11 of the Best Email Marketing Campaigns Deconstructed

To state the obvious, Magemail is a big believer in the power of email marketing.

There’s simply no better medium out there to communicate with your customers and subscribers.

It’s still worth looking into what the separates the best email campaigns from the rest. For example, automated (trigger) emails generate a 152% higher click through rate (CTR) than traditional emails.

In order to help you get the most out of email marketing, I am going to deconstruct some of the best campaigns.

By the end, you will have a deep understanding of what makes a successful email marketing campaign tick.

Segment and Consider Your Audience

The first step to any email marketing campaign is to segment your email list. Though all your subscribers may be interested in your brand, it’s highly likely they will have different requirements.

The most efficient way of doing this is to ask your subscribers at the signup form. Let’s check out the first example of an email marketing campaign:

1. Huffington Post – Segmentation

HuffPost Signup form

(Source: Huffingtonpost.com)

When I went to sign up for a newsletter with the Huffington Post, I was presented with a number of sections. Among the options I selected was “the Morning Email.”

Within minutes, Huffington Post sent me a friendly confirmation email. It outlined exactly what I should expect:

HuffPost Morning Email

(Source: Huffingtonpost.com)

This sets up a strong foundation for the new subscriber-brand relationship. The Lifestyle section takes it even further:

HuffPost Lifestyle Email

(Source: Huffingtonpost.com)

By recognizing the fact there is a lot of competition, the HuffPost’s Lifestyle email is keen to show appreciation. Once more, it details what the subscriber should expect. The bonus is the fact subscribers can then select the frequency of emails they receive.

A study from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) suggests that 58% of all email revenue comes from targeted campaigns.

So, taking these steps at the beginning will help boost the efficiency of your email marketing strategy.

Subject Lines

One of the biggest mistakes marketers can make is to overlook the importance of the subject line. It’s the first thing your subscribers will see from your business, even before they open the email.

A survey from Experian showed that personalized subject lines have a 37% higher open rate than other versions. This underlines the fact that it matters.

Here are the eight components to a successful email subject line:

  • Urgency: This conveys a message that the subscriber needs to “act now” to take advantage of an offer or deal. It’s important for the urgency to match the content of the email. As such, it should be used sparingly and when there is a time, or stock limited special offer.
  • Curiosity: While it does make sense to say exactly what is in the email, adding a touch of curiosity helps to entice subscribers. For example: “See What Happened Yesterday…” is a great way to get people to open the email and find out.
  • Offers: Who doesn’t like a special deal? Like the urgency component, this should be used with care and only when the content matches the expectations of subscribers.
  • Personalization: Personalizing the email starts with the subject line. Take it beyond the name and tailor the subject line to the interests of your subscribers.
  • Relevance: As with the main email body, you should keep the subject line relevant to your industry. This could include the latest news or product release.
  • Brand Recognition: Recipients need to know who their email is from. Of course, you would never want to send the same subject line over and over again but use a tone that is familiar with your brand.
  • Humor: This is a great way to make your brand more personable. Consider your audience and market before delivering the punchline. You can even be a little bit controversial if it suits your brand.
  • Keep it Short: With 54% of emails now being opened on mobile, it’s critical to keep your subject line short. Ideally within 20 characters.

We would never find a subject line that combines each of those components perfectly. However, the best campaigns do tend to use multiple elements,

2. Subject Line Examples

Subject Lines

Each of these email subject lines uses some of the components listed.

ClearScore, a free credit history service, checks off for curiosity and relevance.

Groupon uses urgency by implying there is a limited stock.

Agoda takes a personalized approach with the prospect of special deals.

The point to take away from this is that the top brands spend time to consider their subject lines, recognizing its importance. No matter how good your content is, a poor subject line will kill the entire campaign.

As we have seen from the examples above, there is no need to be over the top. Just give your subscribers a reason to open the email. In fact, overpromising or too much “spammy” language could see your emails being blocked.

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Main Body

Now we get into the meaty part of the email.

The main body is the part you want your subscribers to read. There are several different styles and designs that an email campaign could use. So we will go through nine more examples to cover all the bases:

3. Nike – Minimal Content

Nike Black Friday

(Source: Nike.com)

Nike’s “Just Do It” motto is a key part of its brand and the email is reflective of this. It simply says “Black Friday Preview” with a few enticing images of apparel around the edge.

The email offering subscribers a tantalizing glimpse into the Black Friday deals. Clicking the “See Launch Details” button takes you to this landing page:

Nike Black Friday Landing Page

(Source: Nike.com)

When you hover over a shoe you like the look of, the name of the product turns into a “Notify Me” button. This gives you the option to download Nike’s app. The whole aim is to build excitement ahead of a lucrative date in the retail calendar.

Another strong aspect of the campaign is the fact it takes just three clicks from the email to download the app.

The no-nonsense, direct approach is distinctively Nike.

4. Just Eat – Win-Back Email

JustEat Inactive User email

(Source: Justeat.com)

Global food delivery service, Just Eat uses humor and personalization in order to try and win back inactive customers.

The use of “aaaages” is the sort of language we would use in social situations, giving the email a relaxed, friendly tone. The suggestion that the customer might have been “cheating” on the brand is a humorous way to test their loyalty.

The image of the ribs is clearly designed to whet the appetite. Having the main call to action (CTA) button right next to it is a smart way to boost conversion rates.

5. Urban Outfitters – Win-Back Email

Urban Outfitters

(Source: Urbanoutfitters.com)

Apparel brand Urban Outfitters take personalized humor to the next level with its reactivation email. Designing the template like a messenger chain, it’s reflecting real life experiences of Urban Outfitters’ market.

The content is engaging and memorable. The level of detail can be seen in the choice of color for each of the boxes. Purple stands out more than the dark grey and certainly more attractive. Also, “yes” is written in capital letters.

