How to Take Your Emails from Serious to Seriously Engaging

JJ Tysonconversion optimizationLeave a Comment

“Humanity takes itself too seriously… If the cave-man had known how to laugh, history would have been different.” Oscar Wilde.

Re-Examining Email Strategies

Here at UpSellit, we talk a lot about email. Research shows that it’s one of the most effective ways for brands to engage with their customers. That being said, the sheer amount of email people receive is staggering.

269 billion emails are sent every single day, with the average user receiving about 88 daily messages. (1) That’s a recipe for email overload.

For that reason, it’s important, now more than ever, that your emails are engaging your customers. It’s true that incentives and urgency can work wonders for a campaign. However, a powerful marketing tool we often overlook is humor. When utilized properly, humor has been proven to increase consumer attention, interest and recall. (2)

In contrast, marketing emails, (perhaps not unjustly) have a reputation for being dry and repetitive. Humor is the antidote for a lifeless email. It catches a customer’s attention, and gives your messaging a sense of fun.

Aligning Humor with Your Brand

Before we dive in: a note. Not every brand should use humor in their remarketing emails. Humor is an effective tool for increasing engagement, but it has to mesh with the overall image of the brand.

If you sell a very serious product or maintain a stern, authoritative image, there’s no need to risk that for the sake of some funny emails. However, as brands like Old Spice have proven, taking a risk in favor of well-executed humor can pay off in huge ways.

Subject Lines

How can you add humor to your emails? Start with your subject line. These bite-sized nuggets largely determine the fate of your email: Opened or trashed.

Recently, I got on an email from a well-known company. This was the actual subject line:

  1. Save now on products from Brand X.

There’s no accounting for taste – but this is pretty dull. I don’t know if you could make a sale sound less interesting if you tried. Instead, I wish they’d done something more eye-catching and fun, like these:

  1. It’s a Sale-abration! Lock in Great Deals from Brand X.
  2. Come Sale Away! Save Big on Brand X Now.
  3. You Miss 100% of the Sales You Don’t Shop!
  4. This Sale Wouldn’t Even Disappoint Its Parents

Obviously, these examples wouldn’t work for everyone. But if your brand considers itself fun and relatable, your subject lines should be – well – fun and relatable.

Because remember, what’s the point of a remarketing email? To engage customers.

Body Text

In the past, we’ve often mentioned that shorter emails tend to perform better. Utilizing humor doesn’t mean you need to lengthen your emails. There is no formula for a perfect email, but it certainly isn’t: “Old email + One joke = Perfect Email”

Having a sense of humor in your emails should be reflected throughout the body text. The entire email doesn’t need to be a joke, but it should maintain a light tone.

For instance, consider the following body copy for a fictional skin care brand.  


Hello Jan,

Xavier Skin Care is having a sale. Don’t miss your chance to save.

Click here to get 50% off your order. Hurry, the sale ends soon.


Xavier Skin Care


I’ve never been so bored by a great deal. This email is functional, and some people might click on it, but if I wasn’t planning to buy, I’m probably not going to be convinced by these four sentences. 

Instead, this message could be re-written to play off of what the brand does.


Hi Jan,

Your skin deserves a treat.

Think about it: it’s always been there for you, and even under pressure, it holds you together. 

Treat your skin like you’d want to be treated. We’ll even meet you halfway; get 50% off when you order now!

Xavier Skincare


Like the first example, this email is only 4 sentences long, but it conveys the brand’s message in a whole new way.

The best part?

Even if the reader doesn’t see the wordplay, they’ll see the incentive because it’s underlined. This means you won’t lose the skim readers, but those who do read the email will be in for something fun. 

Another added bonus: if people enjoy your emails, they’ll read them more consistently. While this isn’t exactly rocket science, it can be easy to forget that our emails are being read by actual people. Adding a little funny business creates the sense that you’re putting some thought into what you’re sending.

Putting It All Together

Humor lightens the mood, changes the conversation, and makes emails enjoyable to read. When used appropriately, humor is a highly effective tool for creating customer engagement, and crafting emails that people enjoy reading.

Next week, we’ll dive deeper into aligning humor with your brand. Until then, keep engaging your customers, and create boldly. We’ll see you next week.



  1. Robins, A. (2018, March 19). The Shocking Truth about How Many Emails Are Sent. Retrieved from
  2. Carlson, K. A. (2011). The impact of humor on memory: Is the humor effect about humor? Humor – International Journal of Humor Research, 24(1). doi:10.1515/humr.2011.002



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