Best of the Inbox Awards: The Top 8 Email Campaigns of 2012

Despite email having been one of the first digital methods adopted by direct marketers, it is an often neglected element to the online marketing mix. The ROI, however, is staggering: The DMA puts email marketing's ROI for 2012 at $39.40 for every $1 invested. Email will account for $67.8 billion in sales.

As spam and 'bacon' (subscription spam) takes over the inbox, the challenge for marketers is to capture the wandering attention of inbox clickers and mobile-operating thumbs. Email marketing success requires a creative yet user-friendly design, a clear message, and customer-driven value offering.

Fun, fresh and engaging emails are the aim - but are they the norm? As we look back on the year gone by, it's more than Carly Rae Jepsen and Gangnam Style: We present for the very first time, Blue Fountain Media's awards for 8 creative yet effective email blasts from 2012, and what it was that had us clicking:

THE USER EXPERIENCE AWARD - GAP: Share gifts in every color

Unlike 99% of emails, this one didn't request users to buy - but we're sure it had its fair share of sales, along with the primary message, to SHARE. This strong use of block colors in this email design is striking from within an overflowing inbox, and the calls to action are clear: SHARE RED, and SHARE GREEN. This showcases the product without being overwhelming, and best of all, it follows through with a landing page that isn't just beautifully designed: It provides a fun user experience and a great shopping experience. View the full email

THE BEST OPEN RATE EVER AWARD - Rent The Runway: Mystery Offer
rent the runway
If anything is going to bring your open rate sky-high, it's offering an incentive that's unknown until the magical click happens. Other businesses such as SeamlessWeb have also used this method, increasing opens, click-throughs, and hopefully, conversions.

THE STRONG MESSAGE AWARD - Napoleon Perdis Australia: Hold Onto Your Overly Embellished Hat!
One strong image. One strong message. SALE! Bonus points for the "Crowd Phobic and Prefer To Shop in your PJs" direction to the online store instead. The fantastic use of imagery with strong but quirky wording that resonates with personality makes this an email to emulate. View the full email.
napoleon perdis

THE CUSTOMER FEEL-GOOD AWARD- Gilt City: We're Taking an Extra 50% Off your First Purchase. Seriously.
Remarketing is an often under-utilized area of marketing. If customers sign up for a site account or email list yet never make a purchase, they're already halfway there: Now it's about creating an offer that's compelling enough for them to convert from warm leads to full-blown customers. Gilt's remarketing campaign, targeting signed-up users yet to make their first purchase, has one strong message, supported by product-relevant imagery that is attractive to the target customer, and has a clear call to action: SHOP NOW, using a promo code.
gilt city

THE BRAND STORY EXCELLENCE MEDAL (NON-PROFIT CATEGORY) - Charity Water: Get To Know the People of Rwanda
Scott Harrison's Charity: Water is the king of non-profit marketing. Not only are their campaigns all beautifully designed and well-written, but their brand stories do all the talking. Instead of asking for support with the traditional DONATE NOW call-to-action button, Charity: Water's September campaign shows the faces and tells the stories of those who benefit. Each storyline engages readers with one hook before a call to READ HIS/HER/THEIR STORY: For Gratien, Pelagie, Donathile and the students at G.S. Murama, this achieves more than any Fundraise or Donate buttons could.
charity water
View full email

Food delivery service Seamless Web faces a marketing challenge: Their customers are the busiest people in town - they can't even spare the minutes to pick up lunch. Seamless sends coupon code emails that are well-received (including very popular "mystery coupon codes" which aren't revealed until they are plugged in at checkout), each featuring a preceding announcement and a follow-up email with the coupon code. No message requires scrolling below the fold - great for users on mobiles or tablets. Best of all, Seamless acknowledges the one thing they know about their customers: They are busy, and apologies for interrupting.

The follow-up email containing the coupon is equally simple. Clear sharing buttons enhance the lifetime value of the email and will increase conversions beyond the subscriber list.
seamless discount

Sometimes an email doesn't need to have an ecommerce intent - it's just about fostering goodwill between the customer and the brand. Oscar de la Renta's Happy Thanksgiving email shows the face of the brand with Oscar and his dog, and wishes his customers all the best without asking for anything in return. In 2012, customers have shown more than ever that they expect their brands to behave as people, not commercial entities - holiday greetings and birthday emails are the perfect way to do just that.
oscar de la renta
View full email

THE SUBJECT LINE PRIZE FOR REMARKETING - Modcloth: Eek - Something You like is almost sold out!
Great subject headers are the key to a great email. While users are known to skim through emails that appear to be marketing related, they're often receptive to those that sound just like they came from a concerned or helpful friend. Modcloth's remarketing campaign has a great subject heading and better yet - addresses an actual user need, by highlighting wishlisted items that are low in stock. It's simple, short, and completely effective. Grab it Now!
mod cloth

Fluent City: Get Back Into Spanish with a Free Bridge to Level 2 Workshop!

It's not always about design. Sometimes, it's by being personable and talking to the customer like a trusted friend that it's possible to get the repeat purchase or return visit. Fluent City's emails not only offer great value to encourage the purchase, but with a personal message it's likely many customers were happy to reopen a dialogue with the organization.
fluent city

Email marketing has its challenges but the opportunities are truly endless. Pairing creative concepts with effective messaging offers a chance to create an inbox invasion that your customers not only respond to, but begin to recognize, anticipate and crave. Best of all, everything is variable: Mixing up messaging, design, calls-to-action and of course, timing and subject lines are all possible on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis, to finally create the perfect email recipe.

Were there any excellent email campaigns in 2012 that you think we missed? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @BFMweb.

How to Reach the Inbox Whitepaper

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