How a Gorilla Increased Our Email Click-Through Rate by 200%

This is a true story of how a gorilla helped increase our email click-through rate by 200%. Should we call it “monkey marketing” or “gorilla guerrilla marketing”? You help decide…

gorilla marketing inspiration

“TECHNICALLY these are Orangutans and not Gorillas but my VP of Marketing said we could reach a broader demographic if I said Gorilla instead… also, it’s easier to say… also, I don’t really have a VP of marketing” ~@MarkRober

If you’re anything like me, you’re on the lookout for marketing inspiration EVERYWHERE. And when something really grabs your attention, you’re potentially analyzing it for hours. The first half of that time is spent figuring out WHY exactly that “thing” worked and the last half is spent trying to imagine ways of applying that great “thing” to your own projects as a marketer. And that’s exactly what happened when I first saw this gorilla video created by Mark Rober and shared by Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks.

Gorilla Video = Marketing Inspiration


In addition to being adorkably amusing, this video provided one of those palm to forehead moments for me… revealing how a super simple change in perspective could get a much more effective result.

Monkey Marketing Lesson

Tell me this opening in the video doesn’t sound like a great analogy for a marketing lesson:

“The other day I was at the zoo with my family, and we saw these people banging on the monkey exhibit trying to get the monkeys’ attention and the monkeys couldn’t have been less interested. And I thought… I wonder if they just prefer to see themselves.”

Isn’t that exactly what we see in marketing messages all the time?!

Monkey Marketing Lesson Summary:

STOP being the obnoxious marketer banging on the glass and trying to act like a monkey to get 1 second of meaningless attention.

START being the creative marketer who finds new ways to help subjects see themselves better in a new light and willingly interact up close.

In the video, Mark achieves a much better outcome by reversing the camera on his iPhone and holding it up to the glass so that the monkeys can see themselves. The results are remarkable. Could Mark’s simple trick be applied to email marketing and achieve similar outcomes as revealed in his video?

  • Grab attention by helping subjects see themselves better
  • Draw subjects in closer and glean better understanding about them
  • Test and improve over time to discover an even more effective way of connecting
  • And, BAM… even more amazing detail can be collected about subjects up close
  • Subjects even invite others to connect with you… because you’re actually helping them to see themselves like never before

Monkey Marketing Applied to Email

No, I am not calling people monkeys. However, just like monkeys, people love seeing themselves.

So we tested this concept in a few of our post-trade show email campaigns. This led to an increase in open rates and click through rates by 200%.  How? Because we show people pictures of themselves.

Here’s the winning formula… you might call it guerrilla gorilla marketing:

  • Take tons of pictures with people you meet at a trade show: customers, prospects, other vendors, the show staff, sites from around the meeting and throughout the city
  • Compile the photos in a snappy slideshow
  • Upload to slideshare
  • Embed your slideshow in a blog article recapping the trade show highlights
  • Send follow-up email to your list of post-show connections with a link to the blog post… Be sure to also include relevant links to additional resources
  • Make sure the email subject line includes the conference show name and “Pictures” so recipients can tell right away, this isn’t the typical boring post-show follow-up email (if I had a sarcastic font I would insert it for the following): “Hey, thanks for stopping by our exhibit. Here’s a brochure that you don’t want to read. And here’s the best number to reach me even though I’m going leave you three follow-up voice mail messages this week so that I can talk about myself and my products.”  <–Please don’t be that guy.
  • Very important note: be upfront with people when taking photos that you’re going to be putting together a slide show of the images and you’ll email them a link after the conference for a few reasons:
    1. It sets clear expectations and you’ll want their permission before sharing images of them in that way
    2. You better believe they are going to be on the lookout for your email after the show (we even had people proactively contact us when the link didn’t go live the day after the show)

Bonus: the very first time we tried this, not only did the email results more than double, I received notification later that evening from LinkedIn that our slideshare presentation had been one of the most viewed on LinkedIn that day. Now that’s bananas.

How Can You Apply Monkey Marketing?

The main take away is rethinking our marketing to achieve a much better outcome by “reversing the camera”.  It’s not about us. It’s about them. So hopefully this got your creativity flowing and you’re excited to share your crazy ideas here. It’s your turn to inspire with your own version of monkey marketing (or gorilla guerrilla marketing?)… How does your marketing go bananas… b-a-n-a-n-a-s?


  1. Wow! What a great tip. Now I just need to meet people in real life.

    Though not exactly the same thing, there is something I do which is similar. Most of my marketing is done on Twitter, so anytime I’m featuring an author, I put their Twitter handle in the blog post title. When I or someone else tweets the post (or retweets it), the featured person sees it. Since most of my posts get tweeted out at least a hundred times, you imagine some of the positive comments I get from featured authors.

    • kristakotrla says:

      That’s a really great tip, Mark! I always wondered if it was okay to but the “@” symbol in blog titles. Glad to know that works so well for you. Thanks for sharing the idea.

  2. agree with all of this except – 1 CTA. For me this is true everywhere except the welcome email – you want to offer as many options as possible to really show off your brand / value. Blog posts, free products, about, paid products, etc. This to me is more valuable than any conversion (which come later)

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