push-itYou’ll know the feeling well – occasionally, a marketing email will drop into your inbox and instantly raise an eyebrow. It may have been the subject line, header image or opening sentence, but whatever it was – it worked.

It grabbed your attention.

In any form of marketing, there’s an incredibly fine line to tread between being irreverent, cheeky or provocative and falling into the trap of insulting your entire subscriber base. One ill-judged subject line, play on words or poor choice of imagery can throw your entire campaign into disarray and, at worst, damage your brand.

In this post, we’re going to look at a few examples where the business in question has absolutely got it right. They’ve put their heads above the parapet and dared to be inventive with their email marketing without alienating, insulting or coming across as repulsive.

Ready to be inspired? Let’s go…

Example 1

We’ll start with an ingeniously subtle play on words.

In most instances, suggesting that people should drink alcohol quickly in order to grab another intoxicating drink is entirely a no-go area, but this email from Asos does exactly that by simply juxtaposing alcohol with a clothes sale:

Example 2

Want to ensure your email gets noticed? Pray on people’s fears. No, really.

In the following example, the sender has picked a topic that is ever-present on people’s minds in modern society (hacking) and turned it into a beautifully-sarcastic subject line that is sure to raise a smile among most recipients.

“…said no one ever” is also vernacular that will strike a chord with youngsters and anyone who has a modern sense of humour, perhaps hinting at their target market.

Interestingly, the rest of the email is rather mundane, but, by that point, they’ve got us hooked.

Example 3

It’s incredibly difficult to introduce an element of surprise into email marketing campaigns, but when you resort to old tactics and pitch them just right, they can work wonders.

This example requires two images, because the email itself changes the longer you look at it.

Normally, this would be irritating and a complete turn-off, but when the content is related to Halloween, it works very well indeed.

Here’s what subscribers first see upon opening the email:

…then, wait for it…

Hungry? We are.

Example 4

Imagine being given the task of promoting a new type of consumer credit and informed that you need to somehow link it to the size of people’s waists – without offending anyone.

An impossible task, surely?

Not if you’re PayPal. The online banking giant did an admirable job of the above in a recent email marketing campaign that, if undertaken poorly, could have offended a good number of subscribers.

Suggesting that people use credit to purchase stuff is a rather sore point these days anyway, but using text that hints at rapidly-expanding waistlines is yet another no-go area. But, in this instance, PayPal have used it to their advantage. Read into it what you like, but at first glance, the bold, eye-catching colour schemes and choice of typography say one thing: this is the place to get credit, no matter the amount you need:

Wrap up

If you’re unsure as to how far you can push it in email marketing, the above examples should give you an indication as to the kind of jokes, juxtapositions and sleight of hand tricks that can be used to engage subscribers.

If you’re ever unsure, test your messaging and use of imagery with people close to you. Those who’s opinion you trust and on whom you can count to provide honest feedback will tell you whether or not you’re about to insult or delight.