How to Use the Inverted Pyramid Method in Your Email Design?

What do you need to know about the inverted pyramid email design? The phrase “Less is more” is perfectly accurate for email marketing, especially since most inboxes are crowded with promotional emails. Email marketers face fierce competition for people’s attention all the time.

The challenges start with the subject line, which usually makes or breaks an email campaign already. If you managed to nail the subject line, you “only” need to make your email design & content captivating enough to make your audience engaged.

The inverted pyramid method is an excellent tactic that email marketers should borrow from journalists to make their emails more attractive.

In this article, we are going to teach you how to take advantage of the inverted pyramid model in your email campaigns.

What is the inverted pyramid model?

According to Wikipedia, “The inverted pyramid is a metaphor used by journalists and other writers to illustrate how information should be prioritized and structured.”

The Inverted Pyramid Method

Iit means that you should start:

  1. With a catchy headline or image that already sets clear expectations and clarifies the main message
  2. Have a section that further details the main message
  3. And a third section, which is used to direct people’s attention to more information

You can think of it as a downward pointing arrow that aims to direct the reader’s attention from the top to the bottom.

How do journalists use the inverted pyramid style in writing?

Although the inverted pyramid writing style was born way before the internet, it’s the pattern that most online and offline publications follow these days.

Journalists typically follow the steps below when writing articles based on the inverted pyramid method:

  1. Identify the key message points.
  2. Collect and prioritize secondary information.
  3. Get to the point quickly and use simple language.
  4. Emphasize the first part of every headline or paragraph. The first words or the first sentence should be the most important.
  5. Summarize takeaways at the end of the article.

As an email marketer, you don’t necessarily need to follow these steps blindly. People don’t expect you to summarize the email at the end, for example.

What made the inverted pyramid the standard for journalists and marketers?

It happened simply because of our fast-paced world, which makes everyone busy yet thirsty for new information all the time.

We want information, and we want it FAST!

Human attention span is only 8 seconds

Most sources state that the average attention span of a human is as little as 8 seconds, some are brave enough to say that it’s only 6 seconds these days.

TikTok’s success and the fact that every social network is trying to copy them proved that “shorts” or bite-sized content is the new HYPE. We not only want to consume information fast, but we also want to be entertained fast and keep the dopamine rush for as long as possible.

When we create email marketing campaigns, we face an even shorter attention span in a crowded inbox:

  • We only have a few seconds to grab the subscribers’ attention with the email subject line.
  • We have a second chance for a bit longer glance once they were kind enough to open our email.
  • We need to make sure that the first line or image tells our reader if it’s worth reading on or not.
  • If it’s worth it, they will read a sentence or two for sure, but not much more.
  • We need to direct their attention to the call to action (CTA) right away.

That’s pretty much why the inverted pyramid is the best pattern email marketers can follow in their emails.

How to apply the inverted pyramid method to any design?

It’s not as complex as it sounds. We only need to understand that people tend to scan a website, a page, an article, or even an email before reading.

If they don’t like what you see, they won’t spend another second of their precious time reading. No matter how awesome your email copy is if it’s not presented in a visual hierarchy and in an easily consumable way.

The inverted pyramid in email design

How to use the inverted pyramid method & layout in an email design?

The main aspects of visual hierarchy designers and marketers need to take into account when creating their email campaigns are the following:

  • overall look and feel of the email to visually grab the attention
  • consistent logo and headline usage
  • as few headings and images as possible
  • bold headlines
  • consistent bold or underlined links
  • visually appealing buttons
  • group everything according to their importance
  • use negative space, to differentiate between parts of the email

It might sound a bit complicated, but don’t worry it will be easy to understand if you take a look at the following examples.

Inverted pyramid examples in email campaigns

It’s easiest to apply the inverted pyramid pattern in short promotional emails, but it works in product launch emails, webinar invitations, event reminders, order confirmation emails, welcome emails, newsletters, etc.

