Email Design: Capturing My Undivided Attention

Email has always had its limits when it comes to designing, thanks to the old-school coding that designers have to follow; tables within tables rows, after rows and columns after columns, not really allowing text and images to float freely on the page. Or when they do, it’s due to broken code that makes your email campaign look like a Picasso painting!

Creating something that stands out is harder than it looks. Producing an email that’s image heavy could result into the email going straight into spam. Anyway, most email clients will not allow you to see images until you agree to the content, therefore the first impression you see in the preview pane will predominantly be white and plain giving you no information at all (which is very bad practice!)

How about Typography I hear you ask?

Nope! Again, there’s a limited catalogue of fonts that are email friendly. So trying to make a typographic masterpiece is a big bold NO.

With all the limitations that designers face when designing an email campaign, it seems to be a losing battle trying to create something that will stand out on the screen while keeping on the good side of best email practise. However, problem solving is a hobby of mine and I love a challenge like this. As designers we were always taught, “If you can’t break the rules, why not bend them?”

Recently, I was amazed by an email sent to me. It was so simple and yet done perfectly.  A social media site trying to claw its way back from the dead.

MySpace have re-vamped the look and interface of their website and it looks great, with their creativity overflowing into the email campaigns that they send out.myspace-email]

For me, this email has everything that an email campaign should have!

Subject line: Todays top headliners. Tomorrow’s next big thing.

Short, very snappy and catchy, “Tomorrow’s next big thing.”


Design and Layout

  • Everything aligns in the centre;
  • Easy to read with a clear call to action;
  • Catchy header that gives the subscriber a sense of urgency;
  • Short paragraphs with eye-catching images and links to the right article/page.



Wait It Moves?!

The image behind the heading is an animated gif!

This was a stroke of genius as the design forces your eye to interact and lock on to the email. Another reason why this works so well is that it’s only an image and the important information is another element which is placed infront, therefore the recipient doesn’t lose the crucial details if the .gif is blocked by an email client.

Finally, the heading itself is great as it gives off a sense of urgency; “What’s Now, New and Next”. This will undoubtedly increase the campaign’s click-through rate.

It has been over seven years since I logged into (or even looked at) my MySpace account, due to other social sites having my captivated and undivided attention – and I know that’s extremely typical. But as I received this campaign I was astonished that an email which is so simple yet attractive pulled my attention back to the long-neglected pages of MySpace. I don’t think I’d care if my inbox was flooded by emails if they were all like this – so well thought-out that they even took my attention away from my work!

Campaign of the Month: Emirates Holidays – October

Emirates Holiday

Emirates Holiday

The award for e-shot’s October email campaign of the month goes to…. Emirates Holidays!

A big congratulations is in order for the Emirates marketing team! Their campaign triumphed for a wide range of factors, such as:

  • The sense of urgency caused by the phrase “brochure out now” in the subject line that’s repeated in the header image.
  • Three clear links at the top which include downloadable content and possibility to send the email to a friend.
  • Two strong “booking incentive” discount offers that are clearly separated from the main text.
  • An excellent text to image ratio with several extremely enticing photos.
  • Accompanying text is clear and easy to read, plus broken up into simple bullet points.
  • Overall presentation of the email is neat, tidy and uncluttered.
  • Links at the bottom mirror those at the top, saving scrolling and doubling the chance of click-through to their website.


Tip of the Month: October – Brand Identity with Email Marketing

Maintaining a clear and likeable brand identity, encouraging new customers and ensuring the loyalty of existing ones is a piece of cake with our step by step email marketing guide.

Orchestrating your email campaigns might seem complex at first, but it can be simple if you treat your subscribers like human beings and react to their different stages of engagement.

Below we’ve provided handy tactics for correspondences to suit all types of subscribers. From interested prospects to longstanding customers considering your competitors, these basic strategies will help your brand impress.

Brand awareness

  • Implement clever content marketing. Don’t focus on selling, but simply on communicating to make yourself valuable rather than desperate or pushy.
  • Give away vouchers to help boost brand loyalty.
  • Provide engaging and interesting newsletters with a consistent tone of voice and style.


Increasing sales and lead generation

  • Try winning back old customers (for instance with a “we miss you!” campaign) but be sincere and never patronising).
  • Email campaigns sent out with latest deals and offers that prospects caught in two minds will suddenly struggle to resist.



Generic email:

  • Again, send regularly worthwhile content to keep subscribers attentive.
  • Create “what we offer” emails to remind customers about fundamental products and the reason they signed up or bought from your site in the first place.



  • Special offers, sent to the right people at the right time – such as specifically seasonal promotions – can drum up added interest. For example in the build up to Christmas or before kids go back to school.



