Posts Tagged ‘Creative Email Design’

It’s great when a brand sends emails that are so true to it’s brand, that you can almost hear them speaking and taste their product through the email.

One such company is Innocent Drinks, who do the cutest emails and has one of the easiest and funniest sign up, welcome and email processes I have come across.

I thought I would start at the beginning and run through the process, first the sign up, then the welcome email then the newsletter, so you can get a sense of the process in order. (Better yet go to their website and sign up if you haven’t already and get a taste of this for yourself!)

Like every good website should, they have a prominent email sign up facility, and it’s humorous, by enticing me with a comfy couch and love and friendship, (But no pocket money)

Sign Up

I sign up, and immediately a note appears in place of the sign up form saying: ”You will shortly receive an email confirming your subscription. By the way, we will never, ever pass your details on to anyone else, but you knew that anyway, didn’t you. Your information will only ever be used to send you what you ask us to send you. If you would like to leave the family, use the unsubscribe button when you next receive an email from us.”

This is a great way to instantly and effectively confirm that I have subscribed, and assure me they won’t share my details with anyone, and let me know I can unsubscribe from ‘the family’ if I want to, however by giving me the option and not feeling locked in, makes me feel safer and makes me never want to leave…. aww.

Sign Up Confirm

That message the disappears after a short time, and they claim back a bit of space on their website,  and I then receive a cute and welcoming welcome email right away. It’s opens with the subject line ‘Welcome to the innocent family’ which gives me warm fuzzies and makes me feel like I am being welcomed into some big friendly and exclusive family.

I also love that the call to actions point to the ‘ceiling’ and the ‘moon’ and the ‘grass’ and the email includes a polar bear in a snowstorm! Can you see him?


Welcome Email

Click on the image to see the full email

After you have digested the entrée welcome email and clicked on all those links and seen where they all go, it’s time to wait for the main course of the email newsletter to arrive into your inbox. And there are many delicious ingredients!

Innocent Drinks

Click on the image to see the full email

Overall I love the use of creative copy and the tone of their brand language in the emails. For example, in the pre-header,  instead of saying ‘click here to view online’ they say ‘If this email looks a bit weird just click here to see it look not so weird’. I also really like the fact they have included a ‘sale’ star in the header that let’s you know the email is free! (Woo!) I know we all know emails are free but something about putting that star there telling me it’s free makes it feel even more like a bonus and my brain is thinking it’s getting a great deal!

There is strong brand consistency between the email and the website, with the same font, logo, colours, so when I do click any of the call to action links from the email to the website, it feels like the same environment.

The content of the email is fun, engaging, has a good mix of bright colours, white space, company news, human interest stories, and fun links to click on, and best of all, in their footer, they say “call us on the banana phone

These guys are really engaging, provide a seamless experience between email, website and social media, they use clever copy, great design and interesting content to deliver fun, fresh and funky emails, and in my eyes they are doing everything right.

How do I love this Upworthy email? Let me count thy ways.


Click on the image to see the full Upworthy email

I love it because it starts with ‘Well, hello there! How do you feel? Because you look great!’ And really who wouldn’t love that.

I love it because the subject line is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen besides being the optimum word limit for subject lines, it is unique and attention grabbing which is the whole point. It says: Welcome To The Upworthiest. Turn On Your Images And Buckle Your Seatbelt!

I love it because the pre-header which besides being a best practice feature is very chatty and friendly and encourages replies and interaction:  Want to say hi back? Reply to this message!

I love it because the content of the email uses humour to set the expectations about what you can expect in future Upworthy emails, it points you to some of the best content on their website to immediately engage you on their site.

I love it because the call to action is big and bold and direct and potentially cheeky but effective and says ‘Want more? We got more. You’ll just have to keep opening our emails!’

I love it because the sign off says ‘Love from all of us at Upworthy’ in big bold letters – so it is both friendly and really obvious who it is.

