If you are one of those people reflecting on their year in an annual Facebook or Instagram post, you might want to dedicate a whole series to 2020. Good or bad, it’s safe to say 2020 was truly a remarkable year.

To some extent, we can thank the coronavirus for accelerating the speed at which the business world is shifting into the digital plane. Over the lockdown period, marketers sent out 27% more email campaigns than pre-Covid. [HubSpot]

Competition breeds quality. Brands from around the world were united under one umbrella, and had to think twice as hard to stay in the graces of their customers. This led to the creation of some genius marketing campaigns.

Considering email is still the most viable digital channel, a lot of these campaigns were to do with email marketing. Here are some of the most memorable email marketing campaigns of 2020.

Airbnb: Gods of Personalisation

Customers are sick and tired of generic content that doesn’t scratch where it itches the most. No matter how objectively appealing an offer in your email copy is, it’s nothing more than appalling to someone who has no interest in it.

The average businessperson receives roughly 126 emails per day. It sounds manageable. But only until you match the figure with the fact the flow of emails is continuous… it never really stops. On the contrary, if email marketing continues to develop at the astonishing rate that it’s currently developing, we can expect our inbox to be even more flooded with emails. People don’t have the time to read through stuff concisely. Instead, they skim through their inbox only paying attention to emails that catch their eye.

A great example of a 2020 email marketing campaign that succeeded in personalisation comes from Airbnb. While Airbnb’s email copies are not that extravagant design-wise, they get the job done. What it lacks in colours and intricate email templates, it compensates with content!

The hospitality sector was one of the industries most affected by the coronavirus. Because of travel restrictions around the world, hotels and rental homes were forced to reduce their sales or even shut down completely. Every day, there were new rules imposed regarding the COVID-19 situation, which meant all service providers had to react to these changes promptly. Only thanks to the company’s genuine interest in their clients’ customer journey, Airbnb has managed to retain a competitive advantage even in the times of a global crisis.  

The two elements that were crucial for Airbnb’s email marketing campaign success were drip marketing, trigger-based emails and feedback forms incorporated into the body of the emails.

First of all, the use of drip marketing allowed Airbnb to stay as relevant as possible. I don’t know what your fun activity of choice over the quarantine was, but I’ve spent most of it eyeing different destinations that I could travel to once this mess is over. A girl can dream. That’s why the company had to focus their attention on differentiating between window shoppers and potential leads.


First of all, Airbnb’s email offers are tailored to fit your specific needs. Based on the data you share with the website when conducting a search, (your budget, your destination, the number of people staying with you) the company compiles a list of the most exciting options for you. To ensure everyone who was genuinely interested in booking a stay or experience finished their purchase, Airbnb keeps sending out cart abandonment and upselling emails once the initial purchase was made.

On top of that, Airbnb introduced feedback forms to their emails. These interactive elements not only increased user interaction with an email, but also proved to customers that their opinion matters. A win-win for everyone!

Weapon of choice: Personalisation; Drip marketing

Boxycharm: Engagement to the Max

We get it! You’ve read almost everything you could find about creating compelling and eye-catching subject lines to get your emails opened. Subject lines are definitely a tricky thing to get right. You need to achieve the perfect balance of cheeky and informational. But, don’t forget new legislation that makes it mandatory to avoid being deceptive in subject lines when emailing subscribers.

Subject lines alone, however, are not almighty - it’s not enough to throw a punny catchphrase at your subscribers and expect a massive increase in conversions. You need to match your subject line promise with an outstanding email body. One of the companies that came up with a good one is Boxycharm. They found a way to entice people to read the email till the end.

Boxycharm’s emails tend to be on the lengthier side. They often cover several products in detail, which increases the volume of the email. For a lot of people, this can be reason enough to skip. In an attempt to overcome this problem, Boxycharm decided to use visual cues that would guide subscribers to the most critical parts. Animated arrows leading to the ‘hottest’ offers and surprises within emails evoked curiosity in the email readers, nudging them to go through the whole copy.

However, you don’t necessarily need to overload your emails with arrows and pointers. You can simply tease readers with a limited-time exclusive offer available only to those who get till the end of the email. If your promise is tempting enough, you’ll immediately see an increase in user engagement.

