Creating E-maginative Email Ads: Determining Whether Email Marketers are in the Right Frame of Mind


Read any magazine or website today about email marketing, and you’ll read a lot of articles about list building and acquisition, subject lines and promotional offers, frequency of emails sent, demographic segmentation, deliverability issues and solutions, clickthrough rates, conversions, etc. It’s a left-brain person’s paradise. But there’s something missing from the equation if all you’re going to concentrate on is the “science” behind your email campaign. What about the art?

By art, of course, we mean the creative. The layout, the color scheme, the images! In other marketing arenas—print advertising, direct mail, retail catalogs—there are whole creative teams assembled just for the purpose of developing and approving the photographs and images used in a campaign.

This then begs the question: if you consider your email marketing program to be an important vehicle for communicating with your customers, promoting your brand, publicizing new products or services, and representing your company to your customers and prospects, why then is the creative not measured and analyzed to the extent that the other aspects of your email marketing are? Is your email marketing all function but little form? Are you seeing the forest for the trees?

Because when it comes to analysis of an email campaign, there’s more than just subject lines, content, and offers. Email is visual. And if you’re not making the most of that element along with the other components, you’re missing the boat. A picture can be the “thousand words” that your subscribers may or may not read in the body of your email. Your images can be evocative, funny, enigmatic, or didactic—just as long as they’re not dull, dreary, or uninspired!

Of course, when choosing creative components, it is important to always keep in mind your brand image and how these components fit your brand. Your color palette is likely to be predetermined, as is your company’s “personality” — is your company hip and cutting edge, or traditional and conservative? All of your marketing should of course support this. Any imagery that does not fit your brand will likely be a less successful image because of it.

That being said, there is still certainly choices that you can make and should be making about which image or images are the most compelling, the best representation of your company and its products and/or services.

But how do you know if your creative is on the mark or not? If it represents your brand, and more importantly, gets your readers to act? You test it!

Test the creative aspects of your email campaign? Sure, why not! But, you might ask, how do you go about doing an analysis of this component? There’s no spreadsheet that will give you a report, no algorithm, no analytics program that will tell you which is the more compelling image. Or is there?

You test your creative the same way you test other elements of your email campaigns. One very effective test is an A/B split test. Create two or more different emails, each with a different image. Your testing only the images, so keep everything else in your email constant in order to get the most accurate results. If you change other elements, you won’t know what really drove the different results. Then, send these different emails to a random segment of your list.

If your creative pieces are different enough from each other—one bright, one muted; one a photograph, another an illustration—or even if they are all quite similar, your split test results should still give an indication if your readers have a measurable preference for one version over another. Their “preference” will be indicated by their open and clickthrough rates.

At last, something for the left-brain marketers to measure and analyze!


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