I love it because of the awesome copy in the footer, which reminds people where and how they signed up for these emails, using visual cues to jog peoples memories, which is in the past, (Because people do forget) they then introduce the welcome email which they are reading, which is in the present, then get the subscriber looking forward to future emails, using humour and emotional appeals, which is in the future, (Because who doesn’t love getting stuff that makes them laugh and cry and share great content) and it ends brilliantly with an obscure question that really gets you thinking, and which got me imaging how much fun the copywriter and designer had making this email and writing the copy, because it is just so brilliant.

There seem to be more and more highly designed, image heavy emails coming out, and the following emails make a stunning job of it. We are forming quite the collection of well-designed emails at this end and thought we would share some of our collection with you.

1: Fancy 


This email is from Fancy. It takes the concept of Pinterest, where it lets you find and like images of things you like, and takes it one step further, by linking to where you can actually buy the item instead of simply admiring it from your chair.

I have been on the site for a few months now, and every week they send me a stunning email, dressed top to bottom with rows of the most arty, delicious, affronting, and outstanding images and products I have seen anywhere. I love the design because they are such an image heavy site, and their email reflects this. It’s basically a series of rows of images, only broken by a minimal amount of copy. There is nothing to clutter the top of the email such as an intro/contents/links or any shiny buttons or call to actions. It’s clean and simple, and really we know they know that we are all here to see the images. It’s also so compelling because you can’t help but be drawn down to see the next image… and the next…. before you know it you are at the bottom clicking on their ‘check out what else is new’ link…

Click here or on the image to view the full email.


2: American Apparel

This month’s email example is a highly designed newsletter from American Apparel.

Why did it stand out?

It is very simple, with a clean, bold design and is very image heavy.

Visually, they have their call to action at the top right corner, which means people can click to see more and are not required to scroll.  All the images are the same size and all line up perfectly which both great design-wise, and the bold images and straight lines really appeal to the eye. Each image is also a call to action, taking the recipient to their campaign online. And I found that because the images take up the whole email, I found it was hard not to click on at least a couple of images. Also having a variety of bold images like that gives people a lot to look at and take in, and I found myself drawn to look at every image from top to bottom.

Copy wise, the heading is large, and self-explanatory, and it matches the bold simple nature of the email. The little bit of copy they do have is at the bottom; however I think it works for this email. It is also easily and quickly digestible, but it still manages to tell the reader about American Apparel, and about their campaign.

Click here or on the image to see the full version. And then tell us what do you like about this campaign!
I challenge you to find more visually compelling and outstanding image-heavy emails than these. Please, go ahead. If you find any, let me know.

I know we talk a lot about following best practice, about not having emails that are too long, and not sending image heavy emails, but sometimes it’s good to innovative to go against the rules and do something unique and truly creative. So we provide to you, the following two examples, as examples of how to break the rules in the right way.


This promo email for a new 14 story high water slide at Brazilian water park Beach Park is a prime example of this, and boy does it breaks all the rules. (Click on the image to see the full version of this email)

It weighs in at a hefty megabyte, and it’s 12,000 pixels high, so i’t s lonnnnnnnng and requires people to scroll a long way, and it’s 100% image based, but for this campaign it works. Because it is a unique campaign, a one off promo, for something really crazy and fun. Also it might have something to do with the fact that as you scroll down you get to experience going down a 14story high slide yourself first hand – a bit dizzying I must say. But I scrolled back up and went down the slide 2 more times, so it obviously did the trick!

For our second example it is a great email campaign that Chad White over at Retail Email Blog recently posted about. This campaign also breaks all the rules, but it does it in style, and as a result it really stands out from the crowd. (Click on the image below to see the full version of this email)



This Brooks Brothers email campaign features a huge stack of polo shirts, about 40 of them in fact, in every imaginable color, and presents this stack of shirts as a box set. It goes against the usual ‘best practice’ rules, but in breaking the rules it makes it point. It shows the variety of it’s products, it appeals with humor, and it compels people scroll right to the bottom of the ‘everlasting stack of Polo shirts’ which I found pretty entertaining.

