But the messages you send in an email marketing campaign can't be boring. They have to catch your recipients' attention and give them reasons to become your customers.
That means you need to create inspired, one-of-a-kind emails to consistently earn new customers for your business.
However, inspiration doesn't come easy — that's why we've gathered 10 of the most inspiring email marketing campaigns on this page.
Check out each one below to get inspired for your next email marketing campaign!
SXSW (South by Southwest, Southby) is an annual arts and technology festival in Austin, Texas. It's a week-long celebration of all things film, music, video games, and performance.
With that kind of reputation, they have millions of different ways to engage their email recipients.
In 2016, they went all out with their promotion.
This email marketing campaign is effective for a number of key reasons.
First, it's eye-catching. The color pallet is mostly passive (green and blue), but the orange “Interactive” banner at the top is sure to draw a reader's eye because of the contrast.
The green and blue coloring also lets them create a working template for background colors so that readers automatically know what they should see first and what they should read second.
Next, SXSW highlights a major attraction for the year's festival — virtual reality. The foreground image of someone wearing a VR headset with an awed look on his face is a powerful visual that is sure to resonate with readers.
The background nature scene is designed with colorful polygons that you'd expect to see in a VR world.
The visuals you'll see in a VR headset are probably much more refined than that background — but it still conveys a message with a hint of retro charm.
Third, SXSW uses this email to highlight the three major selling points of the festival: Technology, film, and music (in that order).
The technology piece is at the top because VR is such a popular topic. The film section is second so that SXSW can show off how many people show up to their theaters. And music is last because their concerts are often in the evening.
In that way, SXSW almost creates an itinerary for their email recipients. They're saying “You can do all of this right in a row.”
And they're right. With 5ks, book signings, business speakers, and lounges, you can fill your day with practically anything at SXSW.
2. Adelaide Festival 2014
Adelaide Festival is a two-week celebration of fine arts, including theatre, sculpture, and writing.
As a result, it's a little more “out there” than festivals like SXSW.
But that's right in line with Adelaide Festival's target audience. They want to attract the artists and dreamers of the world — not so much the thrill-seekers or businesspeople.
In 2014, their email marketing campaigns reflected that idea perfectly.
Adelaide Festival makes sure their recipients know the tone of their two-week celebration by perfectly illustrating the avant garde nature of their brand.
First, the color scheme reinforces the brand, just like it did with SXSW. The black, white, and teal are the perfect showing of artistic minimalism.
Second, the images create a feeling of off-the-wall and almost bizarre art. It's the perfect way for Adelaide Festival to draw the attention of the crowds they want while splitting off recipients who aren't interested in that kind of art.
In other words, the images speak to Adelaide Festival's demographic and eliminate uninterested recipients — just like removing unqualified leads from a traditional sales funnel.
Regardless of your feelings on the Adelaide Festival, they created an inspired email marketing campaign that speaks only to their target audience.
That kind of efficiency and innovation is key to a successful email marketing campaign, whether you're an arts festival or a Fortune 500 company.
3. Disney on Ice
Disney on Ice is a world-famous reimagination of famous Disney films as figure skating shows.
It's been a huge hit with both parents and children for decades, and shows regularly sell out.
But even with that kind of customer base, Disney still needs to promote their shows.
Disney uses the same tried-and-true aesthetic of their brand that you'll find in their films, toys, and theme parks. They combine this with other simple visuals that create a strong (and inspiring) email marketing message.
First, the email puts its best foot forward. The heading has three of Disney's most recognizable characters — Ariel from Little Mermaid and Woody and Buzz from Toy Story.
These characters are sure to stir up memories and excitement in both children and parents. And as the email continues, Disney also appeals to older demographics — like grandparents — with the classic Disney characters of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
They also include their famous Cars franchise to reach younger children.
Next, with a heading that appeals to literally every age demographic, Disney continues its email with some of the strongest brand wording they could use.
Their promotional text uses “Whisk” right away, which reinforces the brand's sense of fairy-tale whimsy, and “your family” catches the eye of parents seeking family-friendly activities.
It also has the added bonus of selling large groups of tickets instead of individuals.
Third, the glittering “Book now” phrasing and the potential to save money on tickets will drive sales for those who don't have lots of disposable income.