Weapon of choice: Pointers

Jon Buchan’s Charm Offensive

The only rule there is in email marketing is that you need to be always there to surprise your subscribers and leave them wanting more. A generic email marketing campaign isn’t going to bring you an overwhelming ROI of 122%. Quite the opposite. Copying someone else’s campaigns means you lose more than you win as a result of such email marketing efforts.

Charm Offensive, on the other hand, has proven that a funky and eye-catching email marketing campaign can win the hearts of thousands of people. The secret is to compose copy that makes the reader keep reading and, ideally, forward it to their colleagues and friends. To achieve this, you need to evoke a strong emotion in them; you just need to break through the shell of indifferency with something out of the ordinary.

Jon Buchan found the perfect formula:

Just give it a read! When was the last time that you received an email with an evil laugh in the subject line? It’s original, it’s witty and you remember it because you’ve never had an email like this before. I’ve entered a competition where I need to compete against others, and the copy encourages me to do that, rather than shy away from it. It jokingly reminds me of what’s up for grabs if I win. Then, there’s a gentle reminder to join the Facebook group and get even more involved that I already am.

Weapon of choice: Humour. A lot of it.

Charity: Water

For some reason, a lot of marketers tend to forget that email marketing is not just about sending promotional messages and trying to upsell as much as possible. There are other ways to generate revenue. One of them is raising brand awareness.

This resonated particularly well with a non-profit organisation called Charity: Water. Instead of nurturing leads and nudging them in the direction of making a donation, the company took an alternative route. Charity: Water decided to base their drip email marketing campaign around the journey an individual’s donation makes after being received by the charity.

Once a donor gives their money to the Charity: Water project, it starts a long journey aimed at bettering the environment. The company developed a campaign to reflect this journey and let the donors know how exactly their money is making an impact over time.

The drip sequence is not triggered by the actions of users, but rather sent out automatically. Every now and then, people partaking in the project receive an email with an update with regards to how their donation helped.

Besides, the outlay of emails within the campaign is such that subscribers don’t need to spend too much time trying to understand what’s going on. All the information is presented in a form of the project timeline and an accompanying table that shows progress.

Weapon of choice: Enhancement of transactional emails

Poncho

An email marketing campaign doesn’t necessarily have to be grandiose and intricate to be successful. Poncho’s is active proof of how even the simplest idea can generate a great return on investment.

Poncho’s email marketing campaign consists of daily custom weather forecast emails. That’s it. The idea itself is far from being brand new - you simply add value to emails by providing subscribers with the relevant information. However, the execution of it is what makes it truly remarkable. In its emails Poncho frequently uses animations, gifs, funny puns, and colourful images; all of which aligns perfectly with the brand persona.

Weapon of choice: Short and sweet emails; interactive elements

EmailMonks

Deep down, we’re all little kids. A lot of marketers have finally realised this and tried to use it to their advantage. No matter the age, humans love playing games. It makes us happy, and whatever makes customers happy is a valuable resource for any marketer.

EmailMonks effectively implemented games into their email marketing strategy and built an entire campaign around it. A highly engaging series of emails livened up the mailing list of EmailMonks and attracts new subscribers to it.

Weapon of choice: Email marketing gamification

GrowthHackers: A Social Perspective

One of the most memorable email campaigns of 2020 was launched by GrowthHackers during the Oscars. Nowadays, in the 92nd year of the Academy Awards, it’s no longer unusual for the ceremony to become the center of many email marketing campaigns. A lot of companies want to take advantage of the hype around it.

The GrowthHackers campaign managed to stand out among the other couple of dozens of similar campaigns talking about the Oscars. How? Instead of simply slapping a gif of Jennifer Lawrence with the Oscar statue onto email copy to boost engagement, GrowthHackers marketers decided to take a different, more creative approach.

Considering that the 91st Academy Awards ceremony broke the record for female and African-American awardees, the email marketing campaign was dedicated to diversity, too. Subscribers were offered a sequence of high-quality content to celebrate this topic.

Not only was it a respectful nod to social movements that helped spread the message, it was also a burst of inspirational content for subscribers who don’t follow the Oscars but share these values.

Weapon of choice: Social awareness

As you can see, there isn’t a set formula to make an email marketing campaign stand out. The only thing uniting all of them is the fact they are creative, high-quality and in line with the current trends. To launch a successful campaign, you need to work hard on developing one! It’s in your hands.

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