Creative Cage Match: Bicycling Magazine vs. GrubHub

There’s a reason that pro-wrestling is so popular — and it’s not just the juicy drama and bespangled costumes. People love a good fight, and have for millennia, dating back to the gladiators of Rome and beyond. For the inaugural Creative Cage Match, let’s see how a consumer cycling publication can fare against a food service app and website.

The subject line, “5 Things You Should Know About Tire Pressure” caught my eye when skimming my inbox, but I was surprised to see the lack of a preheader. Instead you’re just greeted by more white space.

Now, the special offers I receive from Bicycling Magazine are a different story. One issue is the frequency, detailed here in all my irritated glory:

[brightcove videoplayer=”4518471802001″ playerid=”4057790005001″ playerkey=”AQ~~,AAAB3F0Fgjk~,iLMUk1o09xryy1Ypo80LdwzRrrPX3phQ” width=”480″ height=”270″ autostart=”false”]

Needless to say, I’ve opted out of special offers because they’ve taken over my inbox, and are the same old creative time after time. But let’s take a look at the one I mention in the video:

Bike Off Your Belly, Butt and Things
This email is also cropped because it keeps going on and on …

This particular email has hit my inbox 13 times in the past four months (per my video above, I had received it eight times … that’s right, they just keep sending it). The copy has a traditional direct mail feel to it, with the phrase “Bike Your Butt Off!” in red and linked to the book product page eight times. Quite the call to action … or maybe more like a call to distraction? Either way, at 400+ words, this is a special offer I have passed on repeatedly (and barely read).

Needless to say, this is not looking good for Bicycling Magazine.

Moving on to GrubHub. Since April 1, I have received 34 emails from GrubHub, offering me a range of discounts off my order to local participating restaurants.

GrubHub’s email marketing has a lot going for it:

  • Copy. It’s to the point, and it’s funny: “They say the way to the heart is through the stomach but you know, as a faceless corporation, you probably think we don’t get hungry — or even have a heart. But dammit, we’re a faceless corporation made of people!”
  • Design. Colors are bold, images and gifs are fun and playful, mirroring the copy, layout is balanced.
  • Subject Lines. These are eye-catching, sometimes to the point, “Last Chance: $15 OFF DINNER,” or goofy, “Ketchup is Kind of Bleh. But $7 Off Isn’t.”
  • Preheaders. GrubHub’s preheaders go against the usual best practices, but they’re all pretty hilarious and make me want to read them and then further read the email, so I call this a win.

Oh, and did I mention I received this postcard?

GrubHub PostcardI think it’s clear on who takes the title for this match. GrubHub is hard to beat with it’s sassy personality-filled copy, attention-grabbing subject lines, bold colors, clean design and great images.

While Bicycling Magazine offers its subscribers a lot of quality content, you first have to stomach its so-so e-neweletters to get to it. And that’s a bummer … the cycling culture is about having fun and being fit, so why not mirror that in the creative?

And not to kick Bicycling Magazine while it’s already down, but …

Bicycling Magazine Media Kit Proofing Blunder
This is page 14 of its media kit, available online. And while the media kit overall looks really sharp, these errors really takes the entire thing down a peg or two.

Cage Match Winner: GrubHub!

Want to suggest some potential Creative Cage Match marketers? Comment below, or email me directly at!

Author: Melissa Ward

Melissa Ward is the managing editor for Target Marketing, and she has opinions! More importantly, she's a nerd for great copy and design, a disciple of authenticity, and really loves it when marketers get it right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *