20 Email Marketing Campaigns that Hit the Mark

When Ray Tomlinson implemented the first email program in 1972, I doubt he would have predicted that it would become the communications and marketing beast that it is today. Like any form of communication, it’s been through quite the evolution, and now more than 205 billion emails are whizzing through the air around us every day. Where does marketing come into play? Email marketing averages an ROI of $38 on every $1 spent, which makes it the most powerful marketing communications tool when it comes to customer generation.

If you’re wondering what kind of emails must be populating in consumer inboxes to generate an ROI of that scale, you’ve come to the right place. I scoured my inbox and the web to put together this list of the best email marketing campaigns flying through cyberspace in 2016. Mr. Tomlinson, this one’s for you.

Want to make it onto our "killin' it" list too? This checklist will take your email marketing campaigns to the next level!

20 Email Marketing Campaigns that Kill It

#1 Thrive Market

First up on the list is Thrive Market, a retailer of healthy, fair trade and non-GMO foods. Thrive Market jumps right into the marketing tactics with their urgency-based copy, with “limited time offer!” and “EXPIRES TOMORROW” occupying the same space just above their mouth-watering (literally!) CTA. The white text reads well off the dark wood, and the mint green jumps out to get users clicking. The way Thrive Market pops in a few positive check marks below the graphic is a clean, attractive way to introduce the reader to all the savings they could be making through the email. Checkmate!

As a bonus, the business throws in a related video at the bottom to generate extra engagement. Smart move, considering that 55% of marketers who used video in their email marketing campaigns reported increased click-through rates (eMarketer). My personal favorite is the little icon bar along the bottom that lays out exactly how healthy their products are, and makes me feel like I should reevaluate my eating habits.

💡 Hot tip: Using the word “video” in your subject line can boost click-through rates by 65% (Animoto).

#2 Philosophy

The skin and personal care company philosophy really hits the mark with their email marketing campaign that 1) delivers their message in a creative way, 2) offers a solution to reader’s potential problems, and; 3) doesn’t dilute their message with too much text or visual content. The short poem immediately made me smile, and is a cute and creative way to introduce what their product can do for you. The minimalist pink design lets viewers focus on the copy and content of the email, rather than over saturating it with unnecessary words, colors and details.

One subtle bonus in their email is that they don’t assume that you suffer from any of the skin “issues” their product resolves, but rather just list what concerns the product can address. Plus, who doesn’t love a gift? Throwing one in at the end of the email will entice readers to click through, and boost Philosophy’s CTR.  


Who wouldn’t want to look in the mirror and see a confident self? Sign me up, philosophy, I’ll take two of whatever you’re selling.

💡 Hot tip: Offering a gift is a great way to entice readers. What can you offer your consumers to get them clicking?

#3 Reddit

Reddit knows redditors—we like our content quick and painless, no silver platter necessary. This email design is consistent with Reddit branding, keeping it minimal with a few pops of their signature orange. They also cut straight to the chase with the newsletter, a short and sweet update on the biggest news of that week. With this email, I can be caught up on the latest, most ready-worthy events voted by Redditors in a few short clicks.

💡 Hot tip: Keep your brand consistent across all platforms to develop a strong sense of your brand in your audience’s mind.

Recommended Reading: Plain Text Vs HTML Emails: Design Showdown

#4 Humble Bundle

“Feeling grim? It’s a new dawn!” Get it? Because they’re selling access to Grim Dawn? I’m a sucker for wordplay, and this email from Humble Bundle worked it into their campaign perfectly. The subject line and copy of the email are both in reference to the product they’re offering, yet get more creative with it than a “BUY NOW” tactic. The showcasing of previous bundles’ goodies shows users what they missed out on last time, so they will take action and get the newest cool bundle of games.



💡 Hot tip: Clever text and word play get people interested in your content, and help your brand stand out in a crowded inbox.

#5 Trello

Trello’s power-up announcement email packs a cute design, consistent branding and a great CTA in one CTR-boosting punch. Their simple visual design avoids overloading the viewer with too much information, and lets them focus instead on the concise message. Trello doesn’t divulge much about the update in the email, but relies on the fact that people can’t turn up an offer of super powers (I mean, we’re only human...for now).


💡 Hot tip: First-person phrasing in your CTA will boost click-through rates on your email (Protocol80).

#6 ModCloth

Looks like they followed the sixth tip in our list of subject line tactics: use emojis! The lightning symbols really put the “flash” in flash sale, and got me clicking through right away. Nice consistency, ModCloth! In the email body, a simple color “flash” animation and big, bold text to announce their big sale. Putting urgency in their CTA is a great move, and you’re guided with big, helpful buttons to go straight into the shop categories.



💡 Hot tip: Say cheese! 😀 Using emojis in your subject line can increase open rates by 45% (Campaign Monitor).

