Beyond Best Practices: 5 Scientifically Proven Secrets For Email Marketing

By Nancy Harhut (Chief Creative Officer)

Have you heard the dirty little secret about email?

You can follow all the best practices – every single one – and still not get the open, read and click through rates you want.

You can write subject lines short enough to be seen on mobile devices. You can craft easily scanned, reader-focused copy. You can even pop your buttons in contrasting colors.

Yet your metrics may still lag behind your goals.

It turns out that science offers a very good reason for this. And it has to do with how people actually make decisions.

Up to 95% of decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind.

According to social scientists and behavioral economists, up to 95% of decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind. That’s right, 95%.

We all like to think we, and our customers, make thoughtful, considered decisions. But very often people simply rely on decision-making shortcuts – certain automatic, instinctive, reflexive behaviors.

Humans have developed these shortcuts over the millennia as a way to conserve mental agency. And today these hardwired decision defaults can impact everything from what people read, to whom they trust and when they buy.

The good news? If you’re aware of these decision-making shortcuts, you can create emails that take advantage of them, prompting people to automatically take the actions you want them to take.

Following are five ways to do just that.

1. The Zeigarnik Effect – or why just getting started can be so powerful

The Zeigarnik Effect -

Social scientists have found that people don’t like to leave things incomplete. Once we start something, we feel compelled to finish it. It actually bothers us not to.

Think about a book you’ve read to the end, even if it wasn’t as good as you thought it’d be. Or a TV series that you just couldn’t wait to come back after the summer hiatus, so you could see how things turned out.

That’s all evidence of the Zeigarnik Effect in action.

And email marketers can use this principle very effectively. For example, send a message reminding prospects that they began designing or customizing a product on your website, but never finished. Or that they added several items to their cart, but never quite checked out.

Another powerful application of the Zeigarnik Effect can be used in loyalty programs. You know those digital punch cards that offer customers a free product after they’ve made 10 purchases?

Instead of showing 10 empty squares waiting to be marked off, show 11 but already mark off the first one. The number of purchases you want customers to make remains the same.

But in the latter scenario, the card has already been started, and that can make people feel compelled to complete it. In fact, one social science study showed a 78% increase in completions using this tactic.

2. Availability Bias – or what to ask before you ask for the sale

availability bias - flying

People will determine the likelihood of something happening based on whether or not they can recall an instance of it. That’s why, when asked, someone will tell you that lots of people die in plane crashes.

They’ll think back to the news reports they’ve heard involving planes, remember many of those stories involved crashes and casualties, and based on this information that’s “available” to them, determine that yes, many people must die in crashes.

What they don’t have available to them is many stories of perfectly safe plane landings.

So how do you use Availability Bias in email marketing? Before you ask your prospect to buy your product or service, first ask them to think of a situation in the past when they could have used it. Or to imagine a time in the future when it might fit nicely into their lives.

This will make them more receptive to your message, because they’ll judge the likelihood of the event (in this case their needing what you’re selling) to be higher.

3. The Scarcity Principle – or why people want what they cannot have

AhaLife - The Scarcity Principle - Email Marketing and Behavioral Science

Researchers have found that people place more value on items that are scarce. If something is readily available, we get it if we’re interested and ignore it if we’re not.

However, just let people know that the product or service is available only to certain people, or only for a certain amount of time, and that changes everything.

Suddenly, people will want it. And want it badly.

This is the Scarcity Principle in action. It has two sides – exclusivity, when something’s available only to certain people, and urgency, when something’s available only for a limited time.

Email marketers can easily tap into the Scarcity Principle using deadlines, exclusive offers, and limited quantities. Include expiration dates in your emails, emphasize that your target is receiving the email because they are part of a certain group, or underscore how rare, hard-to-get or nearly sold out your product is.

4. The Authority Principle – or how to instantly leapfrog the competition

Authority Principle

When people are young, we’re taught to recognize and respect authority. By the time we’re adults, it’s second nature to us. We automatically trust and believe those whom we perceive to be authorities — often without giving it a second thought.

And that’s why the Authority Principle can be so powerful for email marketers. We can use it to catapult our companies to the top of our target’s consideration list.