  • Send out a thank you email quickly, be courteous and appreciative so customers feel valued and respected – they’re not just another faceless sale.
  • Also send reassurance emails on the status of orders, to keep customers up to date and in the loop so they don’t feel neglected or forgotten. Prove their satisfaction is important to your company and not just their money.


After Sale

  • Bonus deals after a sale like “Free training!” or “additional offer!”, so that customers have an extra reason to come back but also another incentive to view your brand positively.
  • Plus, a while later send personalised “How are you?” messages to further the individual touch. If you show you haven’t forgotten about your customers then it’ll ensure they don’t forget about you, without making them feeling hassled.


New Customers

  • Use a “Catch-up email” to continue the manner of your correspondence and informally say hello.
  • Send a newsletter to let new subscribers know the basics regarding you and your services plus relevant company and industry developments.


Customer retention

  • “We’ll miss you when you’re gone” style messages take the human character of your emails even further, at a crucial time when a customer might be considering going to a competitor.
  • Highlight the fact that you value them as people and not just as potential income, and if they haven’t looked at your site in a while then a nice message articulating their worth might be the nudge in the right direction they need to make a purchase!
  • Point out recent product developments and new additions that might pique their waning interest.

Marketing Conference Intro Video: Inbound 2013

The following video is an introductory animation designed by Hubspot for the INBOUND 2013 marketing conference in Boston.

The clip’s ingenious animation makes it a vibrant, exciting video.

Arrowed lines turn into explosions of paint, there’s growing graphs, moving cogs, a sun that transforms into raining clouds before drifting into the sea and a city that’s built from mobile devices falling from the sky. It goes on and on in a captivating sequence of motion, and each image cleverly visualises every point the narrators make.

While the message that the video expresses is great, it’s delivered in an extremely annoying accent. The narrator changes from male to female half way through, yet constantly sounds a bit robotic, like Robin Williams in the 1999 film Bicentennial Man, which is bizarrely at odds with the video’s desire to inspire a “more human world”.

To be totally honest, some of the language makes me cringe. “Together, we can stop acting like strangers and start connecting as people. Together, we can build a new, more human world. Together, we will transform. Together, we are Inbound.”

I’m all for grandiose statements, but building a new world is a bit preposterous.

Nevertheless, the overarching sentiment of the video is admirable; “Don’t call me the customer. Don’t call me the consumer or the buyer. I’m not an order number. I’m not an entry in your database. I’m not an opportunity in your CRM… I’m a person.”

That’s the video’s chief concept and that’s the mind-set companies should be thinking in.

People need to be valued and treated with respect, it’s the only way to build a positive brand. As the video says, “While I may or may not buy your product, that doesn’t mean I don’t matter to you.” Our reviews and recommendations could make or break companies extremely quickly, with the internet acting as light-speed word of mouth.

Even if the verbal delivery is slightly nauseating, the video is a triumph of animation and purpose. It even ends by reiterating the vital importance of publishing content that’s relevant and helpful to customers – but never interruptive.


We all scream for Ice cream

This is a great marketing idea for Häagen-Dazs. I don’t know about you, but I’d get a tub just to check it out!

Watch the video above to see how it works.

Known as the Concerto Timer, the ice cream manufacturer’s app plays a “virtual violin concerto” when you point your smartphone’s camera at the lid of any pot of Häagen-Dazs.

My favourite aspect of the ingenious digital marketing gimmick is that the performance will last for two minutes, because that’s apparently how long it takes for the ice cream to reach the ideal consistency for eating, according to Häagen-Dazs.

Häagen-Dazs obviously haven’t considered my exceptionally cold freezer – I’d probably need the app to play a full opera before the ice cream was edible. Nevertheless, it’s a really cool app and buzz-inducing marketing strategy.

And personally I can’t wait to see where other brands take this technology in the future. Chicago Town Microwave Pizza boxes that play jazz for the time the pizza takes to cook? Jars of Nescafe that play protest folk while the kettle boils? Time in the kitchen might never be the same again!

Email from Pinterest: Hi Tom!


Click to read!

Maybe it’s my occupation as a copywriter, but I found this email from Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann extremely engaging, honest and clever. Or perhaps I should just call him Ben, seeing as we’re on first-name-only terms according to the message. It might be a little bit corny, but in this context – and combined with the large personalised “Hello Tom!” at the top – it adds to the pleasant and disarming tone of the email.

Credit: The Imagination Tree

Credit: The Imagination Tree

The amazingly human and endearing opening line about his young son might be subliminal emotional manipulation, but it means you keep reading. Indeed, it meant I happily clicked on the three links in the second sentence to see what he was referring to – I was interested and I don’t even have children. It immediately gets traffic to the site and displayed some charming content.

