Huh? Is your e-mail advertising confusing?

E-mail advertising has always been a simple and economical way to advertise. And now that economies all over the world are in the tank, there’s more incentive than ever to use e-mail to sell products and services.

But simple and cheap doesn’t always translate into “successful.” Sometimes I receive an e-mail that makes me say, “Huh?”confusing email

This recently happened when I received the e-mail ad pictured to the right.

First, I can’t read the copy. Maybe that makes me unsophisticated, but sorry, I don’t speak or read French.

Second, what exactly does “Air Email” mean? It appears to be the name of the company but, huh? Is this supposed to be like Air Mail? That used to mean mail transported by plane, signifying that it was delivered fast. Today Air Mail is a trademark of the United States Postal Service and refers to international mail.

Third, this is spam. The main part of the message is an image, meaning they are purposely trying to bypass spam filters. And in this case, it worked. They do provide what appears to be an opt-out at the bottom, but I won’t click on it because it may be a way to confirm that my e-mail address is valid and invite more spam.

Fourth, I live in the U.S. The e-mail is in French. So there appears to be no targeting of this message. It’s probably just a compiled list, another red flag that this is spam.

Apart from the spam issue, this all adds up to a confusing e-mail message. I can’t read it. “Air Email” makes no sense. It looks like spam. And it seems to be sent at random rather than to me personally. When people are confused, they don’t respond.

This is an extreme example, but it makes the point: Clarity is vital in any advertisement, including e-mail.

The “from” address should make sense. The from address on this e-mail is “Communication.” Huh?

The subject line should be clear. If your target audience doesn’t understand it instantly, the e-mail gets deleted instantly. Like the rest of the message, the subject line here is French.

The “to” information should be your recipient. This e-mail is addressed to “42290831259.” Great, I’m just a number.

The offer should be stated very early in the text. People won’t spend any time at all searching for it. I’ll give them points for this one. The offer (in French) is right at the top.

The message should nearly always be short. No one wants to read long e-mails. So no matter how clear the copy really is, too much of it will make people wonder what they’re missing if they don’t read it, which they won’t, so they click delete. This one is short, so more points.

The copy should be clear and direct. Just because it’s e-mail doesn’t mean you can get away with sloppy copy. Oh, and it should be in the same language as the recipient! Clear copy here? No clue.

The links should be worded clearly. Example: If you’re offering a free e-book, the link text should include the words “Free E-Book.” In this e-mail, they appear to provide check boxes and have a “click here” link at the bottom, but actually the whole thing is a clickable image. So no points for this sleight of hand.

The e-mail should follow all best practices. This isn’t just to avoid spam complaints. It helps create trust. Given what I’ve already said, this particular e-mail fails the test for trust.

When you’re creating or sending an e-mail, always ask yourself, “Does this make sense to the people I’m sending it to?” Or should I say, “Est-ce logique de les personnes à qui je l’envoyer à?” (I used Google Translate for that.)

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4 Responses to “Huh? Is your e-mail advertising confusing?”

  1. priyanka on March 27th, 2009 4:11 am

    i wish all emailing companies would follow ur recommendations. At the moment all they seem to be sending here in India is stuff one cant or wont use. Ever.

  2. The Direct Marketing Voice Links 4-2-2009 | The Direct Marketing Voice on April 2nd, 2009 1:40 pm

    [...] Huh? Is your e-mail advertising confusing? [...]

  3. The Do’s And Don’ts Of An Email Advertising Campaign Strategy | All About Business on May 31st, 2009 8:27 am

    [...] Huh? Is your e-mail advertising confusing? [...]

  4. jaxonm7 on May 29th, 2010 3:20 am

    Very useful post, email advertising is much cheaper than any other means of advertising with mass medias since this advertising need no postage expenses or printing.

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