The Case for (and Against) Consistency, Part 2

Last week, our two marketing pros made their opening arguments in the case for (AJ) and against (Mel) consistency in email marketing. It was a knock-down, drag-out flurry of nonstop case-makers, but after one round, this (polite and respectful) war of words is just getting started.

This week, we’re opening up the floor for some classic point/counterpoint. Let’s keep things clean, folks.

AJ: I see what you’re saying, Mel. In certain situations, a more flexible approach can actually increase engagement and interest. Incorporating the uniqueness of particular businesses, especially creative outlets, allows the sender to capitalize on their organizations built-in charm and intrigue. That makes a lot of sense.

But, even within a format that varies from newsletter to newsletter, shouldn’t there be some level of consistency in content style, format, and especially branding? Too much fluidity in those elements can have a dissociative effect on the recipient. It’s nice to imagine a subscriber base that trusts (and responds to) your sender’s name implicitly, but is it worth the risk of potentially confusing them?

Even the ultra-familiar subscribers you mentioned are nothing more than a group of individuals with individual needs and habits. There may be a few who are happy to follow your aesthetic flights of fancy, but what about those who need at least a few roots to keep things grounded?

Mel:  I think you make some good points about the reality of the average email recipient’s life. In a fast paced world, marketers have to be ready to meet their reader wherever they are; including rushed for time and unwilling to engage with something that isn’t easily recognizable. That being said, I do question how often a subscriber would be actually confused by what they’re looking at… unless it’s a wall ‘o text which is a big no-no anyway. Maybe that’s a matter of content. Shouldn’t the from address, subject line, article titles and images make it pretty obvious what’s going on, given the obvious caveat that some phone users won’t view images and all that? If I open a newsletter from a gardening company that I shop with (even if I don’t open it by knowingly clicking on it) and if I’m greeted with a picture of a tiller, vegetable starts or pruning advice, I’ll figure out pretty quickly what I’m looking at. Surely there are circumstances in which the design and appearance alone are enough to carry the message? 

The identity of the reader is a big factor as well, I would imagine. A person reading their personal emails may respond differently than a business person arriving in the office Monday morning and taking stock of their inbox. Taking careful stock of who your average subscriber is would probably go a long way in knowing whether to following me or AJ when it comes to consistency.

Summing It All Up
Since both Mel and AJ both have such excellent right hooks… wait, I mean such good points for debate, it stands to reason that there needs to be a fine balance. A reasonable approach might be to decide on framework that would be solid. This might include anything from brand colors and logo, to a consistent layout that varies in decor, so to speak, but doesn’t stray from an organizational standpoint. There has to be something that the reader can hold on to as well as room for creativity, right?

Still unsure which approach will work best for you? Test. Always test. Your personal campaign numbers will always provide the best insight.