How I Read Emails, or Why I Never Get Free Doritos

Thoughts from Our Senior Email Marketing Manager Michael Kinstlinger

havas CX helia
3 min readApr 1, 2020


Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

A few jobs ago, I worked in the same office park as a marketing research firm. Every few weeks, I got emails about participating in snack food taste tests. Once you reached their website, the pre-screening would ask about one’s job sector. If I was trying to be totally transparent, I would choose the honest route, which would generally bar me from the test.

I’ve always assumed that their filter would eliminate anybody in the marketing/advertising world, most likely because we could see through the copy or maybe we had enough familiarity with product launches that our opinions might be jaded. Probably true, although I still enjoy salty snacks as much as accountants or forklift operators.

I generally feel the same way when I receive an email from a campaign. There’s no doubt that after 15 years of sending email campaigns across the world, how I look at and read emails is very different from someone who doesn’t easily toss around acronyms like “IP” or “CTOR.” It makes me think of a similar story from a film school friend of mine, who told me that after a few classes in his freshman year, he never saw a movie the same way again.

Instead of diving into the email’s offering or “experience,” I find myself wondering things like:

  • How did they choose that subject line?
  • What email tools did they use to generate and refine their creative?
  • Is this email ahead or behind of what we’re currently doing, both in its technical and experiential elements?

Even products or services that I have zero interest in still get the email once-over. Not everyone can say that marketing emails can result in such job motivation.

While most people who got the email simply either read or deleted the email, I find myself lingering on the technical details and how-to behind it. I’m still trying to figure out if I should be comforted that it’s not at the industry vanguard or, *gasp,* a little haunting that they’ve created something that I haven’t figured out yet.

Does my habit of email uber-review put a damper on what’s become a multi-daily activity to billions of people around the world?

Not at all. I honestly see my inbox as inspiration — I’d be lying if I said I’d never gotten an idea from reading someone else’s email campaign. Of course, I’d also be lying if I said that instead of simply deleting an email with an obvious gaffe, like a spelling error or incorrect segmentation, I genuinely felt bad for their QA mishap or found myself wondering how I got on a list where I didn’t belong.

And you should see me at parties — unafraid to inform everyone there of how commercial email opens and clicks are tracked, and that, yes, they’re most likely a test subject in an A/B or multivariate test. I’ll be the one near the new spicy Doritos.

About Michael:

Michael Kistlinger brings over 15 years of email marketing experience to his role as Senior Email Campaign Manager at Havas Helia and their unique clientele, including such national brands as Liberty Mutual Insurance, Loews Hotels, and Bertolli Pasta. He enjoys the intersection of data, creativity, and analytics inherent in each email campaign. When he’s not sending out great emails, he likes to convince his two daughters that unicorns are real.



havas CX helia

Havas’ customer engagement and data agency, based out of Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and Richmond. Powered by Havas CX.