#7 Fitbit

I’m not really the competitive type, but this email from Fitbit got me reconsidering that part of myself. Even if I wasn’t an avid Fitbit user, I’d be interested to click through to see what they had in store for me. Being a user, I’m thrilled to see that they’ve added a new challenge to their lineup, and can’t wait to get active again with my friends.

The actual email inside is beautiful, instilling a sense of wanderlust in the viewer with the gorgeous landscape image. Plus, who would pass up the opportunity to “start exploring”? This is a good example of a great CTA, where they skip the general “buy now” or “learn more,” and make the offer all-the-more enticing by offering adventure at the touch of a button.



This email leaves me thinking “where will Fitbit take me today?,” which is exactly their goal.

💡 Hot tip: Offering competition among your users will increase their engagement, and encourage positive interaction with your products.

#8 American Eagle Outfitters

Even in the subject line, American Eagle is offering me just what I need. Because, if you’re like me, you need all the help you can get when it comes to seasonal wardrobe-building. The email itself throws that out the window in the best kind of way. There are no rules to styling your wardrobe, you do you. The message of the email is empowering, and plays a little to your rebellious side. The rebellious theme is enhanced by the edgy look of the b&w model photos rocking the latest looks. I’m loving this new #WeAllCan campaign.



💡 Hot tip: 33% of email users open an email based solely on the subject line, so make it count (Convince&Convert)!

#9 Freelancer

If Freelancer wants people to download their app from an email, this one really does the trick. The simple checklist design lays out everything their app can do for consumers in a creative way, and even cheekily ticks off the first item for them. Who doesn’t love checking things off their to-do list? I haven’t even downloaded the app, and I already feel productive! Well played, freelancer.


The to-do list speaks for itself, and then a quick, relevant description of Freelancer right above the CTA guides users right into their open arms.

💡 Hot tip: Point your users in the right direction! Helzberg Diamonds had a 26% increase in clicks by adding an arrow to their CTA buttons (Litmus).

#10 Firebox

This email from Firebox is playing to one of 2016’s hottest trends: Pokemon Go. And what does everyone need when it comes to playing Pokemon Go? A little extra battery life so they can keep on hunting. The Pikachu design of the email draws people in instantly (how often do you see a neon yellow email?), and it follows through all the way down, with each product overlaid with a pokeball design. I’m definitely hitting that “show me everything” button at the bottom because, let’s face it, I gotta have ‘em all.

💡 Hot tip: Get colorful! A colored image will hold consumers’ attention longer than a black & white ad (ColorCom). Try matching the email design to the product you’re offering for maximum results!

#11 Tarte

In Tarte’s latest email campaign, they show they know their audience, because what kind of makeup-lover can pass up an amazing deal? By stating the value of their palette ($556) next to the price they’re selling at ($46), it makes people focus more on the $510 savings rather than the price of the palette itself. In my sister’s words, “I already bought this, but seeing the $556 value in the first line caught my eye to open it again and check it was the same thing.” Well played, tarte.


Worth mentioning: the beautiful purple color theme makes me want to find a fresh new eye makeup look to play around with, and tarte is offering the solution.

💡 Hot tip: 85% of email users sign up to receive discounts in their inbox (Adestra). Great savings are like a great discount, so try highlighting specific numbers in your email.

#12 - airbnb

I love this email from airbnb because they frame it around sharing interests within your social group, rather than trying to push deals on you. Sharing your passions with your friends and loved ones is such a wholesome thought that it almost makes me forget that this is a blog about email marketing campaigns. A cute doodle-style drawing adds another touch of character to this personal email, even without bright colors. This kind of content from airbnb shows they really care about their customers, so chock this one up to a big marketing win.

Plus, it looks like Airbnb knows that it's 6-7x more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one, so they hit two birds with one stone with this campaign by pleasing the current customer, and enticing them to bring on more (JitBit). Win-win-win, right?

The travel destination search bar is a nice touch. It gets you thinking straight away about the adventures you could have with airbnb by your side.

💡 Hot tip: 70% of buying experiences are based on how the consumer feels they’re being treated (HelpScout). Use your email marketing campaigns to provide value, not just push sales.

#13 - Lyft

Lyft’s introduction email is short and sweet, mirroring their service. It has everything they need: a blurb about what they do, an image of how it looks and an invitation to take it for a spin. The only punch of color is in their CTA, which makes going out for a drive as easy as the tap of your finger. “C’mon Barbie, let’s go for a ride!”

💡 Hot tip: One company increased signups by 34% by adding anxiety-reducing content and explaining key benefits next to their CTA (Protocol80). Make the area around your CTA a stress-free space, with a few helpful tidbits of information.

