Things I found in my “Good and bad examples of stuff” email folder

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I have a folder in my email inbox for marketing emails that are particularly bad or especially good. It’s been there for 8 years and I wondered recently what I’d learnt from it and whether things I like and dislike have changed.


Various, 2010

Until I looked today, I had no idea which of the thousands of marketing emails I have received into my work inbox spawned the idea of collecting all the good and bad examples.

Then it all came back to me. A collection of poorly tested emails that surely looked nothing like their sender intended and a stream of messages that consisted mainly of one picture.

While I know that often a single picture can look really good, this practice is far from ideal. In many cases, an email client’s default setting is to only download images when it’s asked to so then what is the reader left with? Well in this example, a far from intriguing title of ‘March / April Mailer’ and some alt text of ‘2.4mtr high letter’. Not much to tempt someone who has automatic image downloading turned off (on purpose or by default).


Sometimes, yes:

Go Ape!, 2015

Subject line: Do you want to see your boss jump off a high platform?

I know enough about Go Ape! to know that a) it looks a lot of fun and b) I don’t need to make a booking at the moment. But yes, I was intrigued to find out what was on offer here. Team building packages was the answer and the email did a good job of persuading me that hanging out of trees could be a good idea for the next staff away day.

“Our team building packages are Monday – Friday affairs because we believe you don’t really want to spend your weekends with them too!” Good point.

My absolute favourite:

Wyvern Direct Response, 2011

Subject line: Building & Construction Data…Nailed!

How could I ignore this pun? I knew instantly that this particular email wasn’t for me and it made me smile. That’s two reasons to like the sender – they took just two seconds of my time and they were an enjoyable two seconds. I actually emailed Wyvern to congratulate them at the time and have never forgotten the genius.

Happy campers:

Tent, 2011

Subject line: Don’t witter when you can twitter!

This isn’t the only time Tent made it into my ‘good and bad examples of stuff’ folder. I like a lot of things that they do. Some reasons why I liked this email; things that we can all aspire to:

  • • A fun subject line. It’s obvious by now that I like those
  • • Nice design that makes it easy for me to know where to look.
  • • ‘View in browser’ link in case the formatting breaks (it didn’t though).
  • • Sales message that explains what you’ll get without making ridiculous claims (selling places on a workshop called ‘Twitter for business’).
  • • Testimonials to reassure you about the product.
  • • Relevant free stuff – a blog about good ‘tweetiquette’.

The latest entry:

WDM, 2018

Subject line: Busiest January on Record at Washington Direct Mail

Okay, so you might not care that Washington Direct Mail has had its busiest ever January but I’m a loyal customer and I’m happy the place is doing well. I like the subject line that tells me the kind of things I can expect from the email – not a repeated sales message, there’s actual news in here. I like the action shot of the fork-lift truck; it’s bright and colourful and gives me a sense of behind-the-scenes action. And I like that it’s not too long. There are four stories in there and I can get an overview of all four of them in less than a minute. I can click to find out more if I’m keen. I feel updated on WDM and it was no hassle at all.

Image below shows header part of email (left) and story section (right).


So, what can I take from all this?

If your audience works in marketing, like me, they’ll care about the direct mail you send them, so you can use it as an opportunity to show them you know what you’re doing.

They might not have a folder to collect examples of good practice, but of course non-marketing professionals appreciate communications that are easy and quick to process too. Nobody likes having to spend ages figuring out whether an email is relevant to them. And most people prefer looking at nice visuals while they go through that process.

Whether your comms are for a B2C or B2B audience, as long as your topic isn’t serious, there’s no need for you to be too serious. We’re not all comedians, your aim isn’t to have your audience book you for a stand-up show, but your email tone of voice can say a lot about your brand.

It does seem that the good stuff is more memorable than some broken html or dodgy formatting so if you’re not proud of your marketing emails, it’s worth putting resources in and turning that around. You can win them back.

Get in touch if you’d like to find out how we could help you with your email marketing. I’ll be particularly pleased to hear from you if your work involves nails, so I can reuse one of my favourite puns.


Post by Shelley Johnson, Marketing Manager

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