As a celebration of the first human expedition to Mars (fictional, of course), the organizers of the Festival of Email 2021 have decided to hold a competition to prepare an email campaign for the upcoming generations of Mars colonists. We had to think through the ways the settlers might travel to Mars and come back, who, or what they would find there. It was supposed to be a guide for those eager to build a new world. EmailSoldiers' creative core is always up for such a challenge, so we formed a team of decisive people, willing to help the future explorers of the Red Planet.
Let's Gather the Squad
With projects like this, you can't make people participate. It goes against common sense. So, we sent a message to everyone who would be willing to take part in such an important and intriguing mission. Those who volunteered were eager to not only do the job properly but also put their heart and soul into it. It was a project for those who like everything connected with the Red Planet - Ray Bradbury's and Douglas Adams' works, the music of David Bowie, and for those who wanted to try something creative, something without any clear borders. As some people said, "we needed to add some madness into our lives ;)".
I Love It When a Plan Comes Together
Gathering the team is one thing, but what about the face of the project, the ideas, and the thoughts introduced? Brainstorming is one of the most important parts of any creative project, as it builds up the base and becomes the core. So, taking part in brainstorming everyone had an opportunity to share their ideas. At first, we decided on five ideas. However, we didn't have much time, so only four of the ideas were brought to life.
According to Marina Vlasova, our editor, "In our case, one person gave a thought, the second one took it and developed it, and the third turned it into a finalized concept. It is better than just gathering the ideas without any discussion, it wouldn't bring us to this amount of crazy concepts."
"We started with rather mild ideas. But then… they became not so mild at all :D"
"The team gathered on Discord and began throwing in various ideas. Then we just picked the best and the craziest ones."
"It was a perfect brainstorm. On the one hand, we were, like, having fun, but on the other hand, it seemed like a serious working process. No one hesitated and fudged, everybody was ready to take responsibility for this or that part. Wonderful :)"
Time is Everything
The most interesting thing about this competition is its spontaneity. Nely Bonar, one of the organizers of this event and the managing expert at emailexpert said that "The idea of The Mars Human Competition came to me in the middle of Festival of Email, a two-week hybrid event we had in June 2021." It was a rather sudden decision, which was made to connect with the community, as sharing information about the winners and their work helps others in the community step up their email game. In the face of the spontaneity of this whole competition, our team didn't have this much time to do everything we had in our minds. However, it took us five days to complete the mission (far less than to travel from Earth to Mars). The most time-consuming parts were writing copy for the emails and designing the emails. But the result speaks for itself.
Per Ardua Ad Astra
No project can go without any challenges. The same goes for this competition. We have faced four criteria by which our works have been judged: Accessibility, Design, Copy, Overall. For some of us the Design part was the most difficult, for some it was Accessibility, as we had to reject some ideas or jokes that are acceptable in our culture and inappropriate in another. For the creative core of our squad the deadline became their worst enemy, as it didn't allow them to turn some of our ideas into reality (we had to drop the email dedicated to the subject of reproduction on Mars as we didn't have enough time for it). It is also important to mention that this project was being done in two languages simultaneously - in Russian and in English. This is why we needed translators for this job. There were several barriers - time, culture, and language, but we still managed to overcome them and reach the stars.
If we look at this competition from the organizers' point of view, this little improvisation may become a stepping stone to something more prominent. As Nely says: "To be honest, I didn't expect a lot of feedback as it was a little experiment of my own. We did receive a lot of exciting and positive feedback about the competition so far."
WHO'S Guide to The Galaxy?
Douglas Adams' most famous work "Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy" became source material for the whole email used to get people ready for all of the unusual and bizarre things they could see in space. We got used to thinking that every other life form uses the same logical laws as we do. Of course, Mr. Adams' book is just a work of fiction (or is it?), but maybe he was onto something. So, just in case, we used his book as a basis to prepare the expedition for any oddities (and of course to remind them to take their towels).
The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side
Before going to another planet it's useful to know the pros and cons of this venture. In order to get people ready for the brighter future they are about to build, we designed this email, showing the downsides of life on Earth for which there is no place on Mars.
On the one hand, it shows the benefits of leaving our home planet and joining the crew and, on the other hand, it also helps to calm the future astronauts down and show that this whole "trip" is not that bad. It's like a pamphlet, inviting you to create a better world without making the previous generations' mistakes.
In order to sugarcoat the upcoming long space voyage, our squad prepared a special email for those who want to learn more about their future home and like chocolate. On Earth, the name of the Red Planet is also associated with a pretty popular chocolate bar. We couldn't help but use this strong connection between the two and decided to coat the facts in lots of rich and thick milk chocolate, with silky smooth caramel and gummy nougat. Doesn't it make your mouth water already? Just take a look at the email then, it sure will.