With all of that, Disney effectively appeals to a wide range of different recipients who are all qualified to become customers.
They do it by knowing their brand and playing off the experiences that their customers have had with it.
After all, if someone loved Toy Story in the movie theater, they might like the story on ice, too.
Chrome is a clothing brand that specializes in sportswear.
That includes everything from backpacks to shoes to reflective clothing that keeps their customers safe.
With Chrome's brilliant email layout, you get all of that information in a glance.
First, Chrome knows its demographic. Their customers are outdoorsy, sporty, and on the go.
That's why they open their email with a brief menu of their products — just like their website — and segue perfectly into an action shot of their product.
Is the photo staged? Almost definitely. But is it effective? 100%.
The photo is clear, relatable, and promotional — three important criteria for any successful marketing image.
Second, Chrome uses text to demonstrate how well it knows its customer base.
A big problem with outdoorsy people is being seen. This is especially true for cyclists in cities during autumn, which Chrome shows in their image.
Chrome speaks to that need in big, bold, black letters — STAY WARM. BE SEEN.
Right away, Chrome has solved two of the biggest pain points for their customers, and they did it with a photo and four words.
Last, Chrome gives their recipients the chance to shop on their site by adding links to popular products that fit the theme of the email — safety and warmth.
For a clothing retailer, Chrome takes the gold for inspired email marketing.
Harry's is a supplier of fine shaving products, including razors, blades, cream, and just about everything else you could ever need.
They set themselves apart from competitors by stressing the quality and craftsmanship of their products. That's not the behavior of a brand you'll find at a drug store — and Harry's knows that.
Harry's email marketing message is absolutely perfect for its brand. The layout is simple, but it's so detailed that you can find something new in it every time you look.
First, the email's design reflects Harry's values of quality and craftsmanship. Everything is clean, crisp, and spaced. It conveys a sense of quiet dignity and sophistication, just like the products themselves.
Second, the photo looks simple, but the ideas behind it are complex.
The thought and care that went into this photo are again reflective of Harry's products. They're simple, but they're placed and angled so perfectly that it's almost hard to look away.
The solid paint in each box segment, the lighting that casts a perfect 1/3 shadow in each compartment, and the backlight that creates an eclipse-like effect all make Harry's products look like a the gift everyone wants.
Finally, the text in the bottom third of Harry's email is mostly negative space. That gives their text room to “breathe” while making it easy to read. Not only does that give it a more dignified appearance, but it also lets older clientele clearly read their message.
And Harry's keeps their message short. It's only a few sentences, and then there's a bright orange link to encourage customers to buy.
Even the color of the button is carefully calculated to stand out while fitting the overall theme of the email.
With so much work and refinement going into one email, Harry's perfectly conveys their message of quality and craftsmanship.
Terrain is a home goods retailer that thrives on an image of rustic, do-it-yourself empowerment.
That kind of aesthetic has gained popularity everywhere from social networks to wedding planners, and it's a big part of modern home goods as an industry.
So naturally, Terrain wants to play to that aesthetic that they've made for themselves.
This email works on a number of levels.
First, everything in the message reflects the idea of personal touches and DIY enthusiasm. The heading is in cursive, the photos show hand-drawn chalk numbers, and every item in the photos looks like it was handmade.
That's the perfect way for Terrain to draw their customer base.
Second, they add links to their photos so their potential customers can jump to their site and buy.
In this email, that includes their tabletop and drink categories, which are probably two of their most profitable product lines.
(Otherwise, why promote them first?)
Last, you have the color scheme — which we've mentioned for just about every other email so far.
But it plays a crucial role in this email. Terrain wants to brand itself as quirky, off-the-wall, creative, and fun.
That personality makes them feel more like a friend than a retailer to their email recipients. By creating that feeling with a use of eccentric, bright color combinations, they can convert customers again and again.
7. J. Crew
J. Crew is one of the biggest clothing retailers in the United States. But like many fashion companies in the world, they're not just selling products.
They're selling a lifestyle.
That's why they chose to use this image in their email marketing.
First, ice cream has nothing to do with J. Crew's business model.
But it has everything to do with J. Crew's brand personality.
Their refined-yet-family-friendly branding makes them a cross between Harry's and Disney.
