The advantage of being ugly

I’m presently working with an agency* on a set of emails sequences for an e-commerce brand.

* copywriting, not investigative – I made that sound waaaay cooler than it actually is.

It would seem, from the limited split-tests we’ve done, that our sequences are outperforming the previous ones.


I’m not telling you about this to boast. 

(OK, so a little part of me is…)

There’s a lesson here.

You see, the emails we created… 

… the ones that outperformed the existing ones?

All plain text.

Every single one of them.

“What? No gorgeous graphics, fetching footers, or handsome HTML?”

Nope, none of that. Just plain text emails, exactly like this one.

When you picture the emails you normally get from stores, you think about the bright colours and fancy fonts… the titillating templates and perfect photos.

So what made us go for plain text and, more importantly, why did this generate more revenue?


You see, when we see a flashy email… with it’s all singing and dancing HTML, it looks pretty, but it also screams:


Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t always a bad thing (it’s GREAT for coupons and discounts, for example).

Most of the time though, looking like an advert IS a bad thing… because as soon as the reader spots it’s an ad, they tap “delete”.

A plain text email though? That could be anything. 

Your Aunt Janice sends plain text emails for crying out loud.

“OMG! Is Aunt Janice OK?”

Get a plain text email and you’re going to have to read that sucker to find out whether it belongs in the “BIN IT” or “KEEP IT” pile.

Getting them to read your words is the first battle you need to win and the plain-text email is like turning up to a water fight with a firetruck.

The plain text email is like a handwritten envelope – it commands our attention.

“If you want to stand out in the world of the beautiful… be ugly.”

If you’ve been struggling with fancy graphics and photos to make your weekly email stand out, give plain text a go.

Write down what you want to say and send it, plain text style.

Let me know how you get on.