The inbox is a tough place.
People get a lot of emails each day. It’s a cutthroat competition amongst businesses to get attention.
One way businesses are getting attention is to be fun or a little quirky.
But for some businesses being fun doesn’t come easy.
Maybe the brand isn’t fun and exciting or maybe you are just conservative by nature.
In order to compete and win over customers you need to stand out.
Let’s look at a few ways companies are having fun with email even if they aren’t fun themselves.
Fun Tip #1 – Use Humor
People like to laugh.
When we laugh we feel good. It’s a physiological reaction to be in a good mood when something makes us smile.
Since buying is an emotional experience it’s good for you if your subscribers feel good as a result of humor.
A funny play on words can make people stop and give extra thought to your email. They’ll smile and those positive vibes will translate to brand recognition and more sales.
Fun Tip #2 – Try Unique Layouts
You probably have a template for your email program.
When was the last time you tried something different?
I’m not talking about changing a few elements or adding in some splashes of color. I’m talking about really changing up the layout with something that will surprise your subscribers.
Sometimes it’s good to mix things up and get a little crazy.
Horizontal emails are becoming more popular. When I received this Fossil email it stood out. I immediately started scrolling to the right to see what was being featured. It was like there was something hidden.
Horizontal scrolling is also much easier on a smartphone or on a tablet. People are used to it so you can use something like this design to change things up and stay fun and hip.
Get crazy with your layouts. Go with something horizontal or even thin and long. Surprise your subscribers and have a little fun.
Fun Tip #3 – Use Fun Words
Images aren’t the only way you can have fun with your email.
The language you use can be fun. Not only can it be fun, you can make it more enjoyable by being snappy and concise.
People respond to short, quick sentences and phrases.
We’re busy and we don’t have time to read novels. Be snappy and fun and you’ll get attention.
Fun Tip #4 – Make Emails Look Awesome with Images “Off”
Have you ever gotten an email where the images were turned off?
You probably have…many times.
When you’re creating designs for your subscribers you probably don’t think that people spend much time looking at the email without the images.
Think of the images off mode in the email as an opportunity to have some fun.
The example above from Pizza Express is a great one. They’re having fun with the images off. People will do a double take when they see it.
Final Thoughts on Making Emails More Fun
Surprisingly it’s not always easy to have fun.
Not all brands are naturally fun, but there are unique things you can do with design and content to have fun and stand out in the inbox.
Try these fun tips and see if you get more response. You should stand out in the inbox and get a little edge on the competition.
And remember to have some fun!
There are many segments of email subscribers.
The first, and most important segment, are buyers. Your customers.
Buyers love you. They’ll open and click on a fair share of your emails.
What about the non-buyers?
These can drive email marketers crazy.
When it comes to the non-buyers, the people that are simply subscribers, it could mean big dollars to your business if you can get them to pay attention to your emails.
How do you win these people over once you’ve persuaded them to open your emails?
The answer is design.
Why Design Is King in Email Marketing
As humans, we have evolved to quickly process new information. When we encounter something for the first time we draw on past experiences to give us a fast understanding of something new.
We have evolved this way because there is so much information in the world and it would be impractical to take time to analyze everything. Instead we simply draw on past experiences and assumptions to come up with early conclusions.
An email marketing campaign is just like a first face-to-face meeting.
Instead of you being there in person it is the email making the right impression. Making things even more challenging is the fact that your email can’t speak so that sense is thrown out the window.
As a result, people gain a first impression of your email, once opened, by quickly assessing the design.
It may seem shallow, but it’s how humans have evolved. We look at the design of something, even the design of humans, when first assessing something. It’s a first response to quickly take in information and determine if it’s worth further taking the next step.
Just as physical beauty is an important first impression for human mating, beautiful design is important for email marketers who want to convert openers into buyers.
Emails need to be stunning.
Think of it like a great song.
When you are first interested in a song what is it that captures your attention?
It’s the melody or the music. You hear a catchy hook or an interesting layer of instrumentation and you’re taken in. Once your attention is captured your start looking deeper into the entire song including the rest of the music and the lyrics.
That is how email marketing works.
How to Create Stunning Email Design
Design is emotional.
As people, we pay attention to design because we like to feel emotions. Design brings out various emotions and we respond.
To get to the buying emotions in people it’s necessary to create email designs that make a good first impression.
Here are some examples.
BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL
Everybody is using white backgrounds. Even Apple in the screenshot above uses white backgrounds. To stand out, Fossil uses bold background colors.
Part of being stunning is being different. When people see something they don’t expect to see they take notice, which means they may be more inclined to take action.
QUIRKY AND DIFFERENT
Again, being different is the key to standing out. Pier 1 walks a fine line with their brand because they want to be known as a purveyor of quality furniture. But in order to stand out in the inbox they went with something quirky and different.
SIMPLE DESIGN IS EFFECTIVE
It’s difficult to be simple. We have a tendency to try to solve problems for everyone that might be looking at our email. If a single piece of merchandise is interesting and stunning then featuring it might be enough to stand out in the inbox.
This example is from C. Wonder. The story is the jacket and its bold color. The jacket has style. The jacket is different and the designers at C. Wonder understood that and took the distractions away.
You’re leaving money on the table and you know it. We’re all leaving money on the table by not converting those non-buyers into buyers.
We’re struggling to get their initial attention. To get those people interested it’s necessary to focus on subject lines and design first and the content of the email second. Get their attention first and once you have them win them over with the content within the email.
For too long we’ve heard that content is king.
