If we were to suggest plain text for your next email campaign, you'd probably laugh in our faces. "The superiority of HTML email to plain-text email for driving response has become an accepted truth in email marketing," says Mark Brownlow in a post at the Email Marketing Reports blog. "Alchemy Worx, for example, recently demonstrated the power of images: Adding a small, relevant icon to an email boosted total clicks by over 50%."

But, he argues, there are reasons to consider plain text for the occasional message:

  • HTML has become nearly ubiquitous, and a plain-text message—free from color and images—will stand out like "a blank canvas in a Picasso exhibition." 
  • HTML is associated with one-to-many communications. "Plain text still says 'personal' (all my personal email is plain text) and/or 'important' (much transactional email is still text-based)," notes Brownlow.

Therefore, plain text might effectively create the feeling of more personal, one-to-one communication, such as for the following:

  • Reactivation campaigns
  • Messages from top executives
  • Messages that address serious or emotional issues

"A good compromise for such emails might be a rich-text approach, with a subdued HTML masthead," he suggests, "and then plain text in the main message."

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