The Great Banana Bread Experiment: Are People Really Reading Your Emails?

bread_500pxA couple of weeks ago, I sent out an important message to my entire staff about IT support. We had recently put in some technologies to make it easier for staff to request IT support during business and non-business hours, and some of our procedures had changed. The subject line began with PLEASE READ, and it came directly from me, Joanna Pineda, CEO and the person who signs everyone’s paycheck.

The email was longish so I decided to do a test. At the very bottom of the email, I wrote:

“BTW, if you read all the way down to this message, send me an email with the words “banana bread” in the subject line. I’ll bring in banana bread for you next week and for God’s sake, don’t give this away on Slack or any other method. Curious to see how many people will read this message. Cheers.”

So how many people sent me a banana bread email? Out of 40 people, seven people sent me emails. Seven – that’s it!

To be fair, the IT team already knew the procedures. And I had discussed the procedures with a few staff before sending the emails.

kate_bread_smDuring staff meeting last week, I asked everyone if they had: read but not responded, skimmed and not read my banana bread message, or if they didn’t read the message at all. I gave everyone amnesty if they told me the truth. I got these responses:

  • I already know the policies
  • I skimmed the part about the policies to make sure I knew what I needed to know
  • Too long, didn’t read
  • I don’t like banana bread
  • I didn’t see the email

I conducted a similar experiment a couple of months back when I sent an email to my son’s Cub Scout pack, of which I’m the committee chair. The email contained information about the next pack meeting, an upcoming camping trip… Yada, yada – if you’re a Scout parent, you understand me. At the bottom, I said:

“Okay, thanks for reading this far. If you got this far, email me and put the word “magnet” in the subject line and I’ll give you a Friends of Scouting magnet at the next meeting.”

Out of 60 people on the list, three responded. Two said they’d take a magnet and one said, “Magnet – but I don’t need a magnet. What fun!”

I know this wasn’t a scientific test, and the emails weren’t life or death, but I think these experiments are pretty illustrative of what really happens when we send out emails. We look at our open and click rates and pray that those who opened actually read the message. Are they actually reading your message in its entirety? God, most likely not.

What are the takeaways here? For starters:

  • Keep your emails short(er)
  • Don’t bury important calls to action at the bottom of your message
  • Test your campaigns

If you’ve read all the way to the bottom of this blog post, submit a comment on this post using the word SWAG, and I’ll send a Matrix Group pen to the first 25 people. And if you decide to bury an Easter Egg in your next email newsletter, please write the results of your experiment in the comments as well or send me an email.

22 thoughts on “The Great Banana Bread Experiment: Are People Really Reading Your Emails?

  1. You make some great points here, Joanna. I’m about to send out a targeted campaign and, after reading your post, realized that it’s way too long and the most important information is at the end – time to rewrite! Maybe I’ll even do my own experiment and offer people some SWAG.

  2. So true Joanna!–the takeaway needs to be in the first sentence! I have enough pens, but I love your easter egg experiments and may try that myself. :)

  3. SWAG! And that’s the truth about scouting.

    PS, I’m showing your post to a group of new hires we just brought on board.

  4. Swag! But you don’t need to send me a pen. I will take some banana bread at Christmas this year though!

  5. That’s quite a clever and fun way to engage with your audience! It’s great insight in addition to open and clickthrough rates… Wonder what kind of fun Easter Egg we could implement in our emails that go out to thousands of people, but this would be fun to test with a smaller audience.

    Thanks in advance for the SWAG! or… banana bread? :)

  6. I think about this all the time since I’m working on streamlining our internal communications. Great post! SWAG!

  7. Swag. I was just browsing your site, and got curious about the experiment. With so much information at the average persons fingertips today, it seems that reading comprehension is tossed aside because folks get impatient, if there is no immediate punchline or benefit. So much for the old tag line,” Reading is Fundamental!”

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