There’s also a lesson here about the way we think everything needs to be above the fold. I have seen a few campaigns doing recently. Instead of packing the top area with call to actions, links, and big shiny buttons, it actually draws you in and compels you to scroll right to the bottom….where you find the call to action. Surprise!

So if you have a concept you want to get across, or just want to create an email that’s out of the box, look to the water slide email, and the polo shirt email, as outstanding examples of how to do it right.


Sometimes when you are looking at a blank page and trying to create your next fantastic customer communication, it can feel like you are sitting alone in a vacuum.  But it’s worth remembering that there are a number of people on the planet doing really great email marketing.  And you can learn from them… I call it ‘spying‘. (P.S. You never need to stare at a blank page if you have a good plan)

I just sent these two examples to a friend whose large organisation is doing a clean, sterile, well designed, ticks the boxes, boring, wouldn’t-care-if-you-never-saw-it-again, no one really applies what they read, type of a thing.  Their products are HOT.  They have HOT customers, doing incredible things with those products, and sharing what they do everywhere… but inexplicably, it’s nowhere to be seen in their eDM.

Here are the two:

NZ Gardener

Get Growing aims to ‘grow new gardeners’ and in doing so, sell more magazines.  It is a much-loved phenomenon and it’s sent to 25,000 people each week.

What they do really well: It’s so personal.  The heart of this success is it’s heart.  Warm, non-threatening, collegial (gardening isn’t scary, let’s try this together)…  Sharing readers questions and answers makes for great genuine content (bonus – you don’t have to write it!).   Listing current events and prizes keeps the ‘open rates’ consistent.  Timing - sending on Friday afternoon makes it a treat for the weekend. They always encourage opt-ins and pass-along.  Yes, I know you are thinking – it’s so LONG! It is, and the readers LOVE it! (Disclosure - GetGrowing uses SmartMailPro).

Love gardening? You can subscribe to NZ Gardener here.

Urban Daddy

I came across Urban Daddy when I was going to Miami a couple of years ago and I wanted to know what was hot there.  The content, tone, and attitude, as well as the execution and consistently has just outperformed anything I’ve seen like it.  It’s one you need to subscribe to and keep an eye on week in and week out until you ‘get’ the gist.

What they do really well: Like NZ Gardener they bring it to you, they don’t make you work for it.  Heart and passion for the subject matter shines through.  Great content that is curated in the right way each time so that you build trust in their opinion and follow their advice (tag line – ‘Only what you need to know’).  Trust is established with footer text in every issue (‘Urban Daddy is purely editorial – you can’t buy love from the Daddy’).  Great voice, tone, manner, meeting expectations, personalising with strong  but virtually invisible use of dynamic content and preferences.  Need more?:

Email issues.  This page is insanely good and I’ve never seen one like it – it links from the bottom of their home page – Email Issues

You can subscribe to Urban Daddy here.  its worth it even if you don’t live in the States just to learn from and enjoy.

Their Welcome Email is great – below: Restates your options and sets expectations; use of red carpet and language evokes exclusivity; specifically invites pass-along; simple.  It’s ‘oh so’ personal.  Also note it doesn’t ask for the double opt-in – if you have registered they assume you want it.  I think this is fine in cases where you are clearly registering for an email newsletter – not entering a competition, asking for a down-load or other ancillary activity.

What do you think?  Love it?  Hate it? Comment below.  Forward me your favourites - Attn Roanne to GetSmart at

There are more good examples of Welcome Emails to be seen at another GetSmart blog post here.

Do you love this?

