Email Marketing

Unconventional email themes can improve engagement with the right approach

As an email marketer, you may be feeling the post-holiday lull as Q1 2019 comes to a close. After a period of high subscribe rates and massive online sales, followed by a natural slow-down, you might be wondering how to avoid a continuous drop in your email metrics going into Q2.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Analysis of Q1 data from Data Axle’s cross-channel communications platform uncovered that unsubscribe rates increase dramatically during this time of year leaving marketers struggling to keep their audience engaged. Instead of getting lost in the crowded inbox, it’s time to exercise your creative muscle and think outside the box.

One of my favorite ways to get creative this time of year is by using unconventional themes — unique energy moments and events — within email messages. Unconventional themes, from Tax Day to National Dog Day to a uniquely personal holiday – like your brand’s birthday – can help you add a little flavor to your subscribers’ inboxes.

Examples of unconventional themes

Unconventional themes can be anything from seasonal events and quirky holidays to national events. On average, we found that messages with themes like Groundhog Day and Pie Day generate higher engagement rates than business-as-usual (BAU) emails. As we head into Q2 and start preparing for Q3, consider some out-of-the-box themes that can help you add spark to your email campaigns between April and September. Top performing themes among our clients in Q2 2018 included:

  • Festivals: Emails that used festivals, such as SXSW or Coachella, as a theme in 2018 generated an 18.9 percent open rate, which is 37 percent higher than the average BAU emails in Q2 (13.8 percent).
  • Tax Day: Tax Day earned marketers a 14.3 percent click-to-open rate (CTO) in 2018, 55 percent higher than the 9.2 percent average CTO for BAU emails.
  • Earth Day: Earth Day-themed emails generated a 4.3 percent conversion rate for marketers, compared to the 3.7 percent conversion rate for BAU emails.
  • Start of Spring: Marketers who leveraged the spring season in their campaigns earned a 15.1 percent open rate, compared to the BAU average of 13.8 percent.

Top performing themes in Q3 2018 included:

  • Oktoberfest: Emails with an Oktoberfest theme generated a 22.2 percent open rate, 64 percent higher than the average open rate of BAU emails for Q3 2018 (13.5 percent).
  • National Dog Day: National Dog Day-themed emails drove an 18.6 percent conversion rate, which is more than four times the 4.2 percent BAU average for Q2 2018.
  • National Coffee Day: Emails with a National Coffee Day theme excelled at driving CTO rates. In Q2 2018, these emails generated a 23.9 percent CTO rate — more than twice the BAU average of 10.1 percent.
  • Black Friday in July: Black Friday in July emails generated a 16.6 percent open rate in 2018, compared to the BAU open rate average of 13.5 percent.

In addition to leveraging unconventional themes, you can easily generate buzz around holidays that are unique to your brand or your industry. Prime Day, Amazon’s annual shopping holiday in July, is a great example of this trend. In 2018, Prime Day generated more than $4 billion in sales and a number of brands have adopted similar or competing events that can boost revenue and pique consumers’ interest. This strategy is effective because it aims to create an “energy moment” by surprising and delighting customers off-season.

However, one size does not fit all and the fact that Prime Day-like events work for some brands does not mean they work for others. Take stock of your brand and identify what makes it unique, then share it with the world.

Three best practices for leveraging unconventional themes

While unconventional themes can generate high engagement, marketers still need to follow email marketing best practices to ensure success:.

  • Develop a communication strategy: When experimenting with unconventional themes, put them on your marketing calendars well ahead of time, and develop a communication strategy around them. It’s important to build anticipation with your subscribers since these holidays and events aren’t always well known.
  • Think beyond offers: Not all themed emails need to include an offer (e.g., free shipping or a percent off). Many brands have found success using unconventional themes to build brand awareness and to surprise and delight subscribers. Emails that elicit emotion through humor or goodwill can condition subscribers to engage with a brand’s communications moving forward.
  • Bring it back to your brand: Always find a way to tie your themes back to your brand. When connected to your brand in some way, the theme won’t overpower your message. For example, H&M once used the National Coffee Day theme to promote the brand’s lesser-known household items, which included coffee mugs. Rather than just using National Coffee Day to send a blanket offer, the brand chose to tie the theme back to a relevant product it carried.

Don’t wait. With Q2 under way, get some themed emails on your marketing calendar and start testing! As subscribers hit the road for vacations in the spring and summer months, they’ll spend less time shopping online, so you need to work harder to grab their attention. Having a little fun in your communications with National Dog or Coffee Day can go a long way.

*As originally published on View article here.

Kyle Henderick
Sr Director, Client Services

As Senior Director of Client Services, Kyle is responsible for helping major clients implement new programs, processes, and data-driven strategies to create campaigns that drive revenue. With a passion for technology implementation and a background in database, email, web, and social media marketing, Kyle turns his real-world experience into actionable tactics that help clients see incremental revenue, subscriber engagement, and customer retention. A lover of all things Chicago, when Kyle is not reading up on latest marketing practices or focusing on improving client programs, he can be found enjoying the city’s great restaurants or wearing his heart on his sleeve while rooting for all Chicago-based sports teams. A curious individual willing to try any and every food that does not include raw onions, he is always looking for exciting dining options and new adventures around the city.