Top 20 emails of 2018 and why they work

Email Delivery


We’ve seen some great examples of email marketing in 2018.

For us, the best email campaigns are the ones that cut through the inbox noise with their creativity, targeted messaging and distinctive brand identity.

These well-crafted emails are targeted at the right audience with many using personalisation in a compelling and relevant manner.

So here are our top 20 email campaigns from 2018 and the reasons we think they’re so powerful.

1. Intriguing browse abandonment

Subject line: Something caught your eye?

If executed well, browse abandonment campaigns are the most cost-effective way to retarget your web visitors. And this one from Notonthehighstreet really stood out last year.

The clean and stylish design makes it a pleasure to read and provides a seamless customer journey, working as an extension of its well-designed website. Its tone of voice is playful yet sophisticated which gives the email a more personal feel. We really like its compelling call to action ‘get reacquainted’ which feels inviting and not salesy.

This email doesn’t bombard the recipient with all the items they were browsing. The use of personalisation software means Notonthehighstreet can quickly and cleverly identify the recipient’s main interest and feature this as the hero product of the email.

A great example of how to create a one-to-one customer experience. abandon basket campaign2. Superdrug: Promoting other channels

Subject line: Twitter (5)

Superdrug’s emails have gone from strength to strength over recent years in terms of creativity and personality, demonstrating that it really know its target audience. One of our favourites from 2018 was its campaign to increase Twitter followers. Its clever subject line mimics that tempting ‘new notification’ that we can’t resist checking.

When you open the email, the theme continues. The email design replicates Superdrug’s Twitter feed and is filled with compelling reasons to follow the brand. This is a fun, creative and engaging way of ensuring your other marketing channels aren’t neglected.


2. Superdrug3. Paperchase: Knowing your audience

Subject line: The future is female

Paperchase’s tone of voice is cheeky and confident. It knows its largely young, female audience will respond well to emails such as this one. Sent in the run-up to International Women’s Day, we love the rallying intro, call to action and hashtag. The language is empowering and bold, encouraging women to be proud of their gender and to support their fellow female friends.


4. Linkedin: Compelling personalisation

Subject line: People are looking at your LinkedIn profile

Earlier in the year Email Marketing Consultant, Jordie van Rijn, told us why this was his favourite subject line of 2018: “[It] plays to our curiosity and implies urgency. It makes the reader (unconsciously) ask the question “What do you mean? Who?” The call to action promises to answer that question”.

We agree and place the email in our top 20 because it demonstrates an important understanding of human behaviour. The brand uses this knowledge to create personal and compelling content that awakens our emotional instincts and tempts us to engage.

5. TripAdvisor: Evoking wanderlust

Subject line: INSIDE: The coolest hotel pools in the world.

The subject line of this one really stood out and was far too tempting to ignore. Humans are instinctively nosey and inquisitive creatures after all. Inside the email the reader is greeted personally with some wanderlust evoking content including those cool hotel pools and ‘dreamy spots..straight out of fairy tales’. This email sparked our travel curiosity and we couldn’t resist clicking. TripAdvisor has successfully inspired the reader to start thinking about their next adventure and can learn more based on their next actions.


Trip Advisor email6. HSBC: Building rapport

Subject line: Miss Wilson, we’re here whenever you need us

Online banking has made it possible to open a new bank account without having to book lengthy appointments with bank managers or even step foot into a branch. And in a world where we’re encouraged to switch bank accounts to get the best deal, customer loyalty is a hot topic for banks.

HSBC aims to combat the issue by communicating with customers its investment in building lasting relationships. Its personalised automation is well-timed, sending this to the customer a couple of weeks after opening their bank account. They even encourage a face-to-face appointment to cater to those who value a more traditional banking experience.


7. Forest Holidays: Creating the best experience

Subject line: Useful information about your holiday…

Forest Holidays is fantastic at creating a stress-free travel experience for its guests. This email is sent just before your trip and is packed full of useful information such as directions and packing tips (e.g. don’t forget your hairdryer and bring a torch). They ease pre-holiday anxiety by explaining the checking-in process so when guests arrive they know exactly what to do and can focus on enjoying their break. A great example of putting customer experience at the heart of a business.


