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How to use Marketing Psychology in your Email Campaign

Email marketing is about striking a conversation with a newcomer who recently subscribed & building a lasting relation with your existing customer...

Email marketing is about striking a conversation with a newcomer who recently subscribed & building a lasting relation with your existing customers by providing a good user experience. Going a step ahead, your email marketing emails need to be personalized based on the behavioral, demographics, purchase history, or even the current placement of them in the customer journey. Yet sticking to the ‘tried and tested’ ways to improving the conversion rate of your emails is not effective especially when your customer already has emails from many email marketers following the same best practices also.

In order for your emails to stand out from the crowd with a lesser known innovation, Uplers had a knowledgeable conversation with Benyamin Elias (Content Marketer, ActiveCampaign) about marketing psychology and its application in email marketing. The following article is our consolidated learning from conversing with him wherein you shall learn about:

  • What is Marketing Psychology?
  • How to implement marketing psychology in your email campaigns?
  • Two types of psychologies
    • Psychology of Attention & 4 ways to gather attention
    • Psychology of Curiosity & 5 methods to create curiosity
  • Different level of friction to create in your CTA copy
  • How to drive emotions in your emails

What is marketing psychology? Why aren’t most email marketers using it?

Marketing psychology is about understanding how (and why) people think and act the way they do and creating marketing strategies based on such impulses and behavior to better engage with your customers. This way you are able to create compelling content in your emails that engage, troubleshoot and convert your customers efficiently. It is about making your customers remember key information about your brands using techniques such as priming them to associate your brand with certain stimulus and influence their buying behavior.

Before you start wearing your tinfoil hats and blaming marketers of controlling your minds, marketing psychology is studying and implementing certain tactics to stand out from the crowd and be remembered by your customers.  Implementation of marketing psychology in emails involves around sending specific set of emails aimed to educate the customers while nudging your products and services in front of their attention as the solution to problem they are seeking.

The trickiness of implementing marketing psychology in email marketing lies in the different types of emails sent in an email campaign. While some may rely on launching their products with a 5 emails funnel having longer copy, some may showcase their products with a 50 words email copy with focus on the design and product images.

How to start with including marketing psychology in email marketing?

Thankfully, all emails have one thing in common: Subject Lines. Most of the psychology lies in writing a subject line that draws attention to it within a crowded inbox and driving the customers to click on the email.

Some marketers tend to put a lot of weight in crafting their subject lines by following the best practices and A/B testing them and hoping to sell more with subject line alone. While subject lines may help boost sales to an extent, it is important to remember that the subject lines are a part of the email copy, which all combined, affects the sales. So your subject line just needs to create enough curiosity for the subscriber to click on it and let the email body copy take over the attention. So in the preliminary phase, there is the psychology of curiosity and the psychology of attention at play.

Psychology of attention

Attention targets the fight or flight instinct of the brain by creating urgency, non-uniformity or introducing a threat.

1. Subject lines like “Don’t Miss Out” or “Buy it or Regret forever” grab attention as it sets the fear of missing out in the minds of the subscribers. Sometimes attention is drawn with playful formatting such lower case or an all-caps subject lines or even using emojis or one-word subject lines like “Hey”, breaks the monotony of seeing a wall of words.

2. Another way marketers tend to draw attention in the email copy is by knowingly adding errors which immediately draws the attention of the subscriber. Although it’s a good marketing gimmick, it is not advised to do so, as it lowers your reputation as a professional marketer. Also, the downside of implementing psychology of attention in emails is that repetition or overuse of attention-drawing tactics will reduce the effectiveness.

This is why emojis are lesser effective in grabbing attention since most of the brands are using it in subject lines and this induces the banner-blindness since the emoji is neglected when read. Similarly, when you use “Don’t Miss Out the Sales Ending in 2 days” as your subject line for promoting your sale followed by “Sales ending in 1 day” as the subject line for the next day, a pattern is created in the brain which will make the customer ignore the urgency in the longer run.

3. The key to constantly grabbing attention is making the customer expect the unexpected. Presenting the existing actionable subject line in a different way, helps in maintaining the anticipation without repeating yourself. Try mixing weird things that shouldn’t go together, in your emails. Chubbies does so by using the From Name, Pre-header text and the subject line to send out cryptic yet interesting message to the subscribers.