Inverted pyramid examples in simple email promotions

Fitbit example for an inverted pyramid email design

This lovely Father’s day email from Fitbit is a great example. It starts with a bold, catchy headline, followed by the details of their Father’s Day Sale, and a to-the-point call to action button.

Pretty wisely, they placed the hero image just under the CTA. On its own, the image is not related to the sale offer at all, but the bright background color and the lovely photo improve our moods and smartly promote Fitbit’s wearable that’s visible on the dad’s hand.

Grammarly example for an inverted pyramid email design

This example from Grammarly uses a HUGE 50% OFF illustration, surrounded with a colorful blue background color. It already meets the Cyber Monday mood, and the fact that they provide a 50% discount will make people scan through their offer and act fast by clicking “Upgrade Now”.

reMarkable example for an inverted pyramid email design

As you can see on reMarkable’s example, you don’t necessarily need to stick with the usual headline, paragraph, CTA pattern.

If your product design is eye-catchy enough you can use it in the middle of the inverted pyramid, even if it takes up a bit too much vertical space.

Don’t worry if your headline was captivating and relevant enough to the viewer and you didn’t bore them to hell, they will naturally scroll down till the call to action button.

GoPro example for an inverted pyramid email design

Here’s is an extravagant example from GoPro. I like it, not only because it follows the inverted pyramid pattern we’ve been discussing in this article, but also because it uses strong, contrasting colors that make the email exciting and more accessible at the same time.

poolside example for an inverted pyramid email design

Don’t worry if you don’t have a nice-looking physical product to use in your inverted pyramid. Just be creative and add a custom illustration or a fun image that can help you grab the reader’s attention.

In the example above Poolside did a great job. They made a boring Mac App launch email fun. Of course, not every brand is allowed to be so playful and funny. But if a bit of fun fits your brand identity, go for it occasionally.

casper example for an inverted pyramid email design

This product launch email from Casper double’s down on the inverted pyramid. They follow the pattern both in the hero unit and when they showcase the product specifications below. Although the hierarchy between the individual product features might not align with the inverted pyramid approach, the flow is still the same.

How multiple inverted pyramids can be used in email newsletters

red wing heritage example for an inverted pyramid email design

Here’s a great example of a product-focused newsletter from Red Wing Heritage. Besides the fact that it uses a very logical structure, I like that they used big visuals and only two lines of text in each block.

From an email accessibility perspective, it’s completely acceptable that the two-line text is center-aligned. What’s not too great is that the text color and the background color have a pretty low contrast ratio, so are pretty hard to read at the end.

filmsupply example for an inverted pyramid email design

This newsletter from Filmsupply has an especially eye-catchy look thanks to the way they combine custom imagery, rectangles, and the unique font they use in each headline and photo.

Because of the custom font, they use a bit too many images in the email, but it’s forgivable since at least the two-line paragraphs are real HTML texts.

public rec example for an inverted pyramid email design

This newsletter from Public Rec is a great example of multiple inverted pyramid use and also user-generated content (even if the users, in this case, were the actual employees of the company).

The real-life, unprofessional photos and the very natural, humanly copy, add a personal touch to the email that I rarely see in marketing emails nowadays.

I bet that this email was very successful from an open > click-through rate perspective since it’s way more convincing than a regular promotional newsletter where we would see top models wearing these clothes in a “fake” environment.

Key Takeaways

The inverted pyramid method is not only for journalists. You can apply the same formula in your email designs too.

Here’s how you can apply the inverted pyramid method in your hero unit or other blocks of your emails:

  • start any block of content with the most newsworthy information,
  • continue with the most important details,
  • and finish with a catchy call-to-action (most likely a big enough button).

You can repeat this pattern multiple times in an email but also bear in mind that less is usually more. If you can segment your email list properly and personalize the emails accordingly, a single offer and call-to-action pair will perform better than any blast email that you would send.

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