Sears performed a courageous email-marketing act in mid-December.

Like every retailer, Sears was surely eager for additional sales and revenue as the worst holiday season in memory reached a crescendo and the sales window started to close.

Despite that pressure, the Sears team had the discipline to hit the pause button on the hard sell in attempting to make a connection with subscribers. Instead, it sent a co-marketing email with Heroes at Home, promoting a national gift registry for returning US soldiers.

To top it off, Sears tested embedded video in the message, which is very cool stuff and a hot topic for email marketing right now; and, in this case, it was well implemented.

There is nothing worse than using technology just because you can—but the tactic works for this message, because the video is central to telling a heart-warming, patriotic story.

In this message, a video segment runs on a loop inside the email (the full video was hosted on the Sears site), but its audio is on request; that is, it can be turned on and off. So, from a subscriber-experience standpoint, the presence of video is no more intrusive than an animated gif.

All of it renders right in the email client using the VHD Technology solution—which, however, does not promise compatibility with all email clients.

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Stephanie Miller is vice-president of market development for Return Path, Inc. ( Reach her via Twitter (@StephanieSAM) or