11 brands with killer email marketing campaigns
Your phone buzzes and you automatically look down to see what it is. It might be a Twitter notification, a calendar reminder, or another addition to that growing email thread of nothing but GIFs you’ve been exchanging with your coworkers. But there’s a good chance it’s an email from a brand you like. Maybe you’ve subscribed because you enjoy the brand’s offerings or you want to stay up to date on what’s going on with the company. Whatever the case, you’ve stayed on a brand’s mailing list because you find their emails to be delightful.
Not all newsletters are equal. Sure, the decent ones do their job just fine, delivering you requisite info either too frequently or so rarely that you forget you were even a subscriber. And yeah, it looks all right, but all the email amounts to is a bunch of floating products and discount percentages amidst a sea of white. Not always a bad thing, but nothing to bat an eye at.
Other newsletters, though, have it all: concise, relevant content with smart, personable copy that piques your curiosity. And it’s all wrapped up in an eye-pleasing, easy-to-consume package. When it comes to email marketing, the brands behind these newsletters have it all and then some, and for those of us looking to craft our own newsletters, they serve as excellent sources of inspiration. Here are 11 brands with killer email marketing campaigns we should all aspire to.
Sure, they sell glasses, but Warby Parker shows they’re about more than just stylish eyewear with their sharply designed newsletter. While they don’t abandon the glasses motif, it’s done with imagery that seamlessly incorporates Warby Parker products, whether it’s a pair resting on an attractive model’s face or hanging out with some color-coordinated beach items. They even share videos, Instagram updates, and music playlists—bonus gifts that make opening their emails all the more worthwhile.
Top feature: the charming photos. They’ll make you smile, and sometimes, that’s enough.
Not familiar with CreativeMornings? You’re probably not a morning person. (No judgment—neither am I.) The international organization hosts monthly events that serve up a brain/belly-filling combo of smart talks and breakfast eats. If you subscribe to their weekly newsletter, you’ll get more than just news about events, including links to all sorts of interesting sites, highlights of smart and crafty folks, and curated job postings. That’s because CreativeMornings knows their brand, which is all about the creative community.
Top feature: the link roundup. Everyone loves to discover new, fun sites.
An obvious choice but a brand that knows how to market itself deserves props here. Besides an addictive loyalty program (we’ve all got a gold card, or at least know a dozen people who do), Starbucks regularly delivers a gorgeously designed newsletter with images that pop off the screen along with discounts and new drinks. Let’s face it, we crave those deals. They’re the reason why we duck into one of those ubiquitous shops and walk away with a sweet, candy-colored frap in hand. And Starbucks’ emails cater to that demand.
Top feature: the deals, hands down.
Forget the jokes about people not reading books anymore. Goodreads, one of the biggest online reading communities around, proves there are still some voracious bibliophiles out there. Click on one of their emails, and you’ll receive a ton of content: new books (based on preferred categories), author interviews, giveaways, quizzes, personal reading progress, and at the end, a fitting bookish quote to top it all off. There’s a lot to go through, but it’s a “good read” (sorry) to enjoy while you’re stuck on the bus or chilling on your lunch break. This content-heavy approach won’t work for everyone, but it does for Goodreads because that’s what their readers (emphasis on the word “readers”) want.
Top feature: the giveaways. Who could resist free stuff?
We’ve all got our own music tastes. You may be a hardcore Drake fan while your GIF-happy coworker prefers Queen Bey. Fortunately, you can cultivate your choices on music playlist sites like 8tracks. As a member, you’ll find a pretty nifty newsletter waiting for you in your inbox; each one has a timely and personable writeup, sprinkled with a few friendly emojis. What’s cool about their emails is that they offer a curated music section based on your interests. So while your office mate can listen to Lemonade again, you can play some Drizzy for yourself.
Top feature: the personalized mix recommendations. It’s a smart tie-in to 8tracks’s site, and it gives subscribers an opportunity to find new beats to add to their next playlist.
