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The science of e-mail marketing creativity

The science of e-mail marketing creativity

By Antonio Ferrara, Strategic Services Executive, Premiere Global Services

The Science of E-mail Marketing Creativity
There is no denying that marketers are continually pushing the creative envelope when developing campaigns that are both meaningful and influential to their target audiences.  Email marketers, however, need to be even savvier.
A superb creative is not enough to guarantee success in a medium where the audience is under daily bombardment from competitor brands, where the risk of blacklisting is high and where you can never be quite sure how your creative will render in the email providers viewing pane. 
This piece will look at the science behind the creativity of email campaigns.  Using the elements from a tried and tested creative scorecard, we will look at the factors that need to be considered to ensure that an email campaign has the desired impact. 
A general rule of thumb
One of the most important facts that email marketers need to be aware of is that the majority of people consume their emails from within the reading pane of their inbox. 
Whether they open the email or not will be greatly influenced by what they initially see in the pane.
This is an important fact because the size of the pane is much smaller than the full screen of say a webpage (about a third of the size), greatly limiting the area in which an email marketer has to make an impact.  It is worth stating this rule upfront as it has a bearing on a number of the elements described below.

Logo placement
Many brand guidelines would have you place the logo somewhere along the top right hand corner of any branded communication.
The challenge here is that if people are viewing your email in their reading pane in most cases the top right hand side of the message would be cut off along with the logo.
Ensuring that the logo can be seen in the viewing pan is important because, of the vital role it plays in confirming that the email has come from a trusted source. 
Image Vs HTML Text
Traditional direct marketing wisdom would push many a designer to overlap the image of the communication with text; in many cases ‘the offer’ itself.  Image suppression in emails is now the rule rather than the exception meaning that it is not images that people see on viewing their emails but a box with a red x in it.
Therefore if you follow the DM code, not only will your image be suppressed but your carefully crafted text as well.
Once again the reading pane is far smaller than the size of the average computer screen and whereas this does not really affect the vertical length of your message as people are happy to scroll down it is important that people do not have to scroll right as it is not something they are not used to. 
Call to action and its placement
The call to action is possibly the most important part of your eMarketing and also the one that is most easily lost.  eMarketers will do well to remember to make this a prominent part of their design.
It should stand out, be above the fold if possible, so as to make it into the reading pane, and by no means should it appear within an image, where it could be suppressed.
Once you have caught the attention of your reader it is vital to keep them engaged.  If your email is too long you may lose them, too short and you run the risk of not engaging them in the first place.
It is also important to take a moment to consider the language you are using and the way that it is formatted.
There are some urban legends out there but it is true that if you use words that have a pornographic connotation, a classic example being erection, you will probably fall foul of spam filters.
With the effectiveness of open rates as a measure of campaign success diminishing, it is important to look to other methods of gauging the success of your campaign.  Links are still the bread and butter of email tracking and give a clear measure of the most popular elements of your offering.
Ensure that links are only used where relevant and that they lead directly to the information on your site and do not just point to the home page.
Above the fold design
Understanding on how people consume information presented on screen is progressing everyday and can be utilised to optimise the effectiveness of your creative.
Studies into eye patterning show us that the majority of people’s time is spent at the top of the screen and then drops off substantially the further down you go.  This is important for two reasons.
First we can use this knowledge to realise that our key messages need to appear towards the top of the page and second that we must employ tactics to influence people to track further down the page.

This can be done using colour, information that fades in and out and also a links index so that people can jump to the information that is most relevant to them immediately.

Hierarchy of information

Newspapers understand that people like to be able to find information in the same place that they found it previously.  That is why sport always appears on the back pages.

This thinking should also be applied to email communications, especially newsletters, where people will want to be able to go straight to the information that is of most interest to them.

The key is to organise it into clear sections and keep the order fixed.

Use of colour and fonts

Use of colour and certain fonts can certainly help to create a mood or elicit a specific emotion from your audience, but there are many do’s and don’ts.

One general thing to bear in mind is that screens need a higher contrast than print in order to differentiate colours and so it is important to tone down some colours in order that they appear crisp.

Subject line

Amazingly the subject line can be the one element that is overlooked when sending out an email campaign, especially if the sender is responsible for sending out a multitude of similar communications and doesn’t have the time to come up with a new subject line each time.

If the reader does not open your email, however, the subject line might be your only chance to communicate the offer.

First impressions count, especially on email, so make it a good one.
Premiere Global Services will be running an email clinic at the Internet World Show, taking place at Earls Court from May 1-3, 2007.  Delegates who bring an email creative to the show can get a 15 minute consultation with one of their experts.
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