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The 7 Best Email Newsletters of the 2014 Holiday Season

Holiday Emails

With the holiday season now done and dusted, it's important to look back on your online business' successes and failures in order to both improve your marketing content immediately and for next year's holiday season. For most businesses one of the biggest goals during the holiday season is to send holiday newsletters to email lists of existing customers that generate new sales of products or services as gifts.

In an effort to help you take a serious look at your email marketing, we've compiled some of the best holiday newsletters from this year's holiday season and break down why they were so effective.

New York Road Runners

New York Road Runners Email

The New York Road Runners is the world’s premier community running organization, and is involved with many running events around New York City – most notably the New York City Marathon. During the holiday season, the organization did a great job of highlighting each New York City borough with a holiday themed newsletter that reimagined each as a Christmas ornament. To cap it off, they included a big thank you to their members while including snowflakes in the background.

This email is particularly effective because it is not only clearly holiday branded, but it also includes links to relevant runs that members can participate in. This allows the New York Road Runners to stay in touch with their members while simultaneously galvanizing them to take action and participate in a run.

The only shortcoming of the newsletter is that there isn’t any call to action button that users can click on. Something along the lines of “sign up for a run today” or “run in the new year”, would have been a nice addition, but seeing as this newsletter was predominantly created to keep their brand at front of mind with their members, not including one doesn’t detract too significantly from the newsletter as a whole.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com Email

For most ecommerce retailers, the holiday season is the biggest time of the month. It is little wonder then, that Amazon.com clearly took a lot of time to get their holiday newsletter just right. They did a great job not only highlighting gift ideas and sales that users might be interested in, but they also provided an emotional draw with their subject line: “Gift Cards & Last-Minute Gifts”. Amazon knows that a large percentage of their buyers are looking for things last minute and need gifts that are going to be easy to buy and quick to ship – they capitalized on this need in their email by highlighting shipping right in the header and by underscoring the fact that they provide “instant delivery”.

Amazon also did a great job from a design standpoint. Not only did they include holiday elements like gingerbread men and candy canes right in their gift card images, they also made sure to include iconography like stars, ornaments, Christmas trees, wreaths, and wrapped presents throughout their newsletter to make sure that users knew that they were shopping for holiday-specific items. Furthermore, their main call-to-action “See more gift cards” is large and contrasts nicely in terms of color scheme from the rest of the email, so that users are sure to see it and click on it.

The only issue with the newsletter is how long it is - we couldn't even fit the whole thing. While animated imagery and year-end deals are nice, they are so far below the fold that it seems very unlikely that anyone reading the email actually bothered to scroll down that far to see what was available.

Dunkin' Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts Email

The holiday season is historically extremely cold (particularly near the Blue Fountain Media offices in New York City!), and while it was much warmer than usual, it is still the best time of the year to huddle up with a cup of coffee. Dunkin’ Donuts understands this quite clearly, and took advantage with their holiday email campaign. Much like Amazon, they focused on the idea of a “last minute holiday gift” to try and get users to buy a gift card as a stocking stuffer.

The best part of this email by far is the use of a real product photo that is arranged in such a way that Christmas branding is clear. Unlike a lot of the other emails on this list, which rely on iconography of holiday ideas, Dunkin Donuts actually took the time to go get ribbons, pinecones, holly, gifts, and even snowflakes to pose in the photo shoot. The shot is really well done – showing the gift card and the coffee in the foreground and even going so far as to make sure that the top of the coffee has a bit of texture to it to make it look more appealing. The initial header text that instructs users to “Stuff their stockings with Dunkin’ Coffee” is also extremely prominent, so that recipients know exactly what message Dunkin’ Donuts is trying to convey to them as soon as they open the email.

The only minor drawback is the location of the store locator CTA, which is below the image and subtext. Ideally it might have been a better idea to put this above the text for “get 10 large hot coffees with the dunkin’ coffee card”, because while it adds to the CTA, it also pushes it further below the fold – making audiences less likely to see it and click on it.

