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Plain Text vs HTML Emails: Why Ugly, Plain Text Emails Reign Supreme

Most businesses — regardless of their niche or industry — sabotage their sales, their relationships, their email deliverability, and their productivity by designing beautiful HTML emails and sending them to their list.

Heavily designed emails can take 8 hours (or longer) to design. That’s the first strike.

They’re also more likely to end up in the “Promotions” tab on Gmail. Or worse, they land in the dreaded Spam folder alongside Nigerian prince emails offering the recipient billions of dollars. (I’m not kidding…) Strike numero dos.

Because of this, they tank your email deliverability. The more emails you have going to Promotions or Spam, the more likely future emails get redirected there. Strike three.

And the most insidious part?

They cripple your sales — and they wreck your relationship with your list. (I’ll reveal why your relationship with your list is more important than sales and how to use the “pimping your personality” secret for building a rabidly loyal list in another article.)

You put all these “side effects” of heavily-designed emails on steroids when you always send sales, discounts, and “Last chance!” type emails.

They make you look needier than an incel trying to find a girlfriend.

They “condition” your list to devalue your emails.

And worse yet...

They Create A Vicious, Downward Spiral

Of Cheapening The Products And Services You Offer!

Which means, the only way you can get potential customers to buy your product or service is by offering them better discounts. This filters out high-quality clients. And instead lines up zombie-esque, freebie-seeking, pain-in-the-arse type clients who dump you as soon as a similar product or service has a lower price (even if it’s not as effective, helpful, or useful as your product or service).

I’ve been a professional, freelance email copywriter for nearly two years as I write this. I’ve worked with all sorts of niches including supplements, alternative health, relationship coaches, real estate coaches, CBD companies, e-commerce brands, agencies, and more.

And through my work, I’ve discovered…

Without Exception —

Ugly As Sin, Plain Text Emails Make More Moolah

And Build Stronger Relationships With Your Lists Than HTML Emails

Plus, they’re not as time-consuming as wasting a full workday designing a beautiful HTML email that nobody opens, reads, or clicks on. Much less buys from.

That’s why I’m gonna explain the psychology behind why ugly, plain text emails reign supreme.

The Psychology of Why Ugly, Plain Text Emails Reign Supreme

I already covered many of the “fact-based” reasons why plain text emails are superior in every way to heavily designed emails.

Here’s a quick recap:

1. They take less time to create so you can focus on more important parts of your business.

I can whip up a good email that brings in a bunch of cashola in as little as 10 minutes. Now, some emails will take longer, but I’ve never spent an entire 8-hour workday writing one email.

You can do the same with consistent practice.

2. They improve your email deliverability.

The more images, HTML elements, and links you have in your email, the more likely they’re going to get “ticked” as Spam by our humble overlords at Google or other email service providers.

3. They make more sales.

For the simple fact that more people will see your emails if they land in the Primary inbox. And we’ll dive deeper into this when we get to the psychology behind using plain text emails.

4. They help you build a more loyal email list and customer base.

This is especially true when you email like the way I use. (If you’d like a proven and professional email copywriter to help you make more sales, you can schedule a Discovery Call with me here.)

Those are the cold, hard facts.

Okay, back to the psychology piece:

The psychology piece is the single most important reason why all alternative health and supplement brands make more sales, increase their customers’ LTV, and create a more loyal following by sending plain text emails.

Here’s why:

Put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes for a second.

They’re being BOMBARDED by emails all day. I have 40,691 unopened emails in my Gmail account, for example. (I’m obviously not a believer in Inbox Zero for several reasons I won’t get into here.)

Most of these emails look exactly like every other email in their inbox. Sure, some emails will use different colors or HTML layouts. They’ll use different words. But for the most part, they look identical to every other email in your recipient’s inbox.

Right off the bat, when you use plain text emails, your emails look different than every other email in their inbox. Every time you hit “send,” you’re differentiating your brand, your message, and the products or services you offer.

Which is what marketing’s about, after all.

Not to mention, heavily designed emails scream, “I’m a brand and here’s a discount, won’t you please, please, please check out our ultra-amazing products that are unlike any others!!!”

All the best marketers (aka the direct response marketers) learned something long ago, before emailing or the internet were even a thing:

The best way to make your cash register cha-ching is by making your ad look like it’s not an ad!

This is why old-school direct response marketers sent sales letters through snail mail that appeared like it was from a personal friend. From the outside of the letter, there was no sign that a business sent you the letter. Every time they sent snail mail, they had to pay postal fees. And they learned that if their letters looked like an advertisement, it’d get immediately trashed. But when they disguised their letters as if it was from a personal friend, you’d at least get an “at bat.” (i.e. the letter would get opened instead of dumped in the trash can alongside spoiling food.)