MARS… Doesn't Attack? Seriously?
So, the flight is over, everybody left their hibernation chambers and already put on their space suits. The ships are landing to the surface of Mars, the ramp goes down, the settlers leave the ship aaaaand… meet the Martians. What will it be, no fear or a desire to reach for a blaster? Well, it's a normal reaction as our settlers have been briefed thoroughly even before the flight has begun. To our surprise, the Martians have managed not only to make contact with us but also to understand our culture and decided to help us live on their planet. Using the information gathered from our extraterrestrial partners we've managed to create this greeting email. Using colorful images, live text and text-transform our mission was complete. The Earthlings were prepared to meet their new partners.
No Boundaries Bring Out Hidden Gems
It's no secret that in unknown circumstances people can act in a more effective way. Such creative projects can become a sort of a jump-pad for everyone to see themselves from another perspective. For example, our editor Marina Vlasova managed to surprise most of the team with her level of activity and immersion into the campaign creation process. "When a job requires you to be creative you set a deadline and take responsibilities yourself, as you are sucked into this vortex and you just cannot stop until everything is done 150%," Marina says. Projects like this one set no boundaries or borders, no matter what team you belong to on a daily basis. You cannot send a human being to Mars alone and everybody matters in this venture.
Usually we have to work in a way that one department introduces some ideas and develops them, then they send these ideas to another department that has to bring them to life. Like a chain or a conveyor belt. But in such projects there is no belt, there is a group of people eager to work and create. Everybody knows what to do and where to help. This is one of the best things - people understand what to do and have a desire for it. What else do we need?
I Understood That Reference
Mars has been in pop culture for quite some time. There are so many works of art using the Red Planet as a setting or just mentioning it as something important. This planet, named after the Ancient Roman god of war, has always managed to draw people's attention. David Bowie, Douglas Adams, id Software, Ray Bradbury, Herbert Wells - all of these artists referred to Mars in some way. As mentioned before, we can see the name of the planet on a daily basis, just by going to a grocery store and buying a chocolate bar. So, we succumbed to temptation and put references to the works of culture connected with Mars into our emails. They allowed us to talk to the astronauts on the same level, as with ordinary people, and not sophisticated scientists.
Houston, We've Landed
After all those hours spent on brainstorming, copywriting, translating, and designing the emails, we won the second and third prizes! You may ask us "Why are you so happy about that? The golden medal isn't yours." This whole competition was all about the process for us since the beginning. We are proud of the campaigns we created, of the ideas and references we used to make our emails look alive, and of our prizes in this worldwide competition. We hope you also liked them. If you don't believe me, a soulless narrator, then take a look at the impressions of our team.
"What are your general impressions of this project?"
"It was cool! It's so nice to participate in such a project with such a result!"
"It was interesting and funny, looking forward to take part in such a thing again (but I wish there had been more time :))"
"In general, I have a pretty positive impression, the competition had a topic that was interesting to me personally. I had a good time working on the design and was impressed by the immersion of everybody on this project"
"It was fun, I'm thinking about introducing such activities in our team"
"The project was straight fire, I'd be glad to participate in something like this again but with more time - it was pretty difficult to juggle the client projects and Mars :)"
"Sick! It was especially nice to see the results of the brainstorming. The emails are over the top! I knew that we are great and we can do it and this project just proved it!"
"It was interesting to listen and see the guys & girls working. The team was inspired and we had a stretch of imagination. Such things are really good, especially outside the working process, you can do whatever you want."
"It was fire. And I want more. People really came together and were breaking into a sweat for the mutual cause.
"Such projects allow you not only to see yourself from another point of view, but also to feel important, to freshen up and feel needed, not on the company level only, but also on the level of the whole email geeks community."
"This project proved one thing to me - when people are inspired and eager to do something, they will do it no matter what at their best. When you see the whole team working you just cannot give less, they infect you with their energy. This is what matters."
"I loved all submitted works! I was amazed by the creativity and what a fantastic job they did! It was a hard job judging the competition with such great entries."
Summing it all up, what do we have now? Our imaginary expedition landed on Mars, armed to the teeth with the knowledge we gathered for them. While here, in reality, we are trying to break down the results of the competition and make some conclusions. First of all, we've concentrated on the creative aspects of our work and didn't even think that we needed to stay within the brief's borders. It led to us getting several negative points, for example, even though our emails were colorful and vivid, we didn't add CTA to the chocolaty email and it could've been a great finisher. Second, the time limit. We couldn't bring one of our ideas to life and made a couple of minor mistakes. But overall, it was a really pleasant experience. Such projects can not only let people show their creative side but they can also be used as a proof-point for creativity while debating with clients.
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