Blue Fountain Media's

Blue Fountain Media Holiday 2014 Newsletter

This year, we were really proud of our newsletter and found it performed successfully. We wanted to let our clients know that we were thinking of them during the holiday season, so we offered a fun, holiday-themed game. We took an approach that was simple in layout but still provided interactivity through animated snowflakes, and designed the email as part of our continuous effort to maintain and build strong relationships with our clients—both new and existing.

There were certain key features of our email that we feel were heavy contributors to its success. The logo, color scheme, and typography were all present and consistent with the branding on our website. All of the images and visual assets offered a light-hearted, holiday feel, without being too much on the eyes and maintaining strong branding. We used central messaging that was concise and easy to digest for the reader, and had a call-to-action to play the game that stood out.

As we've discussed in some other examples, CTAs should be featured at the top of most emails, because scrolling down is an inconvenience for users. Our game and the CTA to play it were located much further down the email than we'd normally like, and in an effort to try and mediate this issue, we included a second CTA to scroll down. While this may not have entirely solved the issue, it helped to make users aware of the fact that there was important content if they were unaware of it.

The Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox Emailer

Even though baseball is out of season until April, the Boston Red Sox took advantage of the holiday season to try and galvanize their fan base and drive ticket purchases. They did this in a very interesting way – instead of reminding fans to buy tickets now, they simply sent their own version of an e-card wishing their fans warm holiday wishes featuring a great image of their Red Sox logo over a mantle.

The email itself is pretty short and to the point, but what it has it does perfectly. It has unique but clear holiday imagery that uses their branding in a recognizable holiday scene by adding a fireplace and snowflakes in the background. Their CTA is also extremely prominent and the white on blue text is easy to see. The email itself is also extremely brief, so users see all the content as soon as they open it up and aren’t forced to scroll at all to see any of the messaging or content provided.

Much like the Blue Fountain Media example, the Red Sox do a good job of pointing their email at an entertaining landing page that has a lot do with their email content. It’s hard to animate elements in a newsletter while ensuring that everyone is able to see what is going on. To get around this, the Red Sox use their landing page as a much more interactive experience and the email as a gateway. The landing page features the same design characteristics as their fireplace in the email, but also includes a reminder that their home opener is on April 13th so that users know they should start thinking about buying tickets.

The only real drawback here is that there is no direct link from the animation on the landing page or the email for users to buy tickets. While there is one in the header of the landing page (which, it should be noted, is a different and noticeable color in order to generate clicks), it is still difficult for the email campaign to directly drive sales.

Apple's Holiday

Apple Holiday Emailer

It’s no surprise that Apple’s holiday email this year was simple yet effective. The company generally does a great job at maintaining their brand presence across all platforms—even during the holidays. They focused on last minute shopping as their pull for this email, by highlighting the idea of giving "inspiration" in gifts - right up until the last minute.

Apple’s holiday message showcased some of their big products this year without having too many and keeping a holiday touch. Including pictures of children in snow and pine trees in their devices was a nice addition that subtly made it clear that it was a holiday email while still highlighting their products. Their subject line, “There’s still time to get great gifts from Apple,” got the point across and was reinforced with the concise messaging about last minute gifts in the body of the email. You could absolutely tell you were reading something produced by Apple, through both font and color scheme, so the brand presence was definitely there.

As the user scrolled down Apple offered more information and more suggestions additional holiday gift options. They may have lost some users with the scroll, but the content that they needed users to see was at the top. The CTA was also a bit simpler than a lot of the other buttons we've seen in emails, which might have been an issue, but the blue really stands out from the white background in order to help mediate this problem somewhat.

Clearly Define Your Goals

Each of the emails we've discussed address a particular goal - whether that is building brand recognition, generating sales, or maintaining relationships with your customers. When you build your email marketing campaigns it helps to clearly define what the goal is. If you want to generate more sales, you clearly will include things like your tagline or logo, but make sure to keep your emails simple and concise. Overwhelming users with multiple CTAs, too much copy, and extremely lengthy emails can actually detract from the amount of traffic and sales your email generates. Email marketing can be one of the most powerful tools in an online brand's arsenal, and looking at what other brands have done right can help you experience your own success in the new year.

What holiday emails impressed you the most? Let us know in the comment section below.

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