This is also why ads in newspapers that disguised themselves as editorials convert better than ads that scream, "I'm an ad."

If your ad smells like an ad — people treat it like an ad. And people hate ads!

So it is with email.

Plain text emails “mimic” the way you send emails back and forth with your friends, family, and colleagues.

When was the last time you sent a friend a heavily-designed HTML style email? I’m not talking about inserting a GIF or meme in the email. No, I’m talking about taking hours to design a perfect HTML template, filled with images and pretty buttons.


So don’t do that to your list!

Treat your list like it’s filled with your best friends and family members and your emails instantly become more persuasive.

The great direct response copywriter, Eugene Schwartz once said:

“The ugly thing in a world of beauty stands out.”

Double down on ugly and watch your sales grow.

And we’re not done yet. It goes deeper:

Plain text emails also give you more leeway to write.

If you look at any of these heavily designed emails, they have minimal words. The thinking behind this is that everyone has the attention span of a lab rat, so less words = better.

Nothing could be further from the trooth!

Yes, we have pathetic attention spans.

Yes, we’ve never had more potential distractions that are only a click away.

But if you write in a way that people enjoy reading and that helps them solve some pain in their life — you can “get away” with writing more without everyone closing and deleting your emails.

This lets you “pimp your personality,” tell engaging stories, and create a relationship with your readers.

Think about this for a second:

Avengers Endgame — the most successful movie ever from a box office perspective — was 3 hours long.

Before Endgame came out, there were 23-something movies that led up to it. Totalling nearly 50 hours of “content” in total.

The same is true with TV shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. And even podcast shows like Joe Rogan.

If people can engage with these forms of content for so long, our pitifully short attention spans aren’t to blame. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because your content bores your audience to death.

When was the last time you watched paint dry?

Would you blame your short attention span for not watching paint dry? Or would you chalk it up to a boring, unnecessary, and useless way to spend your time?

Yet, heavily designed emails with minimal text are like watching paint dry.

They offer no “vAlUe!” (despite how many of these brands think their emails are full of value).

They offer no special insight, secret, or hack that could help their struggling customers enhance their life.

They don’t tell stories (which are naturally engaging because they’re baked into our human code through millions of years of evolution).

And They’re About As Entertaining

As Watching Paint Dry On A Friday Night!

Do you think people would pay to tune in to almost 50 hours of the Marvel Cinematic Universe if each movie was about Tony Stark, Thor, and Captain America watching paint dry?

Yet so many brands do this in their email, advertising, and marketing all the time.

My mentor (the esteemed Ben Settle) always says, “boredom is the death of any sale.” And heavily designed emails lull your audience to sleep better than a lullaby and a full glass of warm milk.

On the flip side…

When you “pimp your personality,” share entertaining stories, and tease your list, you’re going to start building a relationship with them instead of boring them to death. (I’ll cover each of these topics in more depth in a later article.)

Do this consistently and people look forward to getting your emails, opening them, and buying whatever you’re promoting in them.

Last point on this psychology thang:

People like when they can identify with other people. Whether they’ve shared similar trials and tribulations, want to emulate them, or if they want someone who has similar ideologies and beliefs as them.

People cling to other people.

But people don’t cling to “brands.”

A “brand” is a cloudy-term that doesn’t mean anything. In fact, most people have a deep disdain for brands and corporations. (In most cases, rightfully so…)

But they can identify with people.

They can identify with YOU.

I’ll leave you with this weird little human nature quirk:

It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is.

How quickly it improves your customer's lives.

How much time it saves them.

Or how much it alleviates agonizing, excruciating pain that your customers are dealing with.

Humans are emotional creatures. We make buying decisions emotionally then try to rationalize them logically afterwards.

And nobody will buy your product if they’re not first sold on YOU.

Plain text emails help you sell YOU first.

And once people buy YOU, they’ll buy almost everything you offer. As long it enhances their life in some way (either by removing their pain, saving them time, or spitting out cheddar cheese into their bank account).

If you want to tap into the supreme power of plain text emails but suck at writing or aren’t sure what you’re doing, use the link below to set up a Discovery Call:

I have three levels of service:

1. Critiquing your emails.

2. Consulting you on your email marketing strategy.

3. Becoming your “ghostwriter” so you can work on growing other areas of your business.

But I don’t always have room for more clients and frequently shut down the link above when my schedule is full.

If you tried to book something, but the link didn’t work, use the link below to join my waiting list and you’ll be the first to know when a new spot opens up.

Join my waitlist here (if the link above doesn't work):

John Brandt

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