Emma, one of Jericho’s fab designers says:

“I love it because Frankie – an edge-of-culture magazine – always makes me feel like I’m on the ‘in’ with links to things I have never seen before. The content is quite simple but leads me further into a network of incredible talent – illustrators, designers, fashion types etc – that I can never know enough about. I’m constantly hunting for inspiration from those in all types of creative and media fields, often I post about it on my blog when I find something truly inspiring –

“I know that some of the content is probably advertising but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like Frankie (the people) actually honestly endorse what they are talking about and care about telling you about it too. They’re in the know, on the in. And they’re reminding me that I can be too – well, a little.”

Here it is – what do you think?  Or go to Frankie and sign up for a while and see how they play the making friends with email game (you might recall how we wrote all about ‘Spying’ in an earlier post).

Or, if you like, send me one you love, and why, to

Mastercard. Mastercard Moments, in fact. Welcome to the Jericho blog.  Your merge link didn’t merge.  And there is an image missing top right. And there isn’t any contact information in the email which is poor practice in NZ and Aussie, and breaches CanSpam in the USA – a contact us link only works if we’re online and we might not be.

You could have seen the merge didn’t work if you’d done live data testing.  Ditto the image.  And if you had some decent advice you would at least have a phone number in the email.

I’m not sure about what makes the credit card companies such consistent blog fodder.  They have the budgets I’m sure, and the agencies, and the great ideas, and I guess the staff, but what’s missing seems to be the TESTING?  The sign off process?  The expert guidance? The care?  This email’s errors turns us off at the get-go and it wastes hours, creative, copy, coding and ultimately the entire budget they spent.  And, poor dad’s less likely to get his treats if we don’t read the email. If you would like a copy of our bullet-proof Jericho Campaign Checklist, just email to ask for it.

I know, I know, it’s starting to look like a witch hunt, but let me remind you – I did not start this.  AMEX started it – with the badly designed security threatening competition in April, and then the 4 million points let-down in June.

Now, they have sent this email with a better greeting – not ‘cardmember’ and not the name on my card – which is accurate but definitely unnatural as a greeting.  But the greeting is now the name on my card apparently – see the right hand column here:

This is just a merge field that it wrong, but so far I have had three emails with three different greetings, and whilst finally they got it right-er they also got it wrong-er.

Personalisation should be accurate at least – super clever ideally – or not used at all.

Straight to the Hall of Shame, again, AMEX.

What do you think?

In the latest MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Report (2010), a survey of email recipients found that only 33% have images turned on by default. That means that 67% – or two-thirds of recipients – don’t.

Many popular email clients and webmail providers block images in emails by default for unknown senders, including Outlook 2007 & 2010, Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. When emails arrive in a recipient’s inbox with images disabled, they will be presented with an alert which gives them the option to ‘click to download images’ which will activate images for that particular email only. Most clients also have an option to ‘Always display images for this sender’ but how this works varies based on the software and version.

In Outlook 2007 for example, the image download settings are managed in the Trust Centre. Based on the settings in here, Outlook will automatically display images for email senders which have been previously added to the safe list (this may happen if an email is filtered to the junk mail folder then marked as ‘not spam’) or from senders which appear in a users address book.

If image blocking is enabled in Outlook, there is no way for an email sender to over-ride these settings. The first instance of any HTML email from a new sender will have images blocked by default until the user vouches for the sender by either adding them to their safe list or address book.

screenshot outlook

There are some certification services which will enable default image downloading in certain webmail clients however this can be a costly exercise and there’s no guarantees. Instead I would recommend following these steps to minimise the impact of image blocking:

- Make sure there is HTML text and key messages visible in the preview pane, avoid relying on images too heavily and don’t use images for call to actions.

- Use the pre-header of the welcome email to encourage recipients to ‘add to safe sender’. Some people link to a landing page which provides an explanation on how to do this in different email clients e.g.

- Use the pre-header to convey the campaign value proposition which encourages recipients to download images

UPDATE 18/08/2011:  How to get around disabled images (2010 article)

Preview Panes, Image Blocking : another great article on blocked images (also 2010 article)

Preview Panes, Image Blocking