You heard it here first…we all have something to learn from reality TV. Hard to believe, but it’s true.

When first brainstorming this blog post, I was hesitant to so publicly admit my obsession with reality TV. Will readers take me seriously after I admit that I watch every episode of every Real Housewives franchise (including Real Housewives of Cheshire) and that after each new season of Survivor wraps (yes, it’s still on!), I start filling out an application and scripting my audition tape?

Well, I hope so. Because amidst all of the tears, triumphs, and tackiness, there are some real life lessons to take from these outrageous shows…and some that even apply to email. Seriously.

So behold, the 5 Ways Email Marketing is Like Reality TV. (Mom, aren’t you proud?)

1. It’s Unapologetic

Reality TV is shameless. It’s in your face, outlandish, and….(possibly, maybe, I hate to admit it) scripted. But when someone makes a misstep (like getting voted off the island first), viewers have no sympathy. You signed up for this train wreck, so we don’t feel badly for you, right?



Well, the same applies to your marketing emails. If you have a typo in your subject line, mess up your substitution tags, or don’t optimize your templates, your subscribers probably won’t have much sympathy for you either. You have to earn your place in their inbox. It’s a coveted spot, so don’t lose it by making silly mistakes.

To help, I created a copywriting checklist and my teammate Jill Guest has shared her top 4 email marketing manners in this new video. Check them out and you (unlike Spencer Pratt) will have no reason to say “I’m sorry.”

2. It’s Outspoken

Name a quiet cast member on a reality TV show. It’s hard to do, right? Reality TV is loud and proud and so are its cast members.



Unfortunately, sometimes email marketing can be known for the same thing. Some senders can use their email marketing like a bullhorn—blasting to whoever might listen. But be careful, if you talk too loudly, you’ll have no one left to hear you.

Be tactical (and respectful) about when you send your marketing email. Your voice is generally heard more when it’s used less often. So keep that in mind with your sending frequency. Better yet, set up a preference center so your subscribers can choose when they want to be emailed.

3. It’s Targeted

Reality TV caters to a very specific demographic. Lucky for me, I fit that description to a T. Bravo has their formula down so well that I’ll set my DVR to record one of their shows without even knowing what it’s about. Your emails should be just as catered to your audience—ensure they’re segmented, personalized, and branded. If you speak the same language as your subscribers, they’ll be one of the first to speak up for you.

4. It’s Addictive

This probably doesn’t need further description. The fact that I’m writing about this topic at all is proof enough! But the point is, make your email marketing just as addictive as reality TV. Write compelling enough content (with exclusive, personalized offers) to make your subscribers eagerly anticipate your next email. Provide them with value and they’ll become your biggest advocates.

5. It’s Consistent

Reality TV is formulaic, but in the BEST WAY. As a viewer, you always know what you’re going to get. Your expectations are set from the outset, so there are no surprises (outside of the occasional table flip).



Keep this same consistency in your email marketing. First, properly set expectations with your subscribers, and then stick to them. You don’t want your subscribers guessing what kind of content they’ll be receiving from you every time they check their inbox. Establish a consistent cadence, tone/voice, and branding to help provide balance. But by all means, test new offers, content, and imagery, just be measured about it. The last thing you want to do is confuse your subscribers.

So what do you think? They’re more similar than you thought, right? Keep these in mind when building out your next campaign and you can be to email marketing what Mark Burnett is to reality TV. And if you’re looking for a tool to help you get there, check out SendGrid’s new email marketing feature set, Marketing Campaigns.

Jillian Smith
As Twilio SendGrid's Sr. Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, and more. When not writing and editing, you can find Jillian frequenting Denver restaurants in search of the best queso.