8. Fitbit: Simple but effective

Subject line: Your Charge HR battery level is low

Great emails don’t have to be complicated which is why we chose this one from Fitbit. Ok, so the naming convention could be better — a first name would be better here. But the rest does the job well. I’m told that my battery level is low and informed not only on how to charge it, but how long it will take and how long I can expect the charge to last. It’s a great example of a brand identifying a user’s pain-point and trying to make it as easy to solve as possible.


9. Total Women’s Cycling: supporting charity

Subject line: Calling all lycra-clad superheroes.

It was the subject line of this campaign that caught our eye last year. Lycra is likely to take up a good proportion of a cyclist’s wardrobe space and putting on a lycra kit is unique to their sport, so the reader immediately identifies with it. The superhero part captures their attention and intrigues the reader to open the email.

Featuring the British Heart Foundation logo within the header makes it immediately obvious that this is connected with charity and that the content within the email is going to be that of the normal newsletter. So again, the reader is intrigued to find out more.

We particularly love the opening line: “Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Some wear capes, others wear lycra.” This line sets the whole tone for the email and creates an inclusive tone, ensuring everyone knows this isn’t an elitist event.


10. Emerald Street: how to stand out from the crowd

Subject line: Really nice knickers

Emerald Street is brilliant at shedding a light on contentious or taboo issues by creating thought-provoking content to address them. We love how they discuss female intimate health using uplifting and humorous language, with the aim of educating and empowering its female audience.


11. Cult Beauty: welcome campaign

Subject line: Welcome to the Cult

A good welcome campaign is absolutely key to building rapport with new subscribers. This one from Cult Beauty has all the right ingredients. First off, it immediately makes the brand’s purpose very clear within its introduction i.e. why they exist. It uses clever sentences like ‘welcome to the cult’ to emphasise this too — this isn’t just about shopping for beauty products. This is a way of life.

The brand has also featured best sellers within the email as shopping inspiration for new customers.

Finally, they provide a host of contact information including beauty advice from ‘self-confessed obsessives’. This gives the new subscriber a positive and reassuring feeling that this brand has all their needs in mind.


12. Net-a-porter: tempting customers back

Subject line: Cara, don’t miss out – 205 new pieces are here.

Net-a-porter’s style of emails and content cleverly stirs up that comforting feeling we get from curling up with a cuppa and indulging in a glossy, high-end fashion magazine.

It’s the brand’s use of personalisation and expertise that puts them in our top 20.

To tempt the customer back, the email features new products from the reader’s favourite designer which they would have selected within a preference centre.

The email also features the ‘Editor’s Picks’ which gives some validity to the products recommended — similar to that of social proof as we trust the Editor knows what they’re talking about. It’s also in-keeping with that high-end fashion magazine feel.

In a final bid to tempt the reader to take action, the email showcases other items the reader might be interested in, using the customer’s previous browsing behaviour.


13. Headspace: personal reflection

Subject line: This month: a look back

We all love to reflect when we get to the end of another year — you’re reading this blog for a start! So meditation and mindfulness app, Headspace, takes the prize for closing off the year with the most compelling email. The personalised content allows the reader to see how much meditation they achieved during the year, giving them a benchmark to work to and beyond in the new year. The useful and educational content on how to use the app more effectively creates an empowering and positive tone. This establishes the brand as an expert and builds trust with users.


14. Kate Spade: when two words are enough

Subject line: bag question

The concise and informal nature of the subject line ‘bag question’ is very intriguing and gives very little away. We didn’t even clock that the sender was Kate Spade which says something about the impact of a subject line. The email itself is a great design — clean, modern, and like its subject line, concise. We also love the clever use of the word ‘totes’ which adds a casual and playful tone.


15. Canva: clever encouragement for new users

Subject line: Unleash your design potential!

This welcome email from Canva gets straight to the point. They make it known that they exist to enable the creation of great design by anyone. The language is encouraging and it’s a clever way to approach non-designers who want to create great design without insulting or alienating anyone.

It sets out to prove its mission is true by encouraging the recipient to take part in its ‘Beginner’s Challenge’ which is a simple yet fun and interactive tutorial on how to use its software. Canva’s brand mission and positioning is what makes this campaign so successful.


