Q&A from our Sixth Sense of Marketing webinar

I had a blast  exploring how brain science impacts our marketing and sharing some seriously surprising  stats with you during our Sixth Sense of Marketing webinar.  You know, stuff like  the adult attention span is only 8 seconds (yikes!), over 50% of the human brain is wired to process images, and people are naturally inclined to pay attention to anything related to food, sex or danger. Most importantly, I talked about how you can connect email design to all of that fun info to not only stand out in the inbox, but also get the marketing results you’re looking for.

Hey, that's me, Jamie.

It was a smart, savvy crowd who attended, so it's no surprise that I got a whole slew of great questions – so many, in fact, that I couldn’t get to them all during the webinar. I went ahead and compiled a few of my favorites so I could answer them here on the blog:

Can you tell us more about writing good subject lines. How do you get more people to open your email in the first place?

First a disclaimer: I wish I had the perfect formula for writing winning subject lines, but the truth is, there are no hard-and-fast rules about subject lines. Every audience is different, so experiment and split test to find out what works best for yours. That said, here are a few tips that we’ve found work for us and our customers.

Keep it short. iPhones cut off subject lines at 32 characters, and exceeding 50 characters can sometimes lead to your email ending up in the  junk/spam folder (yuck). If you have more to say, then you can always continue your thought in the preheader text.

Value clarity over creativity. Your subscribers are only scanning their inboxes, so you don’t want to get too clever with your subject line. It might be hilarious, but you run the risk that they won't spend enough time on it to get the joke. Instead, be clear and specific about the content they can expect to see when they open. But that doesn’t mean you have to be boring!

Look to your own inbox for inspiration. For example, southern lifestyle magazine (and Emma customer) Garden & Gun recently sent a mailing with the subject line “A Mississippi Roadside Marvel.” This subject line is great because it says you’re going to see something awesome, but it doesn’t give away exactly what that awesome thing is. It forces you to open to see for yourself. And in case you’re wondering, it worked. The mailing went to 60,000 contacts, and the open rate was nearly 40%!

What about people who have images turned off or email platforms that block images and force you to download them?

The good news is that the default for most platforms is to allow images. But if you’re worried about people or platforms that block images, there are a few things you can do:

1. Don’t put important written content in the image that isn’t included elsewhere in the copy. If images are blocked, your subscribers will never see it.
2. Always add simple and clear ALT text for each image. That way, you can get your message across even without the image.
3. And as Litmus suggests, consider stylizing that ALT text so it stands out. Adjusting the font, size and color can help engage readers who have images turned off.

Not all of us work in industries where we can use images of sexy, dangerous food to get attention (I'm in the legal field). Does all of this still apply to us?

Absolutely. The important thing for marketers to remember is that whether you're in law, the nonprofit sector, B2B or B2C, it's still a human being on the other side of that email – all of the brain science and research still applies.

So along with all the other data we discussed, using images that appeal to the primitive brain, thinking about the effect of color choice and designing with mobile in mind will have an impact on your email results. The key is adapting the specific content for your audience.

For example, we talked about how people are attracted to images of faces. Pick an image of someone who fits your target audience and is looking in the direction of your call to action button or link. Research shows we'll follow their lead and look wherever they're looking. It might not be as enticing as a big, ol' tasty burger, but it works!

You mentioned “preheader text” earlier. Can you explain what that is and how we can use it?

Preheader text is that slightly grayed out text that shows up after the subject line when you’re checking emails. And then with a little coding magic, it disappears once you actually open the email. It looks like this:


It’s important because subscribers only spend 3-4 seconds deciding whether or not to open an email, so it’s another opportunity to catch the eye of someone scanning their inbox. And the nice thing about it is that it allows you to add content without extending the subject line beyond the cutoff point.

You can use preheader text to tease the content of your mailing, provide a strong call to action or write a personal greeting. Or, have a little fun with it and add a symbol or emoji if you think your audience will respond to it (be sure to test it first!). As for length, it varies by email client, but we recommend keeping preheader text under 75 characters to be safe.

In the B2B world, do you still think it’s most critical to design emails in the mindset that they will be viewed on mobile?

YES!!!! Sorry for the all caps, but I can't stress it enough. People are chained to their desks less and less in the B2B world, so designing for mobile is more important than ever. They’re checking email on their phones during meetings (pay attention, Stan), when they’re out to lunch or in line at the coffee shop. Besides, if an email looks great on mobile, then it will also look great on the desktop – but not necessarily the other way around.

How important is it for the colors in your email to match the colors of your brand?

Branding is certainly important, but I think it’s ok to occasionally stray from your brand's colors, depending on the action you want your audience to take.

Like we mentioned during the webinar, we use yellow for our buttons because brain science tells us it adds that little sense of urgency that encourages people to click (or tap), which is the whole point of adding a button in the first place.

But you don’t have to use yellow. Due to the Von Restorff effect, things that stand out or look out of place hold our attention, so try using a color that complements or contrasts with your brand’s colors (e.g. orange with blue). It’ll look great and beg to be clicked.


I know many companies are starting to automate their email marketing. Can you talk about automation a little bit and how often we should schedule emails to send without annoying our readers?

We’re huge fans of automation around these parts. It’s the best way to reach the right customer with the right message at the right time (that’s a lot of rights). Plus, it makes our marketing lives easier and gets great results, so what’s not to love? As for how often to send, there will be a little bit of trial and error involved if you’re just getting started. We think sending once every week or two is a good place to start, but pay close attention to your email results to land on a cadence that works best for your audience.


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