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Using Cartoons To Get Attention In Emails5 Min Read

Using Cartoons to Get Attention in Emails5 min read


Ready to dominate the world? You‘re not alone. A lot of that going around these days. 

So I thought I’d write a breezy ezine/blog that shared some nifty tips to dominate the world with cartoons in your emails.

Shocking, I know, but somebody’s got to do it. But the question everyone is asking is, wait for it…

Should I use cartoons in my emails? Or not?


My unbiased, totally objective answer:

Most certainly. Cartoons are great attention-getters. And who doesn’t love a good cartoon? Just ask that guy.

And here we go: Four newly classic email openings with, gasp! cartoons.

I think the best use of a cartoon is right after the opening sentence of an email. It sets up the reader to laugh, and then you follow with a clever quip that sucks them right into the body of the email.

Numero #1

Here’s the opening of an email to executives in the insurance industry who want to increase attention and sales:

We’ve all seen this opera a thousand times:


Yes, insurance salespeople have been the victim of vicious stereotypes. Of course, not a single one of them deserves it.

This opening relies on the stereotype of the obnoxious insurance salesperson. It wouldn’t work too well to suggest that insurance salespeople are obnoxious and that they need to be less so.

The cartoon says it for you while triggering a laugh. The reader is now much more open to what the consultant may be offering. They are now, if nothing else, mildly curious about what will come next.

And numero #2

This one is directed towards the directors of Coaching Schools:

Is this the reaction you get when you talk to your coaching school grads about attracting clients to their new practices?


I thought so. The good ‘ol pill strategy. Yeah, it can be overwhelming doing all that marketing stuff.

How do you say coaches are terrible at marketing themselves? You don’t. You let the cartoon say it for you. And it’s something they’ll get immediately.

This then clears the way to talk about your solution to help their coaches be better at marketing (as if that was remotely possible).

What if you’re selling Management Consulting services and you know your prospects are skeptical of the latest fads and buzzwords? Then call on Dilbert, of course.

And numero #3

What’s the most important thing about management and leadership programs? Dogbert knows:


No, he doesn’t. He’s evil. It’s simply helping your people to be more productive and fulfilled, you know, that rocket science stuff.

This opening breaks down the immediate resistance to all those fancy approaches to management and opens the door for an honest person with real solutions. And it admits these things aren’t necessarily simple, with the rocket science quip.

And if you happen to be in a business that’s suddenly newsworthy, then take advantage of it!

And numero #4

I know you’re concerned about finding the most affordable ways to fund your child’s college tuition:


But perhaps a way that doesn’t land you in jail would be preferable, right?

Most parents with college-bound students are understandably nervous about paying for college. So this cartoon can lighten things up a bit.

They’ll read the email and will be warmed up about your services to help them with college financing.

OK, Robert but where do I find all these great cartoons?

Well, the same place I found them: on Google. Here’s what you do:

Do a search for your clients’ business sector + humor or cartoons. Such as:

Management consulting humor (or cartoons)

Then click on the images tab and viola, a plethora of cartoons to download and insert into your once boring emails will magically appear before your eyes.

Yes, it can take some time to find the right ones. And yes, you need to have a basic concept and value proposition.

How do you come up with that concept?

Start with a common issue that your clients experience. What does everyone in the industry know but avoid talking about? What jokes does the industry tell on itself?

Or, you might ring up some of your clients in the industry and pepper them with some rapid-fire questions:

What do people in your industry always complain about?

What do they hate about the people who advise their industry?

What’s the thing they are always laughing and telling jokes about?

What will make them jump up and down and throw money at me?

It won’t be long before some creative ideas for an outreach email will zing through your soggy gray matter.

And I promise that you will be delighted with the response. You’ll have a prospect who is more open and more likely to trust what you have to say.

The only question that matters: How can I apply this right away to my next email and see what happens?

Cheers, Robert

Comics and Copyrights

After writing this I got a number of question about copyright permissions for comics. Yes, comics are copyrighted. However, If you send a few emails to clients or prospects with a comic you’ve copied, I don’t think there’s a real issue. However, if you do a major campaign using a comic or put it on your website you may have an issue. You can get permission to use a comic and pay a fee. In fact, exists for that purpose. They have a huge collection of cartoons on all topics. In fact, many of them will come up when you do a Google search. Then just go to CartoonStock and buy the rights to use that cartoon. In addition, the stock photo company I use for most of my pictures on this blog, also has a selection of cartoons at a very low price.

By the way, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Please don’t sue me!!

This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. Hi, Robert –

    I think this (and your other articles on Writing Funny) is terrific. Cartoons are a great way to pull people into starting to read the email; and your examples for how to make the transitions work is extremely helpful.

    Do we have to get permissions or usage rights or something to use cartoons in our emails or on our websites though? I’m not just being a stickler here – I once had Getty Images hound me for months for $1500 when a publication placed an unlicensed image into an article I had written.

    Candidly, Getty is well-known for constant, heavy policing of its images; I doubt most individual cartoonists have the resources; so maybe it’s not a high risk scenario to use their work. Maybe as long as their cartoon is getting out with proper attribution, they don’t mind. But it’s conceivable the big name cartoonists are repped by big agents/companies who look after their IP. For lesser-known cartoonists, I haven’t looked to see if there are online centralized resources for “stock cartoons” (which would be awesome). I do know that Tom Fishburne, The Marketoonist, licenses usage for $35 (seems reasonable); maybe other cartoonists have websites with similar offers?

    Not sure. Anyhow – just a heads-up someone might want to look into.

    1. Hey Marti, great to hear from you! Well, if you are including cartoons in individual emails or small run emails I wouldn’t worry. Because I used these cartoons in an educational article to show how they can be used, I’d think it was fair use. You can get cartoons from stock agencies at a pretty reasonable price if you want to do use an image for more than that. There is a cartoon agency: which has a very big selection.
      Cheers, Robert

  2. Thanks for the helpful response, Robert! The distinctions you drew – using the cartoons in an email and for educational purposes (vs in articles or paid presentations) – make a lot of sense. I appreciate the clarification!

  3. FWIW, cartoonists are people too, and while their IP is funnier than a consultants IP, using cartoons to market yourself probably crosses the line. Doing a quick search I see that Gary Larson, the Far Side guy, made his feelings public:

    Net/net: great idea to leverage cartoons, but be sure any cartoons (or photos, etc.) are properly licensed.

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