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8 Cognitive Psychology Tips for Email Marketing Campaigns

Author:  Travis Dillard


Reading Time: 8 minutes
Cognitive Psychology Tips for Email Marketing Campaigns

There is no such thing as a marketing fluke. All of the ideas, techniques, and approaches we use in marketing, including email marketing, come from different scientific fields, especially psychology.

Within psychology, there are several different subfields, and today, we’ll be focusing on cognitive psychology. Perception, memory, language, reasoning, and creativity are the core focus areas of this subfield of psychology. Simply put, cognitive psychologists study mental processes.

Using the knowledge of cognitive psychology when creating your email marketing campaigns will help you come up with a more compelling message, get it across more clearly, and achieve better results.

So next time you find yourself creating an email marketing campaign, you can go back to this article and do it like a pro. It may seem intimidating, but trust us—once you adopt these eight tips, you will create campaigns that lead to great success. Let’s get cognitive!

1. Natural Language

The language you use in your email marketing campaign is what matters the most. There is one rule you shouldn’t break: make your content as simple as it can be. This doesn’t mean you should leave out important details, but rather that you should present your information in a way that is clear and easy to understand. 

Here are three key ideas to keep in mind:

  • Use simple vocabulary and stick to everyday language.
  • Make your sentences short and easy to follow. 
  • Stick to the point and reach it quickly.

If your writing style is formal or you use words that are hard to understand, your readers might not get what you are trying to say. Additionally, they might think of you as superior to them. Due to this, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to connect with them.

Giving the impression that you’re one of the readers’ peers will help the message resonate with them on a deeper level. This will make your emails more approachable, increasing open rates. Therefore, use straightforward language that is similar to the target audience’s everyday language.

If you ever have any doubts about the genuineness of your email messages, just think about how you would talk to your friends about them. 

And, of course, keep your emails as short as possible. There is no need to get into immersive storytelling. If anything, you can use social proof to prove the value of your offer, but we will touch more on that later. 

2. Cognitive Fluency

Besides using simple language in your emails, there’s one more thing you shouldn’t forget—the presentation. It’s important to pay attention to how you structure all the information. This helps the readers navigate through your emails more easily, leading them to the main purpose of your message.

Boutique branding agencies provide the following tips  on how to create a visually appealing presentation:

  • Use familiar, easy-to-read fonts. Avoid papyrus or comic sans—a simple serif or sans serif font goes a long way.
  • Put emphasis on the most important information by bolding them. 
  • Make sure your copy is easy to understand and that the intention is clear.
  • Your design shouldn’t be abstract and excessively colorful, making it hard for people to read the email.
  • Divide the information into sections, using subheadings for each section.
  • Create numbered lists or bullet points.

3. Decoy Effect

Imagine you’re at a coffee shop, absolutely craving caffeine. The menu says there are three options to choose from: a small coffee for $2.50, a medium one for $3.50, and a large one for $3.90. The small one won’t satisfy your needs, but the price difference between the medium and the large one is so small that it seems like a better deal. So you choose the large one. That, in its simplest form, is the decoy effect.

This cognitive bias occurs when customers switch their preferences between two offers after a third offer is introduced. And in the end, the best offer ends up being the most expensive one.

Here is another example of the decoy effect that can show you its versatility. Let’s say you’re looking for accommodation for your vacation in Barcelona, and the hotel offers you the following packages:

  • Bronze Package: Accommodation only—$85 per night.
  • Silver Package: Accommodation with dinner—$100 per night.
  • Gold Package: Accommodation with breakfast and dinner, including the use of an indoor pool—$110 per night.

By offering a third, slightly more expensive option, you can give your customers more confidence in their decision while also increasing your revenue. This is possible across a wide range of industries, including Airbnbs, hospitality, car insurance, or any other subscription-based platform. 

4. Sense of Urgency

One of the most commonly mentioned fears people have is FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” It often applies to situations where people miss out on fun with their friends and creating new memories, but it is deeply intertwined with shopping as well.

This is nothing new to marketing, as most retailers tend to create “special offers” for their customers once in a while. A great example would be limited-edition items. Customers are more likely to buy a limited-edition product when they think there won’t be enough to go around because it’s in high demand. Despite the similarity between regular and limited-edition products, the latter tend to sell better.