16. Netflix: personalised experiences

Subject line: Not on Netflix for You

This is a great example of contextualised personalisation. Netflix has recommended shows specifically for the user. This is based not only on what the shows the user told Netflix they like to watch when they first signed up, but also on their viewing habits. Together this replicates a one-to-one customer experience and is likely to encourage the user to take the action Netflix wants them to take.

Netflix considers its users’ context by including the option to add these titles to a list to watch later instead of placing all of the emphasis on watching something right now. The list doubles up as both a convenient feature for the user and an opportunity for Netflix to learn even about the user’s desires, helping the brand to deliver more and more relevant and unique experiences to each customer.


17. Sweaty Betty: user generated content

Subject line: HIIT me with your best squat

This email from Sweaty Betty has all sorts of things going on including good design and copy, an animated gif and user-generated content. Now, a good email doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to make it successful. But this is an example of a considered approach to enhance the message using these different elements.

The animated gif is a great way of displaying multiple products or multiple messages within a small space. The movement catches the reader’s eye and provides many opportunities for them to process the message i.e. the benefit of these leggings. Sweaty Betty’s copy is very inclusive — ‘a colour for everyone’ and ‘how you’re wearing them’. It helps the reader feel involved and connected to the brand. This is also done with user-generated content which has been curated from its #IAMASWEATYBETTY hashtag. This type of social proof helps verify the quality of the product and inspire others to get involved in the community.


18. L’Occitane: proving value without discounting

Subject line: Payday Treat Inside
We love this email from L’Occitane as it shows how luxury brands can provide customers with value without devaluing its products or brand.

This email was sent during the Christmas period so offering free delivery to gift-hunting customers was timely and relevant. However, they only offered it for 3 days, making it feel exclusive while encouraging customers to shop now.

They also include products that are back in stock. This is helpful to those customers who have been keen to get their hands on these products but also works as a clever piece of social proof. They use the words ‘back by popular demand’ and ‘sell out every year’, tempting the reader to click the link and check them out.

And if course on top of all this, the email is beautifully designed. It is in-keeping with L’Occitane’s brand colours so is immediately recognised by the reader, while also creating a vibrant, modern and festive tone.


19. Women’s Equality Party: striking the right tone

Subject line: WE did it! A victory for women

It was the tone of voice in this email that caught our attention. Tone of voice is what WE and other political parties rely on to drive the success of its campaigns. This email in particular is incredibly compelling.

The email addresses the individual just by name, without a hello or dear. This coupled with the first sentence ‘Today is one I will never forget’ immediately feels like a personal message and intrigues the recipient to continue reading.

The copy becomes quite personal as the writer uses phrases like ‘When I found out, I burst into tears in the Post Office… then again on Camden High Street… then again when I got home.’ which feels genuine and helps create empathy – something that is very important to a political party who rely heavily on its words and personality to attract supporters.

If you’re reading this and aren’t in politics, consider if your brand can afford to be more genuine and how it might connect better with readers through clever copywriting.

20. Econsultancy: being a thought leader

Subject line: Your weekly digital marketing stats roundup

Being a thought leader in your industry is an extremely powerful thing. Those who engage with your content will trust you as a source of information and continue to engage with you and your brand on a regular basis.

Econsultancy does a great job of this. Its emails aren’t overly complicated in terms of design but they are packed full of engaging, relevant and accurate content. We really like the bite-size facts they share in this email. It’s fitting with a marketer’s work style – they want to learn and develop but don’t always have time to digest big pieces of content or information.

Of course being a thought leader isn’t something you can magically become just from writing an email and including some interesting facts. It takes a long time to build up a reputation and requires a genuine passion and knowledge of the industry.



The list could go on but these are just 20 of the best emails that caught our eye in 2018. They are strong examples of how email marketing can be used to engage and retain customers while building sales.

They also show that successful emails are ones that don’t follow the norm. They are the ones with bold messages and the ones that push boundaries. But it’s worth noting that these brands also ensure continuity throughout everything else that they do and across their other marketing channels too.

Finally, we have shown how personalisation and automation play a key role in engagement. We’ve outlined how brands have successfully used AI to deliver one-to-one customer experiences – something that customers will continue to demand throughout 2019.

Feeling inspired?

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