Peruse the blogosphere for email marketing guidance, and you'll discover a number of seemingly inviolate dictums—rules that must not be broken if you aspire to a successful email program. But in a post at the Email Marketing Reports blog, Mark Brownlow argues that many "best" practices are in fact simply "safe" practices.

"[I]ndustry experts often take the safe route and preach absolute best practices that aren't always truly best practices," he explains. "But they will keep you out of harm's way." As an example, consider this oft-cited tenet: Thou shalt not send big images because image-blocking technology often obscures your message. "Fact is," he continues, "image-heavy emails—in the right circumstances with the right execution—can outperform the alternatives."

To make his point, Brownlow recounts an experiment in which a Swiss agency tested six versions of an offer sent to 2.1 million recipients. The winner was a large, single image with a text salutation.

So what gives? Should email marketers always play it safe, or is it better to break the rules once in a while? Well, it's a bit of both, according to Brownlow.

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