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Email Marketing and Subjective Advertising

Eat the brain first!

May 17, 2020
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Messages hide everywhere you look. Nothing you see is meaningless. If you can call yourself a marketing expert, you must understand how important these hidden messages are. However, keyword advertising is not as easy as it seems in email marketing. For example, a well known snack manufacturer and brand uses subjective advertising on their logo. In case you haven’t noticed: two people are sharing a chip and salsa in the latest Tostitos logo. This is a way for the brand to suggest to customers to share their chips when in social settings, yet never saying it out loud. One can image that customers who see the picture 'hidden' in the logo automatically feel that these snacks will be a great addition to their next social gathering. This is an driving statement for the company that makes those chips.

Obviously, subjective advertising is something that needs to be discussed, as some will object to the practice. Do you need to include subjective advertising in your email marketing? Before you jump in and make the decision to go ahead and inject hidden messages in your next campaign, let’s talk about it.

What is subjective advertising?

Simply said: subjective advertising is the art of playing with people’s minds. It is the practice of sending a message to the media users without making that message explicit. For good reason, this practice is often criticized. Yes, and somewhat ironically, unbeknown to the general public, subjective advertising everywhere they look. Subjective advertising is the use of subjective (a.k.a. hidden) messaging in content design. The goal of subjective advertising is to engage the subconscious of the viewer without telling him or her what to do or think.

To most people,  subjective advertising is simply messages hiding in images -- like in the Tostitos example above. However, creating subjective messages is rarely if ever an active decision on the part of the designer: it is simply part of the visual design process. This process encompasses the choice of uncommon colors, shapes and text to create subtle, subconscious images as messages. So, while images play a huge role in the core of any email marketing campaign, your marketing team will use everything from color psychology to word play.

Four examples

It’s hard to create your own subjective content if you haven’t done it before. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the four best examples of best advertising in email marketing. Each of these examples stands for original reasons and goes back to why we loved each other.

Vinyl Me Please

We started with this example from Vinyl Me Please, because the opening imagery does an impressive job of getting the reader into the musical mood. First, the brand name includes the word vinyl. When most people think of vinyl, their brains go back to the great roundabout vinyl records they used to play and share music in the 80s. Now, look back at that primary image, what shape is it in? Large round circle like a vinyl record. Next, what words in that primary image attract you? Besides the brand name, it has the phrase “in rotation”. Again, when you think of vinyl records, you know they are played by rotating machines., what we see with “On Rotation” is not just advertising. When a circle moves, it rotates in one place. It appears to repeat its pattern. In music, when we add a song to a rotation, we repeat it.

Have you seen what they did there? In this email, Vinyl Me Pleas doesn’t just tell readers they like the music they announce. They tell them they enjoy it and play it. All that information is packed into a top-down image, and we need very few words to conclude that.


Images play an important role in subjective advertising. When the image in this example from Glossier plays a role in their subjective advertising message, it is the headline text that drives the ball.  “You are a very important factor.” If you are on this email list, you know that I know the brand for its beauty products, so looking at this title we will already enjoy the upcoming product. Why? Since we are the most important ingredient, we must love it. Right? Now that your brain is in motion, we are presented with a famous picture of a girl holding a sample perfume bottle. This email will introduce readers to a fresh perfume with ingredients we like.

Supplemental Advertising in Email Marketing: Six Words and an Image, Our Brain Already Says We Love This New Perfume Because We Are The Most Important. Well, Glossier.


Using Headliner text, Bebe takes things in the direction they suggest. In Western culture, the word “get in your pants” is often a sexist character. However, Bebe used it to make his audience members think. Soon, most people who receive this message from Bebe will not consider the sexual meaning of the headline text. Instead, they think about ​​conveying it, which is as sexy as it can be to pull off this look. The image that follows the Headliner text reinforces this idea because the brand has used two beautiful models to show off these “must wear” leggings they are trying to sell.

The accompanying message in this email is that if you buy these leggings, you will look just like these models. Four words and again an image to convey this message to the reader. subjective advertising in email marketing activities. If you are trying to persuade your audience to buy.


Nike is notorious for using subjective advertising in their email marketing efforts. They know how to use text, imagery and more to convince audiences that Nike products are needed, and this email example is no different. For this example, let’s start our analysis with an email subject line that can attract readers’ attention:

“Red styles to get your heart racing”

Since this is a February announcement, the reader’s mind thinks red = Valentine’s Day = heart. Now, as it is a popular brand of sports apparel, it takes readers’ minds to rise from “heart racing”. When you email your inbox in February, the word “red” in the subject line and the reference to heart racing are all done. The customer’s end is rational: it’s an email about shoes. Now, when the reader opens the message, they are greeted with a red shoe. Color Psychology says that red stops readers. Nike removed it because, in the live preview of this email, the red shoe is one image seen in their title animation. However, it is enough for the reader to see every shoe shining on their screen. Thanks to some well-chosen keywords and color selection, Nike is subtle about the moving shoes this email brings us. This is a quality advertisement for workplace email marketing.


subjective advertising in email marketing may not be as hard to find. In fact, everywhere you look, there are examples that can help you in your creative process. From logos to strategic use of text and colors, you’ll find endless ways to include important messages in your email marketing campaign. If you don’t know where to start by creating subjective messages, start:

  • Keep in mind that words and phrases do not always share the same meaning - plays with different variations of popular styles.
  • Researching the Psychology of Color - Unique colors lead your readers in different directions.
  • A / B checks your content before sending it - If you don’t split it before sending a check, you don’t know how your readers will respond to this marketing strategy.
  • Psychology plays a very important role in advertising. See our guide to using psychology to improve your email click-through rates today.

This blog provides general information and discussion on email marketing and related topics. The content (the “Content”) provided on this blog is not intended to make up financial, legal or tax advice and seek professional advice before working on any of the content. All content is “as is” and we do not warrant or represent any content.

The Mailman

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