Marketing October 2, 2015 Last updated September 22nd, 2018 3,025 Reads share

Email Marketing War: The Conflict of Content, Design and Deals

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Once upon a time… Email marketing was considered the most powerful marketing technique. It was hailed as the Holy Grail of marketing. Companies could reach out to customers, discuss issues first hand with them and drive them towards sales point.

Fast forward a few years and people are complaining about spam and unsolicited mails, left, right and center. So what went wrong? What forced governments to introduce laws which made it mandatory for companies to ask for permission (and corroborate it) before sending out emails? How did email marketing go from the greatest to the most hated marketing technique? (Okay, that dubious distinction is still held by popups.)

Before we proceed, check out these facts.

  • 91% of consumers check email every day, reported ExactTarget’s 2012 Channel Preference survey.
  • 53% of respondents in a survey by Blue Kangaroo said they’re happy with the number of marketing emails they get.
  • People receiving promotional offer emails tend to spend 138% more than people who don’t get promotional emails.
  • GigaOm Research revealed marketers ranked email as the single most effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention.
  • An annual Econsultancy email industry census repeatedly rates email as the top digital channel for ROI.

email dead

These statistics reveal that not all emails are unsuccessful. Therefore, we now need to understand the reason why some emails perform badly.

The answer lies in the lack of understanding of basic email marketing components. Although there is no set parameter that works for everyone or every industry, there are three basic, yet constantly underestimated, constituents of email marketing that can spell success or doom for any company.

What’s more there is a perpetual war amongst marketers as to which of these components is the most important and deserves the most attention. Let us learn more about each of these and find out what experts have to say about them.


The first rule of email marketing is having something informative or helpful to say. If your marketing campaign lacks intrinsically useful or interesting content, it won’t be able to influence your target audience and result in sales or engagement. When email marketing guru Tim Watson of Zettasphere was asked about importance of content in email marketing, he said, “Content marketing is crucial when it comes to building relationships with your customers.”

Watson and all email marketing gurus emphasize on the importance of good content. Email content has to be relevant, fresh, informative, catchy or funny enough to grab readers’ attention. From the subject line to introductory lines to body copy, everything should be crisp and gripping.

A good example would be Simply Measured, a social analytics provider that regularly sends out newsletters that showcase their blog posts, reports, ebooks and guides. These reports, ebooks and guides are designed to be genuinely helpful to the reader. Their newsletter is compact, clean and informative.


I especially like the fact that one click from my inbox can take me straight to the download location on the website. This takes out the hard work readers have to do in order to find the latest or most interesting (to them) resources published on your site.

Send out emails that are strongly content-based; that promote your brand message as opposed to your products. A content-intensive email strategy works!

While a clever subject line can get viewers to open email, it is striking images and salient design that makes the content amusing and keep them engaged. A lot of companies simply stick an image or two in their HTML email and think it’s done.

We live in the age of visual appeal and images bring about more customer engagement than any other email component. This is especially true for the retail industry: bad design and uninspiring product images can soon make readers hit the unsubscribe button.

Here’s a nice example: DailyObjects, a retailer of designer mobile phone cases, showcases funky designs with a short bio of the designer in their emails:


However apart from a few retail, travel and lifestyle businesses, no one seems to have mastered the art of capturing visual appeal. That said, sending out well-designed emails need not be time, money or resource-intensive. Small businesses now have a varied choice of comprehensive but uncomplicated email tools to design, schedule, personalize and optimize emails. An email marketing suite such as GetResponse makes email designing a breeze, with pre-designed email templates free stock images, and a coding-free, responsive email builder.


  • 83% of consumers sign up to receive emails just to get discounts, says this report from Blue Hornet (slide #8).
  • Convince and Convert found that 44% of consumers bought at least once after getting a promotional email.

If you look at the above stats, you may be forgiven for thinking that customers are looking for deals all the time, and that promo emails with discount codes and coupons might offer the best CTR.

However, the wakeup call will come as a rude shock you. Discount emails dilute the impact of sales, as people become used to not paying full price and hanker after the next big sale. Perpetual deals lead to waning interest in your brand or even the entire product line. Customers feel your products are not worth their full price and that they can delay buying until the next sale. Watch this video, for more information.

So what is the solution?

The Perfect Mix of Content, Design, Deals


The answer lies in finding the perfect Design : Content : Offers ratio for your business. For different industries, the mix will naturally be different. You need to experiment with your emails to figure out what works best for you – how many content-focused, design-intensive or promo emails you can send (to which segment) in proportion to each other.

In conclusion, looking at successful email marketing campaigns, everyone agrees that offers will always remain the Yoda of email marketing, but content has come to be loved as much as JJ Binks. And despite both, someone like Queen Padme is needed for her skills with the powerful weapon (graphic images in our case) that ultimately gets the job done!

Images: “Author’s Own”


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Tracy Vides

Tracy Vides

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