They use the same kind of serif fonts and open negative space as Harry's, but they have just as much color and kid-friendliness in their email as Disney.
Is this a groundbreaking idea? No. But it doesn't have to be.
J. Crew is playing off of an idea they established a long time ago — that clothing can be fun for the whole family.
Second, J. Crew throws in a little humor with their email. And better yet, they mix it with convenience.
The top of their message says “This is worth the scroll.” But just beneath that, they have a link to their promotion on their website.
So even if you don't want to scroll through 10 scoops of ice cream, you still get the gist of J. Crew's message (and their deal) by reading the top of their email.
Simple, effective, and sweet.
Uber is the freelance- and gig-based ride service that's disrupted the traditional taxi industry around the world.
The biggest reason they're so disruptive is their pricing. They offer cheaper rides to users, and cab services just can't keep up.
That's why they choose to market regionally via email.
First, it's essential to note that this email only went to a select group of recipients in the northeastern United States.
Sending an email about rates near the Jersey Shore to someone living in San Diego wouldn't help anyone.
Second, Uber uses the infographic model to their advantage.
They're not necessarily presenting data — but they're presenting figures as data by comparing old and new rates in bar graphs.
This lets the recipients easily visualize how much they save by using Uber, and it gives them the current price for three big-name destinations in Jersey Shore.
Last, the minimalist design and color scheme makes the graphic easy to read — including the one-word link at the end of the email.
With all of these elements, Uber created a simple, effective, and informative email marketing campaign for potential customers.
Airbnb is the freelance- and gig-based overnight service that's disrupting the traditional hotel market.
Much like Uber, they have to acquire hosts in addition to regular customers.
With that in mind, Airbnb probably has several segments to their email marketing strategy. But this one in particular is aimed at getting new guests to sign up.
Just like Uber, Airbnb creates a simple, well-designed email for its customer base.
First, Airbnb uses a grapefruit-colored heading that's sure to catch the attention of the reader. This matches their branding, but it works for just about any company.
Once Airbnb has readers' attention, they get down to business.
Next, Airbnb cultivates a sense of wonder and adventure to make their potential guests get the urge to travel the world.
Words like “discover,” “adventure,” and even “igloos” stir a reader's interest and make them want to leave their house — which is exactly what Airbnb wants.
Third, Airbnb expertly mixes paperwork into their email. This is by far the most boring part of the signup process — who wants to delay an adventure? — but they frame it like a social network.
They encourage new guests to complete a profile with a bio and languages they know — just like someone might do on Facebook. With a completed profile, they can finally start seeing the world!
Fourth, this email does something a little strange. Airbnb doesn't make their call to action buttons stand out (Complete Profile) like you'd see in other emails.
This could be for a number of reasons. But most importantly, doing this makes a recipient read the entire email.
For a signup email, that's important. You don't want users clicking links and being surprised by a page. You want them to know exactly what to expect, and the only way they can do that is if they read the whole email.
So really, Airbnb is trying to get potential guests to slow down. It's an innovative idea, and given Airbnb's success over the past few years, it's clearly working.
10. Kate Spade
Kate Spade is a fashion company that designs, makes, and sells clothing and accessories.
They can get pricey though, so how do they move inventory if people don't buy?
In this email, they incentivize buying by emphasizing what the customer gets.
First, this email is perfectly crafted to reflect a sophisticated, stylish lady in the city — their ideal demographic.
The two-tone color scheme and simple rectangles keep everything looking nice and clean.
Second, the issue of price is addressed immediately with the word “Penny.”
By saying that, Kate Spade immediately creates an idea of low cost. They follow it up with “for your thoughts” to show that they have something to gain.
In effect, that creates a steady yet powerful rise in a customer's expectations.
They first think affordable, then they think about earning, and then they think about getting.
Last, Kate Spade concludes the email with the promise of saving money on purchases in exchange for feedback.
This incentivizes purchasing on two levels:
- The reader is encouraged to share their thoughts, which they probably want to do anyway
- The reader will shop for products, which will profit the company
Even if Kate Spade takes a loss from a few items at 25% off, what they gain in customer feedback and loyalty is significantly more.
That simple investment — coupled with the push to “get started” — makes Kate Spade's email marketing one of the best in the fashion industry.
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