This post is not about misleading email content

I got up early this morning to work on a post about misleading email content. Exciting, I know!

The thing was, I wasn't excited about it, at least not at 5:30am. And I wasn't excited about it LAST night when I sat down to work on the post then. What I do remember is the feeling of excitement when I first created the note in Evernote, the feeling of "Everyone needs to know about THIS."

That feeling wears off.

And then what do you do? If you're like me, when that feeling wears off, it's extremely difficult to get back into the "excitement phase" and bash out that post. You say, "I'll write it tomorrow night," or "It wasn't worth writing about anyway."

The thing is, though, that post may be worth writing. There may be another person out there who was thinking the same thing about that THING you were going to write about.

You're the kid who's afraid to raise his hand in class, thinking no one has that question, when in fact, you need to be the one who has the courage to ask the question for everyone else.

Just do it.

So, when it came to actually writing something this morning, I just wrote. I wrote for a good half-hour, just stream of consciousness pouring onto the screen of the iPad. The quiet taping on the screen, my dog curled up at my feet, and the soft "pitter-patter" of rain on the windows.

And you know what? It felt good. *REAL GOOD.*

What I learned this morning…

In our lives we get caught up in the idea of something so often that we forget to create that idea.

I loved the idea of a post about misleading email content. I loved the idea of sticking it to the company, publicly, that they screwed up. But I loved the idea more than the actual post. And I created this instead.


Avoid Misleading and Deceptive Email Subject Lines

Using the Email Subject Line the right way.

Hook the attention of your customer with the email subject line. That’s step number one of email marketing, right? One of best ways to do that is to provide something useful or helpful to your customer, and over my years of email marketing I feel that one of the best ways to do this is through a reminder of a free gift, coupon, or sale of an item that you’ve shown interest in. What you don’t want to do, however, is to use misleading and deceptive email subject lines!

Here’s one example of an email subject line gone bad.

Example of Deceptive Subject Line

I got an email from Snapfish the other day telling me I had “Free Product Credits” waiting, I was all over it! Open that email! Here’s what the email showed when I opened it:

A misleading call to action from a deceptive subject line
Pretty good, right?!

Here’s the misleading part of the subject line

As intended, this email provided the needed incentive to go and create the new photo book I wanted to create, so I clicked on “Create free photo product” to see what I could create.

When the page loaded in the browser, however, I was sorely disappointed in what I found. Not only did the original email never tell me what the free credits were good for, the credits themselves were pretty lackluster.

  • Free 1-Month Video Subscription Trial
  • First hi-res photo FREE

Example of free products from Snapfish

Those were the two free credit offers. And mind you, that “hi-res photo” wasn’t a print or any physical product.

That’s it.

Don’t use deceptive subject lines. Period.

Was this a bait and switch? Not to the point where it harmed the customer or tricked me into buying something that I didn’t want, no. What Snapfish did do, however, was that Snapfish set high expectations for a premium reward. The body of the email shows three products, a calendar, a mug, and several photobooks. It’s easily assumed that the free product credits apply to a similar product. When the wool is removed from our eyes, however, we see that the product credits are for a trial and one free download of a photo we probably uploaded in the first place.

While I continue to order products from Snapfish, it’s examples like this that continue to show we have much to learn when it comes to marketing.



How Long is Too Long?

The 9AM deluge.

It hits me every Monday-Friday. The post-coffee/caffeine hangover? Nope. The post-lunch blues? Nope, not that either. It's the onslaught of the newsletters I get between 9AM and 10AM every day. In fact, a few months ago, I tweeted such:

What gets me to open those newsletters?

That's the eternal question for email marketers, and it's not what this story is about. What this story is about is my love for one newsletter in particular and a random thought about its (seemingly) abnormal length.

MailChimp UX Newsletter

love getting the MailChimp UX newsletter in my inbox. When I see it pop up, I read it immediately. The times that I don't read it immediately, well, let's just say that I haven't had my coffee yet that day and am not making smart decisions.

And the MailChimp UX Newsletter is all about making smart decisions. The newsletter covers various aspects of the UX world, sharing stories and expertise from those people who bring you MailChimp. The most recent email – Issue 21 – covers the topic of "Teams", including anything from how to hire staff to the workflow and idea generation that works for the MailChimp UX team.

Does Size Matter?

So let's get to the point of this already! Does the length of a newsletter matter?

The newsletter presents a conundrum for us email marketers: What length is too long? At roughly 2800 words, Issue 21 of the MailChimp UX Newsletter is about 118 times longer than the average Tweet. I recently watched a MarketingProfs class on writing for the web in which the presenter talked about the ideal word count for a landing page be 200-250 words. So is 2800 for an email newsletter too long?

Here are some thoughts on why the 2800-word newsletter works:


Everything about this newsletter is about UX; from the name of the newsletter, to the audience it attracts, and to the topics covered within. The most recent newsletter focused on "Teams" with the main topics being

  • "Building a UX Team"
  • "Easy to Hire, Hard to Fire"
  • "Respect"
  • "Autonomy"
  • "Parallel Cycles"
  • "Create a Culture of Empathy"
  • "Tell Stories"

All of these topics are not just relevant to the UX field, but to many other creative/technical fields. Much of the writing and topic focus hit home for me as a jack-of-all-trades in the corporate world, generally outside the UX field.


If this was a standard newsletter, the content would probably have a short introduction paragraph followed by the headline items of the newsletter. In the case of the MailChimp UX Newsletter, the content of each section could even have been separate blogs posts on a UX blog.

I believe, however, that the current long-form iteration of the newsletter keeps the reader focused on the content at hand instead of distracting the reader by taking them to another page with potentially distracting content.

Single Thought.

Following up the last point, the newsletter presents a single, coherent message. Contrary to having several separate blog posts on similar topics, the newsletter presents a unified message created from several distinct ideas. In the example issue above, the overall focus is on your team at work with the deeper dives coming through the individual focus on topics like autonomy and Easy to Hire, Hard to Fire.


In my humble opinion, I believe the long-form newsletter works for the MailChimp UX Team. It keeps my attention, it has a singular focus, and it doesn't offer any distraction from its main message.

Would it work for you or your clients? Hard for me to say.

What I would tell you is this: If you want to hit home on a single idea and keep the attention of your reader, this is a pretty darn good format to steal.