Many of us get the occasional urge to treat ourselves to some tasty chocolate, and that might mean swinging by a Purdys shop to indulge our sweet tooth. For big sugar lovers, you’ll find their newsletter to be a real treat. Pun intended—their newsletters use a lighthearted tone that seeps into their copy, creating several playful instances of wordplay. Plus, it’s filled with shots of their sweet products. For a chocolate brand, what more could you ask for?
Top feature: it might not be for everyone, but the puns work well with the brand. I mean, calling their pear lemon caramel “the zest around”? I’m on board.
For avid photographers, Artifact Uprising offers custom photo books and albums to keep those memories safely preserved. But they’re not about the hard sell (brands, take note; people will quickly unsubscribe if they’re constantly being pushed to buy something), and it’s made clear in their newsletter. Each email—with beautiful images, no surprise—contains motivational quotes, stories told from their community of users, as well as tips on how to boost your snapshot game, all presented in a simple, tasteful manner.
Top feature: the quotes. Every so often, you just need a few words of inspiration to get you started.
No matter how often we stay glued to our phones, we can’t keep track of every app or product that pops up online. That’s where Product Hunt comes in. It rounds up popular offerings, whether it’s a new Slackbot, an unusual podcast, or an addictive mobile game. In case you forget to visit their site, you can opt into their daily newsletter, which shares the latest and most notable products in snackable summaries. Conveniently, you can change the email frequency if you don’t want an email every day (a feature more newsletters should offer).
Top feature: the writing. It’s succinct and relatable—two things readers appreciate.
Sometimes it’s easier to throw on a t-shirt, and Threadless makes wardrobes much more colorful and lively with their endless assortment of graphic tops and other apparel. Their newsletter stays on-brand with humorous product shots and upbeat yet minimal copy. Threadless’s subject lines are short and sweet—and they definitely make you curious about what’s inside (seriously, what can you expect from “Caaaats iiiiiin spaaaaaaaace!”?). Plus, they’ve got a pretty laid-back approach to making that sale. If you haven’t made a purchase in a while, they’ll send you a friendly email that shows their appreciation for you by offering a generous discount code (and no guilt trip!).
Top feature: the product shots. Many of them are goofy, but Threadless is aware and they own it.
Comedy Bang! Bang!, Who Charted?, You Poppin’ My Stones? No, these aren’t random words and punctuation shuffled together—they’re comedy podcasts (and “sub podcasts”) hosted on the Earwolf network. When you receive Earwolf’s newsletter, you’ll get the lowdown on stuff like new episodes and upcoming live shows written in a fun and jokey manner that’s reflective of the brand, but each email serves up a little extra for the fans: silly/awesome fanart, inside jokes, and GIFs as well as a little reminder that “Earwolf loves you.” Now, who could turn that down?
Top feature: the GIFs. They’re a hilarious inclusion and a great match with Earwolf podcasts’ penchant for in-jokes.
Not everyone can afford to stay at a fancy hotel, but Airbnb believes that shouldn’t stop you from seeing the world. On their site, you can book a stay at a registered member’s home for an affordable price, or earn some cash by hosting guests at your place. Besides upending the way the travel industry works, Airbnb has gained some well-deserved attention for their excellent email marketing approach. Each email highlights travel deals and destinations, backed by strong visuals. But Airbnb makes it personal. Those deals are tailored according to members’ past interactions on the site, in order to make things more relevant to each individual. And that’s key for any brand.
Top feature: the attention to detail. As noted elsewhere, Airbnb will send you emails based on your site behavior, but most appreciatively, their language stays subtle; they’ll suggest things you might like, but they won’t push you too hard for a booking.
These brands have done a stellar job with their email marketing efforts, and we could all pick up a few things from them. (And I’m not just saying that so these brands will send me free stuff. Nope.) Sure, strong graphic design goes a long way, but a killer newsletter is more than just cool typography and flashy images. It’s got content that’s meaningful to the subscriber, in a tone and language that the reader can relate to. That’s what’s important, of course. (That, and the refusal to bombard subscribers with straight-up sales emails.) After all, you can create a pretty nice looking newsletter, but there’s no point if it’s just going to sit in an inbox, cold and unread while that GIF thread grows perilously longer.
Image: Maliha Mannan/Unsplash