The Johnson Box

A brief guide to using the Johnson Box technique in email marketing campaigns.

The johnson boxLet's face it, as readers and recipients of marketing messages we're often far too lazy for our own good. Due to this we often miss out on the best deals, offers and information.

As a marketer our role is to encourage the lazy to wake up, take notice and read the messages we're communicating. One way to do this is to grab the attention of the recipient early in our communication. Direct Mail Marketers have used the Johnson Box Technique to great effect for many years.


Email marketers can also use this technique in their campaigns. In this guide we'll look at the main areas to consider when using a Johnson Box in your email campaign.


What is a Johnson Box?

A Johnson Box is an area (not necessarily defined inside a box) that sits at the top of an email campaign, as a means to include a key message and/or summary of the email below. This area is provided at the top of all NewZapp templates for you insert copy that will attract the reader's attention, even when using a preview panel to preview emails before opening them in full.


Why use a Johnson Box?

We believe there are three main reasons to use a Johnson Box in an email campaign.

  1. You're sending a long email and need the information to stand out.
  2. The core message needs to be seen in the inbox preview pane.
  3. Without images set to display, the part of the email on view in the preview pane may be light on information/message.

How to use a Johnson Box

It could, for example, summarise the contents of a long sales letter in just a few lines. eg:


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The box allows the recipient to see what the communication is about in just a few seconds. The Johnson Box should engage them enough to encourage the recipient to read on. In simple terms you're bringing the meat of your email to the top. This means your core message should achieve maximum exposure in the inbox.


What should you consider when creating a Johnson Box? 

There are three components to a Johnson Box. These are:

  • Location - The Johnson Box traditionally appears at the top of the communication and to the left. However, they can be used to great effect elsewhere in your design. Don't forget that this should be easily seen in a preview pane. The aim is to give your core message maximum exposure.
  • Format - The Johnson Box will normally include more than one line. This is what makes it different to a title. The format can vary depending on the type of message you're sending. Here are two examples of a possible format.
    Line 1 - Identify the problem
    Line 2 - Identify the solution
    Line 3 - Identify the action/offer
    or if you're promoting an event to an existing customer base
    Line 1 - Identify the where
    Line 2 - Identify the when
    Line 3 - Identify the why
  • Copy - The copy you include in your Johnson Box will depend on the communication you are sending. It will need to work as part of the whole campaign. The box should support the other components of the email including the subject line, the body copy, the call to action and the response mechanism. Think of your Johnson box as a sales person. It should be able to make a complex message simple and deliver this in a concise and engaging way.