4. Another form of catching attention is speaking relevance. When you are conveying something of great relevance to your subscribers, you grab their attention. David Ogilvy explained this in his book “Confessions of an Advertising Man” where in two copywriters discuss the value of long copy. A person can be made to read 20 pages with 8pt font size copy provided the headline says, “This article is just for <Person’s name>”. When you grab attention of your subscribers by providing something relevant, they are programmed to read it entirely. This is major reason behind marketers addressing their customers by their First name at the beginning of the email. When you promise some value or show the benefits, you have the attention of your subscribers.

Psychology of Curiosity

Curiosity is a stronger psychology to tap into as there are multiple ways to build curiosity within your emails. Simple pointers like adding emotions (not emojis) to your email helps deliver the message to your subscribers easily.

The psychology of curiosity was initially used by behavioral economist George Lowenstein in the paper he published in 1995 under the same title and it talks about information gap. Curiosity in your emails is built when you create an information gap for your subscribers. The information gap is the gap between what a consumer and what they do not know.

The research paper covers 5 methods that can involuntarily raise the curiosity level of your subscribers.

1.Ask a question: This is the most commonly used tactics by marketers globally in emails, websites and blog copies. This is basically asking a question in your subject line and answering it yourself in the email copy.

2. Start an unfinished story: Storytelling in emails is the most effective way to engage with your subscribers and this method applies in both subject line as well as your email copy. You increase the curiosity level by ending your conversation abruptly.

This way, the reader is eager to know what follows and hence ends up opening your email or clicking on the call to action button.

3. Take them by surprise: Instead of asking them a generic question like “Want to impress everyone in the party? We have a dress for you” use actionable question “Do you have the skills to impress? We have a dress to manage the rest”. This directly attacks the emotion psychology and taunts them to take action.

4. Implied Knowledge: This is a tricky one to pull but it relies on making your subscriber believe that they already have the knowledge of something that they had forgotten. Subject lines such as “You already have the skills to impress. Try this dress to improve it” creates the curiosity regarding how your product solves their concern.

5. Provide Knowledge: This is opposite of the previous method. Here you convince the subscriber that you have the knowledge to solve their problems and raise the curiosity about the knowledge.

The trick to create a good curiosity level by using either 2-3 tactics discussed above in your subject line and email copy.

One of the premium example of 3 tactics is by famous copywriter and author of Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene M. Schwartz “Do you have the courage to make half million dollars a year?” where he asked a question (tactic 1), surprise them (tactic 2) and provide knowledge (tactic 5) within a single sentence.

Psychology in CTA

When you choose your CTA copy, it is important to understand what kind of friction it generates. ”Download my report” has more friction than “Get my report” and draws more action whereas “Sign Me Up” for webinar will get less engagement than “Register Now”. So, divide your CTA copy into 3 sections based on the friction it creates:

High Medium Low
Buy now, Register now Know more, learn more Submit, Click here, Show

Additionally, never create uncertainty in your CTA copy. Always show what the subscriber shall get on clicking the CTA. If the CTA copy doesn’t specify what happens next, the subscriber may be discouraged.

Driving Emotions in emails

Emotions play a great role in the conversion rate of the email campaign. Emotions increase the likelihood of someone to act on it. Researcher Jonah Berger has researched on which emotions drive higher activations and he found out that positive emotions have better activation rate compared to negative emotions. But the emotion that leads highest activation i.e. Anger is a negative emotion but anger only works good for your campaigns if you are giving competition.

Final Thoughts

There is a fine line between a good conversation email and a click bait and that relies on how well you carry the conversation.

Author Bio:

Benyamin Elias works as a content marketer at ActiveCampaign. He loves to take a step back and understand how all the pieces like copywriting, SEO, data analysis, marketing automation, etc. fit together for a particular business. He is best at connecting content marketing to the core of what a business offers.

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Kevin George

Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing full-service email marketing companies. He is an email enthusiast at heart and loves to pen down email marketing content. You can reach him at or connect with him on LinkedIn.



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