give them something rather than take, take, take.

some footnotes

First off, the obvious- I could’ve written this article about a lot of large companies’ newsletters. It was easier to write this about Tuesday Morning though because they have a brand that can be easier to materialize as they claim their basis is the feeling you get when going to a garage sale and how much better Tuesday is than Monday.

Secondly, Tuesday Morning recently filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Chapter 11 is often called the “reorganization” bankruptcy as it allows companies to reorganize their assets rather than dissolving the company outright. This isn’t the end of Tuesday Morning but the company is showing very troubling signs as lots of their stores have been forced to close now.

Third, this isn’t an attack on this company nor the marketing team behind it. This is just me taking a look at the idea of newsletters functioning as ads and asking “why can’t they be more than that?” Given how sparse some of their social media accounts have become, it looks like they’ve downsized their marketing department and/or cut their budgets so I don’t blame any of this on them. This is an article idea I’ve had in mind for a while now and thought I’d get it out before the company possibly dissolves.

Fourth, I think it’s good to learn from examples. Take a look at companies outside of your field. What are they doing that you don’t like? Why don’t you like it? Are you their target audience? Does their target audience like it? So much of marketing is research that sometimes we forget to ask questions.

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