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5 Great Email Marketing Campaigns and What You Can Learn From Them

Ian Blair

Email marketing plays an important role in virtually every modern business’ outreach process. Being granted permission to connect with people via their inbox is like getting the opportunity to speak with them direct – it’s not a broadcast medium where your aim is to hit as far and wide as possible, it’s a communications platform and it should be used to share information of relevance to those who’ve chosen to give you their time. These are people who’ve already expressed an interest in what you do, they want to know more – it’s important that brands approach email marketing from this standpoint and provide targeted, relevant content or they risk being marked as spam, getting an ‘unsubscribe’ or, possibly worse, they’re messages are simply ignored and deleted.

But it’s more than just providing utility. With around 200 billion emails sent every day there’s a lot of noise to cut through and given the ever-increasing amount of social media and digital platforms that we have demanding our attention, people have become very attuned to what’s of interest and what’s not. We’ve developed our own, subconscious junk filters that can quickly assess a message for relevance and decide whether to open or delete within a split second. In this landscape, it’s more important than ever to stand out in order to get your messages read – but how do you do that?

The good thing is, email marketing is a mostly a level playing field – a budget of millions won’t guarantee response. Knowing your audience is the key differentiator, and on that front, many small businesses have the upper hand. Here are five examples of email marketing campaigns that utilize creativity and audience understanding – as opposed to high marketing spend – in order to maximize audience response.

 

1. Bonobos

Let’s be honest, men generally need a bit of a helping hand when buying clothes. Online men’s clothing retailer Bonobos knows this, and they’ve used it as the basis for one of their more successful campaigns. The strategy here works on two fronts – they offer something of value, in the form of a guide to what to wear and they mix in a little humor – a perfect fit (excuse the pun) for their target audience.

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The message is simple, funny, but most importantly, it immediately appeals to the Bonobos audience, underlining their brand mission and solidifying the relationship with their target market. The graphic is also highly shareable, ticking another box in the ultimate email marketing strategy checklist.

 

2. Litmus

This one’s quite clever and underlines the value of thinking outside the box and utilizing the capabilities of the tools you have at hand. Email marketing software company Litmus wanted to get their email subscribers to watch their new video but they couldn’t well embed the thing in their actual message, right? There’s a lot of potential for missteps when trying to send out a video, not to mention the email size could get so big it wouldn’t even be make it through to many of their subscribers. Instead, Litmus did this:

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See that big play button in the middle of the screen? It’s tempting to click on it, right? But that’s a screenshot – clicking on the screenshot, however, took subscribers through to the actual video on the Litmus website. It’s a bit of a cheap trick, but it’s an effective one, and it shows how a little ingenuity and creativity can lead to more engaging, responsive campaigns that entice the reader to click-through for more.

 

3. Rip Curl

In some ways, your email subscribers are your tribe, the people most attuned to your mission and message – the ones who’re likely most receptive and engaged with your brand. Building brand loyalty can reap big rewards, and there are ways to do this within your email outreach. All it takes is a cleverly worded message.

Australian surf wear company Rip Curl ran an email campaign to promote their SurfGPS watch which went a little something like this:

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This campaign is incredibly in-tune with their audience – surfers have their own form of brotherhood, their own community, and respect within that community, which unites them through their shared love of the culture. Rip Curl knows this, so they’ve opened their message with the call to ‘Join the Revolution’. That message is strong, and it appeals to our psychological need to be part of something bigger, particularly relevant in the surfing space. They’ve coupled the message with a great shot of the product in action – not a hand modelling the functionality, mind you, but a shot of the watch in the surf, where you’ll be wearing it when you’re part of said ‘revolution’.

It’s a great piece of work, and it generated solid response numbers for the brand.

 

4. Cook Smarts

One of the most important elements to consider in your email planning is what your emails are actually offering your subscribers and why they might want to click.

Would you be interested if you got your brand content in your inbox?

It’s a hard question to answer, I know, but that objectivity, being able to see things from your audience’s perspective, is important in creating messages that will resonate and generate the best response.

Cook Smarts use their weekly email to cultivate their message about healthy eating by sharing a day-by-day meal planner.

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Through providing utility in their weekly communications, Cook Smarts serves their audience with free, useful content, directly aligned to their interests. In doing so, Cook Smarts increases the performance by adding a distinct purpose to their email marketing, which users can rely upon each week. This then enables Cook Smarts to increase shares of their messages (note the ‘Forward to a Friend’ call to action at the top right), with promotional content included alongside those core, valuable ingredients.

It’s a great example of prioritizing what your audience wants to hear, as opposed to what you want tell them, in your marketing communications.

 

5. Engage

One of the simplest and most effective ways to make your messaging stand out is to use color. And I’m not talking about randomly going fluoro and straining the eyes of anyone who dares click through to see your message, specifically, I’m talking about consistency and tone, and understanding the impact of thematic color in your content.

Digital agency Engage recently sent out this email message to their subscribers.

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Stands out, right? And it’s not just the yellow; it’s the consistency of that yellow tone that seeps over from the background to the foreground, the angled pencil that aligns just perfectly with the notes. This sort of attention to detail conveys a quality, a trust that this brand is organized and knows what it’s doing. The image underlines the importance of taking the time to consider your image composition and taking the time to get it right – I recently spoke to a business owner who’s seeing great success on Instagram who said she will take up to 100 versions of the same image, in different light and on different angles, in order to get the most resonant version, the one that pops out at you and makes you want more.

Good enough to eat, is how I describe these images, having that quality that’s tangible, that jumps from the page and engages you instantly. Used well, a well-planned image can significantly boost your email outreach efforts.

As you can see, there’s a range of ways to stand out and get attention with your email marketing efforts, and it doesn’t take a huge budget or a creative team working on your project to deliver great results. Really, at core, it requires an understanding of your audience and what will resonate best with them. Consider their perspective; consider the ‘why’ of your messaging and what would make people want to click. Combine that with some of the above elements and you’ll be on your way to maximizing response to your email marketing efforts.

 

Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.

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