There is no doubt which option the brand wants you to pick.

Such an approach can be risky, but with the younger crowd, it’s just a bit of fun. And an innovative way to win back subscribers.

Additionally, as with every other example shown in this post, social media icons are included. This enables subscribers to interact with brands across multiple platforms and share content. It also helps with deliverability.

6. Starbucks – Referral Campaign

Starbucks referrals

(Source: Starbucks.com)

Coffee shop giant Starbucks clearly understand the importance of friends. This is backed up by a study from the Nielsen Group which showed that 83% of respondents trusted referrals from people they knew.

So by creating a referral program, Starbucks is already onto a winner. The emphasis on friends, in big gold letters against a green background, generates a positive feeling for subscribers. Pushing the message that “everyone wins” only increases the feel-good factor in the email.

The accompanying images give off an impression of celebrations. The reward of stars and coffee is both tangible and relevant to the brand.

7. Topshop – Abandoned Cart

Topshop Abandoned cart

(Source: Topshop.com)

E-commerce stores have an average cart abandonment rate of 69.23%. This stat alone gives you a strong case to use abandoned cart emails.

British apparel brand, Topshop use such emails to entice customers to complete their purchases.

The striking thing about the example above is its similarity to the main website:

Topshop Website

(Source: Topshop.com)

The similarities with the website leads the recipient to feel instantaneously familiar with the email. Except this time, the main image is focused on the customer’s abandoned cart. The bright red CTA contradicts with the rest of the color scheme and is unmissable.

Further down the email is the details of the product left behind, providing a gentle reminder for the customer. In between, there’s a contact number for those who need more assistance.

Some brands offer discounts in their abandoned cart emails, but a simple reminder is sufficient for the first send.

8. Need Supply – Birthday Message (With a Twist)

Need Supply Missed Birthday

(Source: Needsupply.com)

Need Supply, a clothes and lifestyle store, send a birthday message with a difference.

It deliberately misses the subscriber’s birthday to send a belated message. The tagline “Awww Snap,” is a typical sort of thing a friend would say if they made a mistake, adding the personal touch.

Using everyday events, like leaving the coffee on top the car, is a good way to evoke empathy. “Things just didn’t feel right,” is a feeling we all get too. By the end, the forgiveness is all but sealed with a 20% discount on everything in the store. The expiry date adds a sense of urgency.

Above all, this is not an email subscribers would expect to receive and are more likely to remember it fondly, boosting the image of the brand.

9. Loft – Curiosity/Special Offer

The Loft Curiosity

(Source: Loft.com)

Female apparel brand Loft mixes the promise of a special offer with curiosity. By covering half the number, the email entices the subscriber to click through to find out more.

“Curious? Oh you should be” is a succinct and direct message, setting high expectations for the recipient. Like Topshop, the layout of the email is very similar to the website, supported by the bright pink color.

The “free shipping” note at the top adds another layer of assurance for any potential buyers.

There is very little in the way of written content. Instead, Loft uses images to deliver its message. Easily scannable, eye-catching, and engaging – it’s a winning email campaign.

10. Forever 21 – Curiosity/Special Offer

Forever21 Black Friday special offer

(Source: Forever21.com)

Online apparel store, Forever 21 take the curiosity factor to the next level. Using a GIF, it creates a scratch effect to reveal the three possible discounts. To find out which one you have been selected for, you have to click through.

Let’s face it, subscribers are swamped with emails on Black Friday. And simply offering the best deal no longer cuts it.

Forever 21 delivers an excellent example of using creativity to stand out from the crowd.

11. Amazon Prime – Mobile Responsive

Amazon Prime Mobile Responsive

(Source: Amazon.com)

Amazon Prime is a genius marketing operation in itself, helping the brand retain millions of customers. So, it’s no surprise to see them on the list.

In recognition of the fact most of us now look at emails on mobile, Amazon ensure its emails are mobile responsive.

The images are big and clickable. The gaps between each movie makes it easy to distinguish. In this case, there is also minimal written content.

The result is a mobile friendly experience for subscribers.


A recurring theme from the email campaigns is simplicity. Each of the examples shown have an unerring focus on the audience and making sure the content is relevant.

This is the basis for any successful email marketing campaign. Huffington Post set the bar high with its multitude of subscription options. The follow up email offer even more control to subscribers.

So, when writing your next email campaign, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the email about?
  • What are your key performance indicators?
  • Who is the target audience?

Once you have addressed the questions above, you are ready to build your email campaign. The design of the main body should enable you to convey your message in the most efficient way. Allow room for images and copy.

The primary CTA should be clear and unmissable. Use a contrasting color and a prominent position. Images should be selected carefully.

Consider your brand at the design stage too. Businesses are increasingly incorporating their website layouts into emails. The idea is to make subscribers feel comfortable interacting across different platforms.

The tone should be personable and friendly, even if your subscribers decide to leave your list. Look at how Urban Outfitter takes a creative approach in trying to win them back.

With over 50% of emails being opened on mobile devices, it’s now imperative to make your emails mobile responsive. As shown by Amazon, the key is to have large CTAs or images for the subscriber to easily click.

And don’t overlook the subject line. It’s the window to your email, offering a preview of what’s inside. Keep it short and concise so the whole line will appear in mobile inboxes.

Go through the different elements of a subject line and select the ones that are appropriate for your email campaigns.

There are many facets of a successful email marketing campaign. At the same time, it doesn’t take a genius to set up a winning strategy. As one world-famous brand says: “Just Do It.”

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Download our FREE PDF with our Ultimate Checklist for Your Email Campaign!


  • Francesca Romana Caponecchi

    The tips seem so easy… but ease has its fascinating complexity!

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