One of the biggest challenges of email advertising is creating emails that can be viewed. Every email service, from Hotmail to Lotus Notes, features applications that disable email images, thereby making it possible that users will see an email devoid of images. The creative solution is to design emails that communicate with broken graphics and add HTML text next to the images. "The brand and offer should be stated in text, not graphics, so if the images are off you can see the offer," says Richard Evans, product marketing manager at Silverpop.
Full-scale emails with text and graphics don't always work. For example, an email for Bath & Body Works (below) was so overburdened with offer copy that it couldn't be read in one sitting. "An email is like a retail store window," says Lisa Harmon, principal at Smith-Harmon. "You should put enough in the store window to interest them to come into the store, but not the entire store. There should be a balance between enough info and so little they don't know what they're looking at."
Besides the body of an email, advertisers must prepare the subject line, which will fail if it doesn't include the brand name. You have a 32 to 60 percent higher chance of having a business-to-consumer email opened with the brand name in the subject line, Evans says. Use of certain words, like "free," in the subject line could result in spam filter blocks -- but "free" isn't necessarily banned, so use it carefully.
A common email creative problem results when print or direct mail ads are repurposed. "It makes no sense," Harmon says. "People are in a different mode with email, their box is cluttered, and you only have two to eight seconds to communicate the message to elicit a click."
Email copy should be short and to the point, and images should be real life, which produces more clicks than clip art, Evans says.
Another unsuccessful move is to include a limited number of links, which impedes response. "Having one link button is harmful; you should continue to provide links throughout the message as image and text links," Evans says.
Another creative problem arises when emails are created quickly, with little forethought. "The fast hit-send nature causes people to think less and put less time into the creative," Harmon says. "Email is one of the few channels that continues to perform in the bad economy, so people should put more time into the creative execution."