This is also true for other time-sensitive sales, such as Black Friday, Halloween, or Valentine’s Day. There are also special sales that have nothing to do with holidays. They will create a sense of urgency that makes people want to buy certain products right away, as such offers seem even more special. 

The best way to integrate a sense of urgency into your email campaign would be through the subject line. Some of the examples are:

  • Our 60% Sale Ends Tomorrow!
  • Today’s Exclusive: A Limited-Edition [insert item]
  • Only Tonight: Our Best-Sellers 20% Off!

Whenever your customers see this kind of a subject line, they’ll want to open the email not to miss out on something. By using a catchy subject line, the chances of people ignoring your email will be low.

5. Special Offers

It’s always a good idea to offer people something special to make them feel heard and seen. Feeling special, respected, and included are all things that people greatly appreciate. This is a card you can play to increase your email open rates. 

Special offers shouldn’t be just sales—they can also be:

  • Loyalty programs
  • Reward programs
  • Personalized messages  
  • “Thank you” coupons

Provide your recipients with a reason to feel a special connection to your brand and your message. If you show them you care about them by listening to their individual needs and desires, they will grow to like you even more. 

Also, think about using free offers in your email marketing scripts. Customers will be happy to sign up for the premium subscription once they realize they can get something they need for free, even just for a month. 

6. Strong CTAs

When reading an email, most individuals would rather not think too much. All they want to do is get an overview before deciding if they should participate in your offer. That’s why it’s so important to provide them with clear instructions and make sure they understand everything right away. And you can achieve this by using a strong call to action (CTA). 

A call to action within an email is typically represented by a single button that leads you to the desired outcome. It should be visible, attractive, and written creatively. Your content needs to inspire readers to act, convince them to follow your advice, and spell out exactly what will follow if they do.

“Use a Special Offer,” “Claim Your Free Coupon,” and “Enter the Super Sale” are just some of the examples of what a good CTA looks like. If you really want it to stand out, use contrasting colors and position them above the fold. 

7. Imagery and Colors

People tend to react better to messages that have certain visual cues inside of them. That is why using eye-catching visuals in your emails is so important. The more appealing your email is to look at, the better your readers will be able to pay attention to it.

You can incorporate pictures of your products, infographics, or even GIFs if you would like to entice a smile or two. Use visuals that will help your readers immediately understand the point of your message and keep them interested as they read it. Just make sure that these images aren’t too heavy and, therefore, slow to load.

Pro Tip: If you want to evoke a specific emotion, try using images of people showing the same emotion on their faces. It can provoke the same feeling in your readers.

Another integral part of any visual cue is, of course, color. It plays a huge part in cognitive psychology, as we are used to seeing certain colors connected to different emotions and brands as well. 

For example, if you pay closer attention, you will see that blue is often used by brands and companies that want their users to feel secure. That is the main reason why banks like using blue on their websites. 

On the warmer side, red is a color that identifies best with a sense of urgency. It makes the offers irresistible and boosts excitement among the users. 

And, of course, if your brand is more on the luxurious side, you can always go with black with a dash of silver or gold. Black is a very formal, powerful, and sophisticated color, which is why most high-end brands use it as their signature color. 

8. Social Proof

Remember when we mentioned social proof as a way of telling a story? It’s time to explain why. 

When making a significant purchase, people frequently seek reassurance from others. They are more likely to give up if you don’t provide that reassurance. Displaying social proof in your emails is one strategy for getting around this problem.

Displaying consumer feedback in the form of reviews, testimonials, or product ratings might help sway on-the-fence buyers. In addition, you can collaborate with influencers or notable figures in your field. The audience is more likely to trust you if they know you’re affiliated with celebrities or other well-known people with a great following because most people look up to them.

Closing Off

Sometimes, that blinking cursor on a blank page can be annoying if you don’t know how to appeal to your audience. But once you understand several tricks that have their roots in cognitive psychology, no marketing campaign of yours will be unsuccessful. 

If you want your email marketing efforts to pay off, you need to zero in on your target audience’s interests and use those insights to forge a lasting bond with your clients. 

And remember, the closer your readers feel to you, the more likely they are to come back to you. So try to understand them as much as possible and always give them something they crave.

About the author

Travis Dillard
Travis Dillard

Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organizational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas and is passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.

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