#14 American Apparel

You up? American Apparel’s all-nighter deal email plays on FOMO by setting dawn as the deadline of an exclusive sale. The huge font is hard to miss, especially when it’s glowing off the computer screen in the dead of night. Placing the sale code right next to the CTA is a good way to guide consumers straight into their midnight shopping spree. Congratulations, night owls, now go fill some shopping bags to match the ones under your eyes.

💡 Hot tip: Have a young target audience? 51% of consumers aged 14-18, and 46% of 19-34 year-olds check their email in bed, so try a night campaign (Adestra)!

#15 Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club knows my generation far too well. Being a procrastinating, forgetful millennial is my specialty, and having this pop up in my inbox a day before Father’s Day would get me clicking through and purchasing instantly. The rustic, wooden design and double CTA action are just cherries on top of a great email marketing cake. This just goes to show that a well-timed email can turn your audience’s indifference into engagement.

💡 Hot tip: Knowing your audience and speaking their language in your campaigns will help you make a stronger connection.

#16 Paint Nite

In Paint Nite’s latest email campaign, they take the focus away from creation and put it on connection. The email puts the power of friendship first, framing their event as a way to reconnect with your friends and loved ones, and make memories that last. The beautiful imagery in the email uses bright colors and reminds viewers of the paintings they can create with Paint Nite. Paint Nite smartly added a few good reviews at the bottom to help entice readers to check out the events and experience the artistic magic for themselves. Paint Nite also employs triple-CTA action so the consumer can click on what section interests them most, which makes it easy for them to find the information they’re looking for.


💡 Hot tip: Content with relevant visuals and images get 94% more views than content without. Use good imagery to boost your brand and your user’s email experience (SocialMediaToday)!

#17 Petplan

Who doesn’t love adorable puppies and kitties popping up in their inbox from time to time? Petplan is using their 10-year anniversary as an opportunity to give away free things to their audience —which is a great marketing move. A call to join the celebration spreads joy and merriment before the consumer has received any prize, and feel-good branding is the best type of branding. Amping up the adorable-factor, Petplan uses cutesy pet-based language to their advantage to spread their brand through this celebratory email campaign.


If those puppies are up for grabs, I call dibs.

💡 Hot tip: Do you have something to celebrate? Spread the love to your audience by offering discounts, special offers and more on special occasions.

#18 Prezi

Prezi is on point with their marketing campaign by keeping their content useful, rather than just promotional. By framing it around the client instead of pushing the new product, Prezi’s showing that they care about their client’s experience with their software, and are always striving to make it better. Minimal copy also means minimal confusion, and the large, attractive image does most of the talking. Tack on a bold CTA at the end, and you have an email campaign that definitely makes our “killing it” list.

💡 Hot tip: 41% of email users sign up to a company’s email list to receive updates on their products and services (Adestra). Let users know how new products can help them succeed!

#19 Warby Parker

Warby Parker’s sunglasses email campaign made me internet-laugh (you know, where you exhale harshly out your nose?) so that qualified it for automatic-inclusion on this list. The humor and style of the doodle drawings turn Warby Parker from an unknown business name into a fun company I’d happily give my business to (especially if my money went into more marketing campaigns like this one). One big plus is that the hilarity is just the way they package the useful information given to the consumer -- ideas for what they can do with their Warby Parker sunglasses.

10/10, would click through again.

💡 Hot tip: People love to laugh, so use a little humor to enhance your marketing message and make a memorable email campaign.

#20 Framebridge

Ever wonder what goes bump in the night? Nine times out of ten, it’s a frame falling off my wall. Who would have thought that I would find the solution to my problem in a transactional email?

Framebridge is making the most of your business by extending engagement past the point of purchase. The email you receive after you buy a frame helps you know what to do with it, and frames (get it?) Framebridge as a helpful resource and not just another product-pushing business. The layout of the email is set out in a helpful Z-shaped pattern that guides the reader’s eyes down the page, without overloading them with text and imagery. Their bold “educate me” CTA stands out in the minimalist design, and is sure to get a few clicks. Now, excuse me while I learn how to hang my art.


💡 Hot tip: Extend consumer engagement with your brand post-purchase by checking in with helpful tips and information.

Hopefully, this list has given you insight into a little more than just my inbox and online shopping habits, and you’ve garnered some useful tactics to implement in your own email marketing campaigns. If you're an agency looking to help your clients with reaching their consumer inboxes, then you'll want the right email marketing software

We’ve also got email marketing solutions for agencies set to stun your audience and boost your click-through rates. With 4.3 billion global email user inboxes waiting, why are you?

About the Author

Dew is the a former Managing Editor at Vendasta, but will also respond to "content juggler," "blog wrangler," and "internet explorer." Speaking in fluent pop culture references, and Googling at the speed of sound, she is always looking for new and innovative ways to stretch her creative muscles.

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