How to beat your recipients’ mental spam filter

Imagine going to a restaurant. It’s one you’ve been to before. The chef recommends the terrine with spiced apple relish and raspberry coulis.

It looks good. The waiter brings it to you and presents it skilfully. You take a little taste; the unmistakeable flavour of spam.

Challenge: Beat my Mental Spam Filter

Too often, that’s what it feels like when I open a marketing email from a trusted sender . No real meat! Just a reconstituted paste of low nutritional value, under-delivering, and often leaving such an insipid taste I might even unsubscribe.

I know the messages that fall into this trap aren’t spam, because I opted in to receive them. But here’s the problem. My brain has its own spam filter operating too, and it’s more sophisticated and much more judgemental than the one on my computer or internet service.

My internal spam filter can make split-second decisions on keeping, junking or unsubscribing. And I have some big triggers that set-off my internal filter:

  • A boring message will trigger my filter
  • A me-too offer sold in a me-too way is even worse.
  • Dressing your missive up like a gourmet dinner won’t help either if underneath your message is reconstituted pap

Bottom line – when a brand I’ve bought into stops trying with its email marketing, then I emotionally unsubscribe.

There is a silver lining

The upside of this reality for email marketers is that if your email campaigns live up to my high expectations, then they will stands out even brighter against those that don’t.
Look at this email I got last week from Howies with the subject line ‘sideburns of glory’. Brilliant. For a cycling nut it’s perfect. Of course it goes on to talk about T-Shirts, but it’s a beautifully creative and spam-filter-disabling idea. In fact it leaves you wanting to see the next one.

The real meat in your story

It’s a question of finding the real meat in your message and leading with it. Take this next concept for the Utility Warehouse for example (they supply phone, broadband, gas, electricity and mobiles). It’s an up-sell email encouraging existing customers to take electricity too.

Sounds pretty boring, right? But it isn’t. Rather than lead with an all too familiar ‘Save xxx on your leccy bill’ headline it plays on the current perception that the large gas and electricity companies are overcharging customers.

By protecting us ‘little pigs’ against the big, bad wolf, the provider positions itself as a consumer champion, they’re on your side and against the ‘rip-off’ big players. The meat in this message, like the Howies creative, is the brand’s attitude.

The audience recognises themselves in the way the company speaks. And it reinforces why they bought into the brand in the first place. Which is what makes it relevant, more so than a pure offer led headline would. And not spam.

Blow the barriers down
Email has to work harder to cut through. Inbox deliverability is one thing, getting your message into my head is another thing altogether, that’s where the skill lies. Finding a creative way to tell your story, getting customers to think differently about your offering gives them the chance to think seriously about it.

If you can get them to re-evaluate your offering, by finding a new way to tell your story, in a way that recognises why they bought into you in the first place, then you can disable the mental filter, and really get your message where you want it to be.

Dave Edwards is Creative Director and Partner of integrated agency, Daisy. Further reading:

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