Guardians of the Inbox

Last weekend I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

(Yeah, I know—it's been out for quite a while.)

Thoroughly enjoyed it.

One thing I've noticed about all of the Marvel movies is there's almost always a “bonus scene” or two during the credits.

Often these short clips are critical to the bigger arc of the Avengers saga.

I suspect most of the diehard Marvel fans have figured this out, and as a result they stay glued to their screens until the credits end.

Now given that—

How often do you think one of those hardcore fans buys the latest Avengers installment, eagerly hits “Watch Now”… And then fast-forwards to the credits to watch these extra scenes?

There's a clue here that's related to the question I raised last week about including a P.S. in your email.

Conventional wisdom says:

“More people read the P.S. than just about any other part of the message.”

In my experience though, I have seen that a call to action in the P.S. gets fewer responses than that same call to action would get closer to the top of the email.

And when I asked last week how many people are in the habit of jumping right to the bottom of an email and reading the P.S. first, the results were:

YES, I read the P.S. first: 3 people

NO, I read the email first and the P.S. last: 25 people

MAYBE, depends on the email: 4 people

Here's my thinking about how this piece of email marketing folklore came about:

In the formative days of copywriting, the dominant format was physical sales letters.

You know, a message stamped out on steaks of dead tree flesh, conveyed on the back of a gray-clad government employee, and deposited in a metal box near your front door.

And what did most people do when they received a “snail mail” letter that was clearly a sales pitch?

They'd glance at the headline, and if it caught their interest, they would flip to the last page to see the price…

And pretty often, what would catch their eye, but the P.S.

So in this specific format, the P.S. did get a very high readership.

Electronic formats make this kind of non-linear skipping around much less convenient.

It takes half a second to flip to the last page of a sales, glance at the offer, and go back to the first page without even losing your place.

Doing the same thing on a long email or web page might take several seconds of scrolling.

It's like fast-forwarding to the end of an Avengers movie to watch the bonus scenes first.

There's enough friction that most people just don't do it.

People consume digital formats like email and web pages in a more linear way.

And because fewer people have a chance to read it, the P.S. isn't the attention-grabbing powerhouse that it used to be.

The takeaway here:

Don't bury your call to action in the P.S., thinking that it'll get more attention there.

Unless of course you plan to print out your email and get busy licking stamps…