The thing about creative email copy

We all want to send fun emails that get opened, read, and clicked. After all, that’s the name of the game.

(I recently did a training on it in collaboration with MailModo. Hit me up if you want the recording – or want me to teach a more detailed one with examples and Q&A at the end?)

But as copywriters and marketers at heart, we want to our email copy to be creative and fun. The trouble is… creative and fun emails are incredibly hard to create. We all remember the CD Baby email right? 

(Don’t see the email? That’s probably cuz you’ve got your images turned off. Hit “Display Images” to see the email.)

How many versions of this email have cropped up since? Even if you didn’t know where this style of email originated from, reading it would make you feel like you’ve read some version of this email by at least half a dozen brands.

We recognize this style of creative copy the second we see it and roll our eyes.

This post-purchase email was very likely the first viral email on the internet. Folks flocked to online forums, chat rooms, and personal blogs to talk about it. CD Baby got thousands of backlinks, gained tons of free publicity and to quote CD Baby’s founder, Derek Sivers, “thousands of customers.”

Here’s why this email worked for CD Baby so well.

  1. It was 1998 so an email like this was a novelty.
  2. People were still opening every.single.email
  3. CD Baby’s company mission was “putting a smile on people’s faces.”

Unfortunately, it’s no longer 1998, email’s no longer a novelty, and people are ignoring more emails than they’re opening.

What is still relevant though? 

Brand voice.

CD Baby’s email worked so well because their post-purchase email was on-brand for them. 

Why most brands writing “creative” emails fail

If there’s one thing I teach, preach, and practice in email, it’s “clear over clever 100% of the time.”. Clear emails sell and clever emails confuse. Most brands experimenting with “creative” or personality driven email copy fail to make an impact because they don’t consider whether that tone and voice is even on-brand for them.

Imagine Shinesty (NSFW) sending emails like Boardroom Socks 😱. Their sales will TANK. On the other hand, imagine a brand like Boardroom Socks that sells socks folks in straight-laced professions (lawyers, judges, professors, CEO’s…) a suggestive email like Shinesty on Valentine’s…🤢. Not only will their sales tank, they’ll end up permanently losing customers.

Does that mean creative copy never converts?

It does. Rarely. For creative email copy to convert, you need to meet one very important criterion: It need to match the brand’s personality. Last week, a DTC marketer shared an email that they dubbed as “the best email they’d ever seen.”. As someone who picks email fights as a profession, I consider those fighting words 😆

The email in question? Take a look below 👇🏽

As someone with a morbid sense of humor, I found this email funny. (I mean, I live in an apartment next to a graveyard. If I wasn’t cool with death, I wouldn’t be living in a luxurious apartment that just happens to have a graveyard next to it 🤷🏽‍♀️)

As a copywriter, I found this email a little too on the nose.

As a marketer, the first question I asked myself was, “Is this onbrand for this brand?”

Turns out, it was. When I shared this email in the eCommerce Email Bootcamp Alumni Slack group, campers were quick to point out that this email was extremely on-brand for this company.

For me, all speculation stopped there. As long as it’s on brand, creative email copy will convert. Finally, as an email marketer, I consider this email a success. It’s polarizing, it galvanizes the reader into action, and it make you want to claim your spot in the world and tell them “No! I’m not dead!”

As a re-engagement email, it hits the sweet spot of making unenagaged email subscribers sit up and take notice – which is the entire purpose of a re-engagement email.

As for the creative copy, it only works because the tone of voice is on brand for this brand.

Stay alive, %FIRSTNAME%

– Samar

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