Step By Step: advice from the New Kids On The Block on using images in email

(your take-away: develop a bit of habitual OCD when using images in email marketing. It will save you effort and embarrassment, and improve communication with your clients)

Step By Step: how to improve your approach to email marketing by being attentive to imagesI subscribe to a lot of marketing emails specifically to keep tabs on what others are doing and to inspire myself to do better design when jobs come along.

I must admit, however, that this is not the reason I subscribe to the NKOTB mailing list.

The New Kids captured my pre-adolescent heart in 1989 and have held a special, albeit regressive and irrational, place ever since.

So, yes. I am a likely-convertible audience member.

When I opened a recent email from “the boys,” I happened to be on my crappy little PC laptop, which makes viewing things a chore and tries to keep me “safe” at every turn. While I’m not hugely concerned about having to click a couple times more to access content, it sometimes results in viewing pages without images. Add to that the fact that Gmail stops email image loads from new email addresses, and when I eagerly clicked on the email to find out what the “VERY special announcement” was, I saw an email stripped of images & design elements. (check out the side-by-side comparison in this image)

This is pretty common across email clients (I’m looking at you, Outlook), and I’ve known this for a while.

I don’t expect my clients to be doing a ton of cross-client (or cross-browser) testing (who has time for that when you’re busy pouring candles or chasing your 3 year old around your store?), but I DO want my clients to develop a little bit of OCD when it comes to creating their content, specifically when it comes to using images in email or on the web.

D'nelle before the NKOTB concert in Nashville 2009

Not gonna lie – this outfit was just as fun in 2009 as it was in 1989.

So, without having to sweat over the details of SEO or design, how can you make sure that you don’t look as silly as I do in my NKOTB outfit (besides holding back on declaring your love for Jordan Knight)?

  • be diligent about filling in all fields in your CMS (specifically – check out the sign-off, where it says “Love, NKOTB signatures” – I guarantee that if the person in charge of this campaign had designed it with an eye to no-image reading, it would have instead read “Love, Donny, Jordan, Jonathan, Danny & Joey.”  Also, take a look at the upper right corner of the email, where the social share buttons are – they’re impossible to read when the images are off)
  • don’t let your email rely solely on images to communicate (this email actually does a good job of that – the images aren’t crucial to the messaging)
  • write subject lines and introductory sentences thoughtfully (the NKOTB crew does a good job of this, consistently. They tease without giving away the farm so that I want to click and read further. I learned that being coy can pay off in subject lines back when i worked on Harrah’s Total Rewards emails – users were much more likely to open emails when the subject line was a little mysterious or flirty)
  • involve an expert (this is where I give BIPI a plug… even if you compose your emails, it’s definitely worth it to involve someone with a trained eye (even if it’s a proofreader!) to take one last look at a campaign’s proof before you drop it)

From now on, when you proof your emails, try and look at them with the images turned off! For bonus points, check out this recent post on Email Design Review – they showcase a really cool use of the images-not-loaded concept!


by | Last Updated: Apr 30, 2012 | marketing advice