Forget it. When it comes to winning over the people that take only a second to view an email it comes down to first impression and email design helps to make a strong first impression every time.
Most people respond to marketing messages according to how they feel about a product rather than logic.
Noted psychologist Robert Plutchik created what is now known as the “wheel of emotions” which describes how emotions are related, which marketers can use to cultivate the desired emotions and response.
Emotional Factors That Influence Engagement
Now let’s explore how as email marketers we can cultivate these emotions in our subscribers, and influence their engagement.
Anticipation: Humans are curious. You can use this to your advantage when crafting your emails. Enticing imagery, trigger words, and teaser content all help to motivate your prospects.
Joy: Happy customers mean well engaged, repeat customers. Keep customers happy by offering valuable content, positive imagery, and well-written copy.
Trust: Your prospects want to feel safe when interacting with your offer. You can build trust through endorsements, well-known referrers, and reviews.
Emotional Factors That Influence Purchases
Research suggests that up to 90% of all purchase decisions are made unconsciously and in a matter of seconds. Below are some emotional factors that can influence those split-second purchase decisions.
No-brainer: People prefer to buy without thinking. If people are required to think too much when interacting with your offer, you are exhausting them, and the subconscious mind doesn’t like that.
Make it easy. Narrow your product choices and cut out unnecessary information.
No Risk: People have a natural aversion to risk. As a general rule, people feel loss more powerfully than they feel gain.
Consider positioning your product as being the “safe” option rather than the “new” option or give them the option to kick-the-tires before committing.
Social Proof: People will follow the crowd. As humans we all like to move with the herd and see what other people like.
Provide your customers with proof that other people are buying, and benefiting from, your product.
An Example of Emotional Email Design and Copy
All of the work we do as creative marketers uses the abilities we have to play with emotion.
But as email marketers we have additional considerations, which run parallel to emotional triggers, such as preview text/panes, image rendering, mobile views and subject line/content/landing page continuity. All of which must also be considered.
Here’s a Breakdown
- Joy: Snappy Headline + Professional Imagery
- Anticipation: Simulated Video Animation + Crisp Body Copy
- Social Proof: “Mind. Blown.” Tweets
- No-brainer: Solo Offer + Clean Call-to-action
- No Risk: Free Trial or Learn More
This email also successfully addresses the limitations of the medium. For example, note how well this email rendered on my mobile device.
Note too this slick screenshot that was created by a new, free service from MailChimp called Smartphones@.
What’s The Takeaway?
If your emails aren’t tuned to resonate with your audience’s emotions, you could be losing business. By cultivating one or more of the desired emotions in your email creative, nay…your email program, you’ll boost click rates, decrease attrition, and grow your revenue.
But remember this…emotional engagement doesn’t begin and end with email creative…but you can use it unleash the power of this creative thinking in all of your marketing or professional endeavors, not just design or copy of the email itself.
P.S. Props to Justine Jordan who created the Litmus email. I’m a fan but not just because she wears an awesome cat hat. Justine’s work reflects that she has strong sense of how aesthetics and copy should work in partnership.
It’s been said that creating an HTML-based email in 2009 is like developing a web page in 1999. It’s sadly true; the coding is archaic and, compared to modern 2.0 functionally, the limitations are huge.
So when email marketers want to convey motion and visual direction they use animated GIFs. Prior to Flash, simple GIF animations were the order of the day. Nowadays the use of animated email is increasing. Why? Firstly, animated GIFs are well-supported by the major email clients and webmail interfaces, second, it helps marketers to stand out, and most importantly, they seem to work.
This recent A/B test by BlueFly found an animated email pulling in 12% more revenue than the non-animated equivalent. Likewise, this case study on Marketing Sherpa, Lake Champlain Chocolates experienced a sales increase of 49% at Christmas in relation to a campaign using animated GIFs compared with a campaign the previous year.
Firstly, marketers can use a relatively small amount of space to highlight multiple products, special offers, or calls-to-action, as well as increase click-through rates to hosted videos. Smart marketers can also use animation to encourage scrolling in exceptionally long (or horizontal) emails.
The most relevant compatibility issue is how animated emails render in Outlook 2007. That is, only the first frame of the animated GIFs is displayed. So you’ll want to communicate your message in the first frame, just in case. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the size of the animated GIF (in kilobytes) can negatively affect the speed and order of which your images are displayed.
Animated Email Examples
- Communication Example: Indiemark Newsletter
- Impact Example: Grand Wailea
- Call-to-Action Examples: Banana Republic, Lexus, Piperlime
- Product Showcase Examples: Land’s End, Art.com
- Simulated Video Examples: Twilight
- Misc. Usage Examples: Norm Thompson, Aeropostale
With a solid understanding of your objectives and an experienced email designer you’ll be able to increase click-through and conversion rates using animation.
As email marketing continues to grow in both breadth and depth, I’ve observed that there is still surprising void in the supplier marketplace, those organizations that both create and improve the performance of the email message, or creative, itself.
In direct mail there are countless copy writers and designers who are charged with beating controls. In the online space there are companies that focus solely on improving the performance of corresponding landing pages. Even in email marketing there are many fine organizations that provide high-level optimization intelligence solutions.
Why then are there are few firms that provide comprehensive solutions that are specific to email marketing creative; companies that provide the strategy and creative and testing, from beauty to brains. Companies that create messages that are on brand, highly deliverable, and optimized.
This void cannot be due to a lack of need–so is it the perceived value of the offering? Does the perceived value keep away many would-be solution providers?