However, after all of this niceness the email gets down to the business that’s smartly only alluded-to in the enigmatic “Planning for the Future” subject line. Conversationally and humorously Ben instantly addresses the main concerns users will have with the announcement that Pinterest is to eventually start featuring advertising, via paid-for posts. Using a bullet-point list he reassures people about each crucial aspect.

His final point, that the advertising will be “Improved – based on your feedback”, followed shortly by the closing reiteration, “we want to see how things go and, more than anything, hear what you think”, makes users feel valued and involved. The email then ends on a positive tone and a thanks, rounding it off in a continually friendly way.

From an email marketing perspective it shouldn’t work. One long body of text? No pictures? Barely any call to action? They’re usually absolutely massive “IT WILL NEVER WORK” email marketing warning signs.

Maybe it’s Pinterest’s consistent brand identity that makes this work, but I’ve only been a member of the site for a week – – so I wouldn’t really know. What I do know is that I enjoyed reading it, and will be keeping a keen eye out for their communications from now on.

Considering that the introduction of advertising to a well-loved and established site is such a sticky topic, I think it’s an example of incredibly ingenious delivery. An announcement of a difficult subject that managed to make me smile, and read to the end, proves that shrewd copywriting has the potential to be immensely powerful.


Mini Marketing

In two previous posts on the e-shot blog we’ve highlighted some brilliantly inventive, modern advertising ideas.

From wi-fi-enabled recycling bins in London that can track your smartphone, to a bus stop that transported photos of waiting commuters into live advertising boards in funny poses and scenarios.

Well, this summer Mini took this personalised, live advertising idea. And made it bigger.

In their zany #notnormal campaign, the car manufacturer used human spotters equipped with iPads to locate a Mini travelling in traffic. The iPad wielders input a couple of quick details – the model and colour of Mini and so on – and instigated personalised messages to appear on each billboard further down the road.

One series of posters said, “Early start Mr. Grey Mini driver?” then, “Need a pick me up?” followed by, “Fancy a tasty bacon butty?”

Rather than a misleading tease, the succeeding poster read, “See you at the next garage”. Sure enough, at a nearby petrol station the grey Mini driver was given a free bacon sandwich as promised!

Some other messages encouraged drivers to pull over at the nearby petrol station for free car washes (if the iPad user had spotted a particularly dirty vehicle) or to receive complimentary bouquets of flowers.

Watch the video below to see some of the other generous rewards and special treatment dished out to Mini drivers.

The ingenious campaign was designed to make drivers feel like part of an exclusive “not normal” élite – emphasised with a #mininotnormal hashtag.

Potential of Smart Watches

Time for Change

With nearly everyone owning a mobile phone these days it felt like a safe assumption that the wrist-watch has been slowly dying out. Apart from as a fashion accessory or a nostalgic throwback, why bother wearing something so basic on your wrist when you can just as easily whip out your phone to check the time? And how about combining the two? Well, Samsung and Sony have taken it upon themselves to answer this question that nobody asked.

Sony’s Smartwatch 2 is out now and Samsung have recently unveiled their effort, the Galaxy Gear. While techies and nerds get excited by any unusual gadget – even at prices ranging between $179 and $299 – for the rest of us the whole thing seems a bit ridiculous.

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear looks like a futuristic take on the classic Casio, the ones with the calculator keypad that were popular with hipsters in 2004 and Marty McFly in the 1980s. The battery life is currently only a full day of “regular use” (whatever that means), and the presence of a spyhole camera with video recording gives the impression it’ll be popular with peeping Toms above anyone else. On top of this, the Gear allows you to answer calls which seems like an inventive but awkward idea, depending on how it works.


Sony's Smart Watch


However, I can be as disissive as I want, but Apple, Microsoft and Google are all apparently perfecting their entries into the modern timepiece market. And history tells us it’s that point when things will get interesting.

The potential for a wave-making technological development on the same level as tablets and smartphones is up for debate. But as the giants of the gadget world prepare for fierce competition, rapid developments surely won’t be far away.

Crucially, the Galaxy Gear’s biggest revelation is enabling email alerts and email access on your wrist. It’s an advancement that the marketing world needs to watch out for [pun intended].

With many companies either oblivious, or only now beginning to get to grips with formatting their messages for mobile devices, how quickly will they react to an even smaller display size? Undoubtedly, the potential for reaching prospects and customers via a device that’s permanently attached above the hand could be an opportunity too good to miss. And those that capitalise on this fastest could be unearthing a goldmine.