The Goldilocks Effect and Email Marketing

25 Mar 2014
Best Practices
Ian Marshall

The Goldilocks Effect aka The Rule of 3

We seem to be powerless when it comes down to the Goldilocks Effect otherwise known as the Rule of Three .

In the early '80's Joel Huber and Christopher Puto did a little experiment at Duke University involving students and beer.

• In the first experiment, they offered just two varieties: a bargain beer (at $1.80) or a slightly better premium beer (at $2.60). Two-thirds of their students went for the premium.

• In the second experiment, they added an inferior, super-discount beer at $1.60. Nobody selected this cheapo option. But the bargain beer, now the middle of three choices, saw its share rise from 33 percent to 47 percent.

• Finally, the researchers took away the super-bargain and added a super-premium option at $3.40. Suddenly, it was the premium beer that was the middle of three options, and guess what? Its popularity share rose from 66 percent to 90 percent.

These findings were so impressive that Netflix is even testing this approach to their pricing: Good, better and best.

So what does this have to do with Email Marketing? 

Well the super-smart people over at the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) got a little worried when they started to notice a decrease in their email engagement rates. So they began to experiment with the Rule of Three.

Kathy Ray the managing Editor of the DMA Email Marketing Council’s newsletter said that, "(A)fter noting a decrease in engagement we decided to test the subject line using the Rule of Three, resulting in an uplift of 30% in CTR. This was so successful that all the DMA followed suit with all the remaining newsletters."

So how can you apply the Rule of Three to your next email marketing campaign?

Simple – present your three key ideas in a compelling way.

Here's an example of our most recent Subject Line: The Goldilocks effect, we learn to speak russian (sort-of) & 7 easily testable email elements

The Rule of Three Subject Line example

This Subject Line comes in at a little over our 90 character subject line length that we talk about in "7 Easy to Test Email Marketing Elements" and way over the 39 character sweet spot we've been using lately but we're OK with that for this test..

It's worth testing this out on your next few campaigns. Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy a 30% boost to open rates too (fingers crossed).

We hope you’re having a great week!

The MyBizMailer Team

P.S. You've made it this far - why not take a look at our pricing packages while you're here.

Reader Comments

Fran├žois says:
March 28 2014 at 07:56

Fascinating and, as always, instructive. Thank you!

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