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5 Email Marketing Campaigns That Really Worked

Email campaigns aren’t considered as glamorous as social media or mobile marketing and rarely receive much public recognition for their contribution to direct marketing. Yet, they continue to be one of the most effective direct marketing tools out there.

So, we’re turning the spotlight on five exceptional long-running email marketing campaigns, to demonstrate how email campaigns can be innovative, creative, and powerful.

What makes a good email campaign?

But first, let’s look at the basic requirements for a good email marketing campaign.

  • It needs to be written in an informal style that talks to the target audience, not at them
  • It needs to contain colour and preferably movement (such as a video), as the attention span of users can be fleeting

  • Always include a call to action, as this is the main purpose of the email
  • Don’t send emails more than once or twice a week, or you risk being viewed as spam
  • Test each campaign to determine the content that brings the best response

Examples of great email campaigns

With those rules in mind, here are the unofficial email marketing awards for five of the best email campaigns out there. Please welcome to the catwalk Brain Pickings, Nosh.On.It, BuzzFeed, Luxury Garage Sale and Orbitz.

Brain Pickings

Image via Brain Pickings

This email campaign ignores the ‘less is more’ school of thought and instead offers readers a huge wealth of interesting information. It takes a long time to scroll through and is perfect for those who enjoy reading interesting facts and in-depth, intellectual topics. Brain Pickings’ main strength lies in their in-depth understanding of their target audience. Their style of intellectual reader doesn’t mind seeing the longer emails – all the information which they are hungry for is right there for them to access.


Image via HubSpot

RunKeeper is an app to track workouts and gain motivation to hit fitness goals. They use beautiful imagery in their emails, with an aesthetic that is engaging enough to make you think twice before deleting. The more important stories get the more prominent position, to attract more readers to those stories. And, it has a responsive design that‘s easy to use on mobile as well as desktops. The best part about their email campaign though, is their targeted emails designed to win back inactive customers. If a person has not engaged with the app, they’ll be sent an email with a reminder about why the app is useful, and simple step by step instructions to help them get started.


Image via Hubspot

BuzzFeed is a daily email filled with humour, interesting information and catchy headlines. Among other things, it features quirky lists and fun quizzes and carefully selected content that appeals to a wide range of people.

BuzzFeed’s purpose is to get subscribers to go to their main website and it does this very successfully by providing useful previews of stories that leave you wanting to know more. The headline copy that they use is hard to resist – asking a subtle question or shocking the reader enough to make them want to find out more. By allowing subscribers to select the topics they wish to receive emails on, BuzzFeed guarantees itself a regular readership.

The Iconic

The Iconic’s emails are linked to an ecommerce website, and it does an excellent job of attracting subscribers back to the main site. Each email presents the latest offerings, using an attractive image accompanied by one or two lines of text.

There are only a couple of images in each email and the surrounding graphic design complements the items of clothing or accessories they are featuring. When you see something you’re interested in, you click a link, which takes you to a larger range of items in that category on the main website. With regular exclusive email offers or sales, The Iconic does a good job at attracting customers back to its virtual store.


Image via Outbrain

Orbitz is an online travel booking company, which uses email marketing as its primary means of attracting repeat business by featuring travel specials and discounts of interest to particular demographics.

Its graphics and images are attractive and inspire you to want to travel and there is minimal text, encouraging you to use one of their cruise, hotel or flight links to find out more. The subject line clearly states what readers can expect to find in the email – an essential part of email marketing that is too often missed by companies. By outlining exactly what percentage the reader can save, the precise dollar amounts for flights from their hometown, or when a sale is ending, Orbitz lets readers know that the email is relevant to them and increases its opening rates.

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