If our email includes an endorsement from a respected person, publication, association or institution, it can trigger a decision-making shortcut. Our targets will assume the endorser has done all the research, saving them the time and effort.

It becomes an easy decision to just take the expert’s recommendation.

In addition to a quote from an authority, you can also trigger this response by adding badges or logos from business, consumer and trade associations to your email, mentioning that you’ve been named to a top 10 list, or showing that your product or service was featured in the news.

Once your target sees you’ve attracted the attention of an authority, you’ll instantly look better than your competition.

5. The Von Restorff Effect – or which days are best for email

The Von Restorff Effect in Email Marketing

According to the Von Restorff Effect, people notice and remember things that stand out. If something is unusual or different, it attracts our attention.

So, as email marketers, we want to take advantage of days that are unusual and different. And what days are unlike most any others? Holidays and special occasions.

Special occasion emails can encompass customer birthdays and anniversaries, as well as company Founders Days and new product launch days.

Holiday emails can include all the traditional holidays –Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc. – as well as any of the offbeat and unusual ones that a quick Google search can reveal.

For example, as I write this, people all over the USA could be celebrating National Chicken Boy Day, National No Rhyme (Nor Reason) Day, National Gyro Day, National Cherry Popover Day and Emma M. Nutt Day, who you may or may not recognize as the first female phone operator.

Admittedly, these are rather obscure holidays, but they can provide the inspiration for an email theme that could certainly stand out from every other day.

Use these principles to increase your email metrics

The truth is, there are lots of hardwired behaviors and decision defaults that your target relies on every day. And this applies regardless of whether that target is older or younger, highly educated or not, rich or poor, male or female or in a B2B or B2C environment.

As you develop your email campaigns, don’t stop at best practices. Also factor in the way people actually make decisions. When you do, you’ll finally see that increase in open, read and click through rates you’re looking for.

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Wilde Agency is an award-winning integrated marketing agency that specializes in understanding and utilizing the science of human behavior to drive superior results for our clients.

If you’re interested in learning how we can help you improve your ROI, please contact John Sisson, President of Wilde Agency at 781-251-2745 or

The post Beyond Best Practices: 5 Scientifically Proven Secrets For Email Marketing appeared first on Wilde Agency.

Adapting to Change Can Be a Slippery Slope

When you ski the conditions are often fleeting. It may start off sunny and end up snowy; the snow conditions can be powder at the top and slush at the bottom; the light goes from bright to flat, and the wind can pick up at any time. I recently went skiing in Utah with a group of 11 skiers ranging in age from 14 to 77.  Here is what I observed, and how each lesson can impact your performance in the workplace.

Fear can create doubt in an instant.
When visibility changed and it became difficult to see the slope, the youngest and oldest skiers became a bit paralyzed. They seemingly lost their ability to ski and needed to have their confidence rebuilt. Others followed more experienced skiers and were visually guided down the mountain and eased off the cloudy, windy ridge with no fear at all. The key is to adapt to conditions and find a focus to guide you through turbulence.

Internal voices have a strong influence.
We discussed the idea that everyone in the group knew they could get down anything. We might not ski it well but you know you can get off the mountain. One day, a few consecutive falls created a momentary lapse of confidence for one of my family members. After a break inside for lunch they regrouped, but that lack of confidence had an impact on their ability to perform. The key is to control the voice in your head. Shifting from a negative to positive outlook directly impacts outcome.

The equipment is rarely to blame.
We often look for who or what to blame when things don’t go well; in skiing it easy to focus on the boots or the skis. I found myself longing for a brand of skis that I had rented last year—the Nordica Belle to Belle. The day I got them I felt stronger and more in control. Did those around me believe that I skied better than the day before? No, but for me they were game changers.  The key is to be aware of our crutches, and use them to help us adapt and excel.

You can enhance confidence in others.
In this example, the group was able to influence the outcome of an individual. By positively reinforcing members who suffered from self-doubt, we were able to shift their confidence and, in turn, their ability to ski. Are you watching the group and individual dynamics during times of change? The key is, as a leader, to get those paralyzed by a big moment back on track… or you risk letting their fear steer them off trail.

