AI marketing language platform Persado analysed email campaigns run by 50 UK retailers and travel companies over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion period last year.
It categorised the 171 email subject lines under 15 emotions, and then gauged the reaction from 65 million email contacts to determine which emotions were most likely to elicit a response.
Urgency – messages such as "hurry" and "time’s running out" – was the most common emotion, appearing in more than one in five of the emails sent. But it was not one of the most effective.
Instead, the five emotional qualities found to deliver the best response were:
Challenge: phrases such as "are you ready?" and "prepare yourself"
Intimacy: messages that suggest familiarity or imply an existing relationship between the brand and consumer
Encouragement: the likes of "go for it", "treat yourself" and "almost there"
Guilt: language that plays on the fear of missing out, such as "a great offer inside – don’t let it slip away"
Fascination: focusing on the promise of new experiences, by saying things like "you have to try this"
Assaf Baciu, co-founder and senior vice-president product and engineering at Persado, said: "As Black Friday and Cyber Monday become increasingly crucial for the UK market, it’s only natural that brands react by trying to shout the loudest to attract attention.
"To rise above the noise, businesses need to avoid taking a ‘me-too’ attitude, and instead elevate their marketing messages to communicate with customers on an emotional level. Put simply, focusing on the language and emotions that resonate, combined with the attractiveness of their offers, can be key to success."
Emotional language accounted for as much as 60% of audience response to email campaigns, Baciu said.
He added: "When it comes to situations such as Black Friday, consumers are primed to scan for deals, but emotional language might give your brand a breakthrough moment in the inbox. By applying emotional language to their marketing, retailers can get personal with customers and demonstrate that they are helpful, handy and human."