7 of the Best Email Marketing Campaigns of 2016

Email Marketing


Email marketing remains a force to be reckoned with and there is no shortage of statistics to reinforce the point:

Email’s long-standing success, however, means that everyone is using it and inboxes are packed. Standing out from the crowd means innovating, testing, and creating the best email marketing campaigns your audience sees.

There are lots of “how to” resources out there, and lists of tips for email marketing—and many are great resources. But sometimes a little bit of organic inspiration is what you really need to get the creativity flowing. Here are seven of the best email marketing campaigns we saw in 2016.

1. Grammarly: Leveraging Third Party Endorsements

Grammarly pulled a genius move when they paired a fan’s tweet with a relevant upgrade offer.

For this email marketing campaign, Grammarly deferred to the social proof of a third-party endorsement—in this case, an embedded tweet. While leveraging a user’s cute Grammarly love letter, they also took the opportunity to offer a special, limited-time discount. Who says you can’t kill two birds with one email send?

grammarly email example

Social proof is just the latest iteration of word-of-mouth advertising. In fact, 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust personal recommendations. Combined with a scarcity message, this email send is a huge win.

2. Craft by Invision: Simple, Beautiful Design

Craft starts by designing an email you actually WANT to look at. Though Invision has a well-defined audience of professional designers, every email marketer needs to give attention some to design—regardless of their industries.

That said, there’s no need to commission the next Mona Lisa, and good design is not necessarily complicated. Craft’s email is beautiful in its simplicity and hyper-focused on one call-to-action (CTA). Maybe because a single CTA increases clicks by 371%, and sales by 1617%!

Craft email example

Since, unfortunately, sometimes the most beautiful images on email campaigns get blocked by an ISP, make sure to use an ALT tag for each one on your campaign.

3. Postmates: Great Storytelling

It’s hard to think of anything more compelling than an email send with dancing tortilla chips. Postmates sends periodic emails attempting to activate or reactivate subscribers. They do this by offering free food giveaways in partnership with big brands (Panera, Starbucks, etc.), as well as limited-time delivery specials.

For this particular email send, they captured the reader’s attention with an enticing animated GIF of a Chipotle burrito bowl.

chipotle email gif



email conversation example

True to their brand, instead of getting straight to the point, they take the opportunity to present a deal in an endearing way. The whole campaign is fun and mouthwatering—it would be hard to say no to if you were hungry at the office!

The takeaways here are numerous:

  1. GIFs are the new JPGs. Consider incorporating animated images to get attention and appeal to different types of customers.
  2. Don’t just get to the point. An element of storytelling can be a fun way to get the point across.
  3. Chipotle is hard to resist—especially in animated GIF form, and especially if the idea is floated to you right before lunch.

It’s true, though, that this kind of light, conversational communication might not be the best approach for every audience at every stage of the funnel, but don’t assume it’s not just because you’ve never done it before!

Before you create a list of best practices for your company, test your audience. Send a few of each type of email, and keep your eyes glued on open and click-through rates to see what type of email marketing message converts best. There’s no right answer—it all comes down to testing.

4. Canva: Inspiring and Actionable

This email marketing campaign from Canva encourages engagement by presenting four options for the first step of a new project. The design is very minimal—keeping the reader focused on the task at hand. This almost confrontational approach helps the reader make a decision and get started, rather than putting that idea or task on the backburner—AGAIN!

Canva Email Example

All of that white space strategically increases comprehension by 20%. Canva has a strategic focus and they are not letting up.

An email send like Canva’s could be an excellent email reactivation campaign to win subscribers back after a period of time with no engagement. Is there something you could send by email that represents a pain-free reactivation possibility for customers? Think specifically about your audience’s first step toward reactivation, and incorporate that into an easy email decision-making model.

5. Harpoon Brewery: Making a Personal Connection

Harpoon Brewery is one of many restaurants that uses a subscriber’s birthday as a reason to get in touch. But instead of taking the opportunity to offer a specific discount, they use this email campaign to show their human side.

personal email example

Personalized subject lines alone are 26% more likely to be opened. But personalization doesn’t just have to be limited to a person’s name. The takeaway here? Not every email is about selling. But every email should be about connecting and building a relationship with the subscriber in some way.

6. LinkedIn: Being Human

This particular email campaign invites the recipient to a live software demo with an expert. It makes a personal connection by showing LinkedIn’s human face, with an email signature featuring an actual employee (including a picture). If someone was curious about this particular offering, it would be hard to turn down a walkthrough with an expert who could answer any questions live.

human touch email example

This email repeats the call to action twice, ensuring that it’s impossible to ignore. Furthermore, 80% of marketers’ rate “live demo’s with sales reps” as the most effective way to generate high-quality leads. Whether you’re using a live demo, webinar, or useful content asset—there are multiple ways to leverage the power of this type of email marketing campaign. Don’t forget to add a human element to the email signature, even if it’s a mass email send!

7. Freshbooks: Curating Content

Freshbooks has created a reputation as the champion of the small business owner. They consistently publish high-quality content on their blog for this target audience. On a weekly basis, they share an email send with a roundup of their latest articles.

Content summary example

But Freshbooks knows that their content isn’t the be-all and end-all as far as resources for their audience. So at the end of each weekly email, they include a roundup of curated content from around the web:

content summary example
Curation is an excellent way to add value, without a company needing to devote additional resources to creating content. By presenting your brand’s content as a complete resource (not just your voice, but many), your audience is more likely to come back to you for industry intel, time and time again.

The Best Email Marketing Campaigns

With billions of emails sent each day, it’s hard to focus on just seven of the best email marketing campaigns. But these email share elements that can be applied to any campaign, such as:

  • Align your message and design with the results of audience testing.
  • Personalize email elements that aim to create a personal connection.
  • Leverage content strategically (even if it’s not your own).

Have you recently received an email that made you act, or resonated with you in a unique way? Share your takeaways in the comments below.