Shifting resources can improve outcomes.
One day we hit the slopes early and the snow was very wet. Many people’s jackets and gloves were not fully waterproofed. As some of us had to leave early that day, we accessed the situation. I took off my dry shirt and traded with my sister before heading down. Another took my dry-liner gloves and, if we had thought of it, we should have given someone my daughter’s jacket. Our ability to generously shift the dry clothes to those staying allowed them to have a more productive, enjoyable afternoon when the sky cleared. The key here is to ask, “Do we reassess the situation and change course enough?”

These lessons may sound simple, but times of rapid change, when fear of the unknown seems to loom around every corner, can be paralyzing, make us doubt ourselves and steal our confidence. We can help each other adapt, change course and reassess situations as a group more quickly. However, often we try to plow through with the doubt in our head (or in our equipment) thus reducing the chances of optimizing the situation and creating the strongest outcome. I will take my lessons from the mountain back to the office, and I hope they might inspire you to adapt as well. Happy skiing and happy leading!

Women’s Leadership Network NY Hosts Q&A with Danielle Gray

For the Sapient
NY Office, the highlight of International Women’s Day week was our Q&A
session with Danielle Gray, former Senior Advisor to President Obama, moderated
by John Casey, Head of PR & Media Relations for SapientRazorfish.  

She made her
way to the front of the audience with little notice. For someone who has made
such a great impact on recent American history, Danielle Gray came across as down-to-earth
and relatable. After describing her “normal Long Island kid upbringing” going
to public schools and bar mitzvahs, and her early aspirations of being a
cartoonist, she recounted key moments from the years since. Taking us from how
she got to the White House, she brought us to the work she’s doing today as a
Partner with the world’s largest law firm.

Ms. Gray spent two
years campaigning for Obama’s presidency and then five exciting years in the
White House serving in his administration in senior
legal and policy positions, most recently as Assistant to the President and White
House Cabinet Secretary. In just those few years, she was instrumental in the
judicial selection and confirmation of both Supreme Court Justices Sonia
Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. In describing the appointment of a Supreme
Court justice as “law nerd heaven,” and like playing “fantasy Supreme Court,”
she had the audience giggling. Then on an earnest note, she told us
“Justice Kagan was a professor [at Harvard Law School] and mentor. [Confirming her]
was a unique honor of mine.”

responsible for helping pass the Affordable Care Act, she calls this
legislation as a high point of her time working with President Obama. “This
mattered. People’s lives would be better for it.” But before it passed, she
confessed to another unforgettable moment. Invited to a very last-second
meeting about the plan, she ran to the Oval Office in track pants and a
cashmere sweater—with a hole in it. Worse than being razzed by Obama, a staff
photographer snapped a shot of the working session that would hang prominently on
the White House wall, among other public places. Mortified, she recalled “the
photo was all over the place. Friends were sending it to me!”

leaving the White House in 2014, she became a partner at O’Melveny & Meyers
in New York, addressing issues at the intersection of public policy and
government. With a true passion for public service, she spends a good amount of
time today doing pro-bono work for the NAACP defense fund and helping to
safeguard voting rights and immigration rights, most recently fighting the
travel ban.

asked by a young woman in the audience about how we as average Americans can
make a difference, Ms. Grey spoke about the importance of protests like the Women’s
March and she encouraged the audience to keep it up and stay active, from supporting
our local leaders to making phone calls to Congress. “They really do matter.”

So how
did Danielle Gray become the incredible woman she is today? As women who inspired
her, she cited her mom, Justice Elena Kagan and of course, everyone’s hero,
Oprah. See, she’s just like us.

Leadership Network seeks to empower SapientRazorfish women through inspiration,
advocacy and guidance to help them achieve their greatest potential.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Writing For Financial Services Clients: 3 Essential Tips For Success

Money is a loaded issue.

That’s the first thing Senior Copywriter Burr Johnson noted in his 2016 blog post “3 Things To Keep In Mind When Writing A Financial Campaign“.

The piece went on to become one of the year’s most popular post, and for good reason — Burr offered up three solid, actionable tips for copywriters who are catering to financial services clients.

