Email call to action – a (horrifying) example from real life
30 Aug, 2015

You’ll never guess which company completely fails the test of effective design!

Last week I posted three examples of marketing emails that I discovered in my Inbox, and posed a number of questions to think about. Did you work out the difference between a good Call to Action and a bad one?

If you are marketing (in any medium), your CTA is vital. Get it wrong, and you’ll fail to convert leads into sales. The CTA is like a helping hand that takes your customer by the arm and leads them through the door of decision to the place where they act.

Next week I’ll be showing you how to word your CTA effectively, and how to design and position it for maximum click-through. But for now, let’s look at one that straight out doesn’t work.


The ambiguous CTA (or “How to do it completely wrong”)

Calltoaction1Your call to action tells your customer how to take the next step with your company. In email marketing, it’s usually a link or a button that takes the customer to your landing page.

Look at this email I received from a certain food retailer. This company is so adept at marketing that even toddlers recognise their brand. According to one survey, their logo is even more widely recognised than the crucifix – the central emblem of the world’s largest religion!

It seems that this company’s marketing is so exemplary that it’s essentially proselytism. So how did they fail so miserably here?

Given that the current price of a Big Mac burger in most Australian cities is in the vicinity of $5.30, these meal deals must seem like a bargain to McCustomers. Alas, it’s not clear what action the reader needs to take to claim these deals.


Breaking it down

I truly struggled to understand this email. I wondered if it was just me, so I tested it on a couple of friends. I opened the email on my phone, and passed it to them. Everyone did exactly what I had done, which was to press on the white box that said “Buy a Big Mac Small Meal Deal for only $5”

Not only that, but every single one of us was confused by the subsequent lack of response. And every single one of us tried pushing the button again. Still nothing loaded.

Oddly, in the email above, there is only one button that is hyperlinked, and that is the red “Find your closest Macca’s” button at the bottom. That’s hardly a helpful CTA when your reader doesn’t know how to claim the special deal.

It turns out that the actual CTA in this email is the thoroughly plain black-on-grey text that reads “Flash your voucher”. You know – the bit of the email that you probably didn’t even notice the first time you looked at it.

McDonald’s doesn’t actually want the reader to click through to a voucher. It turns out that this advertising email is the voucher! The intention is for the customer to load the email on their phone and present the screen to the ecstatic teenager behind the counter. What a shame that the CTA didn’t explain this.


Picking up the pieces

This email needed a clearer CTA, and it needed to remove the misleading design elements that looked like clickable buttons. When a rectangle is captioned with a phrase starting with “Buy”, readers are going to assume that they can do so by pressing on it. In this case, that assumption is wrong.

A simple change in design, such as bordering the offer with a dotted line (the international symbol for “This is a coupon”) might have cleared things up. Alternatively, they could set up a landing page with an actual coupon, to be reached by clicking on the intuitive spaces. This latter option has the added advantage of allowing McDonald’s to monitor their click-through rates, which I will discuss in a few weeks.

Changing the CTA to read “Present this screen at the counter” would be a huge step in the right direction, but it also needs to be made more prominent. Flooding your corporate colours across the page, and then tucking your CTA in black text on grey is terrible design. Is the CTA trying to hide? Remember that the aim is to lead your customer through the door of decision to take action.


The take-away (would you like fries with that?)

There are a couple of lessons to learn:

  • – Confusion inhibits conversion. Make it easy for your customer to buy.
  • – If it looks like a button, make sure it links somewhere.
  • – Your CTA needs to be precise.
  • – Your CTA absolutely must promote action.
  • – Above all, your CTA needs to be visible. Preferably, it should be one of the first things your reader notices, as we’ll see next week.