It does matter if you are Black and White

black & white

I work with many Digital communication teams and one thing I have noticed is that there are those in the industry who think that digital communication is all about promoting colourful messages. This is evident in company newsletters, blogs, survey e-mail invitations and various forms of marketing communication collaterals.

Undoubtedly, colourful emails are more attractive, but with the rising levels of content in today’s digital world, users are paying less and less attention to the myriads of contents they’re exposed to on a daily basis. Thus, making it more difficult for marketers to get their message across.

While the traditional rich text or black and while email is not always as sexy, one cannot dispute its effectiveness. This is simply an argument that today’s Digital Communication supporters can’t win. For example, recently, my company was commissioned to work on a project with Vistaprint where we were able to boost Vistaprint’s email response rate from 6% to 14% with continuous growth. This increase in response rate was partly due to using plain, traditional, black and white email.

When we initially launched the project, we designed a survey invitation (below) with NPS questions, along with Vistaprint’s branding and various CSS elements that contributed to the design. The survey was designed to measure customer’s overall experience with the company and was deployed only to those who’ve recently purchased a Vistaprint product.



More than 10,000 survey invitations were sent, with roughly 656 responses collected. Although the client was happy with this 6% response rate, I knew this was not acceptable for a product feedback survey. I thought, surely, there must be something we can do to increase the response rate.

The surge of digital platforms has made it possible for marketers to reach a wide range of customers through their email campaigns. Gmail, for example, is a great platform for email marketing campaigns. 80% of emails sent were originated from gmail. The company has added a new tabular interface on their emails interface, as well as mobile categories called Primary, Social and Promotions. In other words, emails that contain heavy CSS elements are bound to land in the promotions tab. This will present a serious challenge for marketers who are heavy CSS users.

vista 2

To address this issue, I proceeded to draft a simple, plain text email for Vistaprint’s campaign (image below).  Within 36 hours, we collected over 1300 responses. The result – a 14% response rate increase.

vista 3

In today’s digital world, simplicity is key. Email subscribers are more prone to open and read a simple text email. It’s not as sexy, but it’s certainly more effective.