Recently, Studio Manager Susan Sargent transformed Burr’s advice into a handy infographic that you can print out and keep at your desk. Check it out below! If you have anything to add, let us know on Twitter.

3 Things To Keep In Mind When Writing A Financial Campaign

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Wilde Agency is an award-winning integrated marketing agency that specializes in understanding and utilizing the science of human behavior to drive superior results for our clients.

If you’re interested in learning how we can help you improve your ROI, please contact John Sisson, President of Wilde Agency at 781-251-2745 or

The post [INFOGRAPHIC] Writing For Financial Services Clients: 3 Essential Tips For Success appeared first on Wilde Agency.


Marketing budgets in 2017 are usually tight. To maximise profitability, every pound, dollar and euro must be allocated effectively.
At Britannia Communications we focus on five key digital strategies that can be implemented intelligently to get the most out of marketing budgets.
Our day to day digital experience is supported by the latest Smart Insights, Global Marketing Survey which asked digital agencies and marketing directors to: “Select one marketing activity that you think will give your business the biggest incremental uplift in leads and sales in 2017 “.
The survey had 2,352 responses from marketeers around the world.
These are the results for 2017:

We recommend fully utilising goals in Google Analytics, to effectively measure the source and quantity of leads and sales. By comparing sources such as paid campaigns, organic traffic and social media channels, we recommend applying the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule.
Understanding the data, indicates which traffic sources generate the majority of conversions for your budget allocation. Use the Pareto Principle and identify the top 20 percent of your traffic sources that generate 80 percent of best results.  We advise our clients to make this the core focus of their budgets.
Not all marketing solutions allow for full control of how much is spent and who is targeted. Instead of spreading your budget thinly on a large variety of platforms, our preference is to focus on the channels where we are in full control of both targeting and cost. Examples are the online advertising giants, Google, LinkedIn and Facebook.
The more control you have on what you spend your budget on, the more you will be able to trim or adjust what works less efficiently and focus your resources on success.
Any marketing campaign, online or offline, should be always started on a small, test scale with narrow targeting. Once profitable, the campaign can be effectively scaled.
Scaling can mean experimenting with different campaign types on the same platform as well as adding other channels. Remember that each platform requires its own formatting optimisation and not auto posting from a social media aggregator which simultaneously multi-posts on multiple platforms.
The reasoning behind starting small and waiting for the ROI to come in, is two-fold:
Firstly, the profit from the initial campaign supports additional campaigns and/or platforms. Secondly, the market is provably providing in real time, reliable data about exactly what works well. It’s all in the data! You can safely and continuously resource additional marketing efforts on based on immediate and visible success.
You should also consider the importance of having a statistical relevance in results before deciding on whether to scale up your investment. Always support your decision with sufficient data insights. Our experience shows that in B2B marketing, the more specific the niche, the more precise the targeting.
Every pound, dollar and euro and every minute spent on marketing should communicate the same message. This potentially includes accounts that have never been previously used for paid campaigns such as Instagram or, in some cases, Pinterest and Twitter. In business time is money. Therefore, social media accounts and similar branding efforts are never free and should be seen simultaneously to paid marketing solutions, such as print collateral and paid online advertising campaigns.
Integrated and intelligent digital marketing demonstrably results in a much higher ROI.
Remarketing or retargeting means that we target website visitors who did not convert yet on the same platform they were targeted to begin with. For example, potential clients who clicked on an ad in Google but did not convert are targeted again on Google with the same or different ads. Cross-channel remarketing takes it up a notch by retargeting users on a different platform. For instance, potential clients who clicked on an ad in Google but did not convert are now seeing ads on Facebook and Twitter that are tailored to the pages they visited.
Cross-channel remarketing will boost the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns.
Britannia Communications is a strategic UK digital marketing and communications consultancy which intelligently designs and implements digital and social media strategy for leading UK and international organisations.
With a weekly social audience of 2 million+ social media users, Britannia Communicationsis currently ranked #3 of 500 UK agencies for digital influence by Klout, #44 worldwide by Onalytica and #19 by