All email marketing campaigns are learning experiences.
Whether you’re a new brand launching your business for the first time or an established company venturing into a new market, how you design your emails and target your subscribers is an important step you need to learn from.
It’s not just your own experiences you need to learn from though, but the successes and failures of others.
New Zealand based footwear brand Allbirds is a classic case study that both hipster start-ups like them and multinational corporations looking to get more eyes on their emails can learn from.
Who is Allbirds?
Allbirds’ brand of sustainable wool footwear has seen them become an interesting player in the market — opening a number of stores worldwide throughout 2019 and 2020.
But that story started online with a simple Shopify store, making great use of some excellent email marketing campaigns to build awareness when they launched in 2014 and keep consumers invested as eco-issues went mainstream.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of their email marketing campaigns and cover five lessons you can learn from their output.
A character can complete a brand
Branding has become a huge part of building a business. From big corporations to Instagram personalities, everyone is incredibly concerned with how their brand (not just their business and output) is perceived.
A huge part of establishing a brand and making it appealing is attaching a loveable character to it. Would Disney be the monolith of entertainment it is today without the cute, iconic silhouette of Mickey Mouse?
Allbirds may not have a mascot with such status, but the cute sheep that pops up throughout its email campaigns goes a long way to giving color to their brand.
Can you prove this cute animated sheep makes people more likely to part with their money and take a long-term interest in the brand?
Not necessarily, but there’s no doubt it makes the email significantly more fun and helps Allbirds stand out against competitors that might take themselves a little too seriously.
The simplistic design of the sheep also ties into their branding and produces wonderfully (sheep wool shoes) and adds some much-needed charm to what would otherwise be a rather bland product or trigger emails.
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This character is often used to give more relatability and weight to important messages sent via emails — such as eco-friendly campaigns.
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Want to send eco-friendly email campaigns? Check out our earth day email campaigns’ guide.
As a new customer, this gives you something to smile about when you get confirmation of your new purchase and as a recurring or previous customer who hasn’t purchased in a long time, the appearance of this little sheep (often accompanied by a much-appreciated pun) re-ignites an instant connection with the brand and gets people scrolling down to the latest offer.
Balancing the silly with the serious
Some of the best marketing emails manage to walk the fine line between silly and serious content.
In reality, marketing emails are not an appropriate forum to propose big ideas or make your challenge against the pillars of society. But they can be a platform for slow progress and change.
At the same time, they shouldn’t be outrageously comedic, or else you risk alienating parts of your audience and distracting them from the key aims of your campaign.
You don’t want to be a downer, but you need to appear professional.
Allbirds, largely through the visual presentation of their emails, have been able to achieve this and can serve as a brilliant compass for future brands looking to extoll important messages through creative and inspiring design.
The modern and eccentric designs you see throughout their marketing — from animations to bright, bold color — serve as a brilliant platform to sell products, explain their business value, and create enough soft familiarity that they can approach new ideas.
As brands become ever more focused on doing this across their marketing, they need to find ways to make that message both serious yet familiar to their audience.
Serious doesn’t mean deadly serious in this sense either. Doing a campaign on fitness? Allbirds’ launch of running shoes with dramatic lighting that looks like something out of a pre-match video roll at a sports event sets the perfect tone. It appeals to a desire to improve.
Alternatively, their bold color campaign uses puns (“how hue doing?”) and deep contrasts of modern graphic design to give the email a younger, edgier feel without losing its playful sensibility.
New Colors Coming In Hot
Silly campaigns for fun products
compared to formal design and tone for serious campaigns.
Less is more
What’s the one element that’s consistent throughout all of Allbirds’ email marketing strategy — no matter the campaign type or purpose? It’s quite simple: simplicity!
Browsing through a selection of Allbirds’ promotional emails, there’s never any doubt as to where your attention is supposed to be.
Email toplines are clear and concise. The imagery blends wonderfully into the campaign, rather than feeling like something left in the Dropbox and tacked on later. The selection of products makes sense — you never see a jumbled mess of leftovers they’re obviously trying to shift. You get the impression that all of their campaigns are compact and everything featured is of equal weight and importance.
Breaking down the visuals, there’s rarely a slip-up. One color, one sentence, one main image. There’s nothing to distract you from the email’s primary purpose and in this situation, a lack of variety is a good thing.
Your customers and people new to your brand should never feel bemused by anything in your emails. Anyone reading your marketing emails should feel a sense of urgency to get to your website — but never actually struggle to do so.
Guide them through the process and ease them towards links — rather than overloading the sense with muddled pathways and hoping they make it to the product page through sheer luck.
Of course, this great design and direction aren’t born out of thin air and rarely come out oven-ready.
Say you were trying to recreate a grand master’s work of art – you’d probably start by investing in the same brush, pallet, and canvas. Using that same logic for marketing emails you should aim to use the same kind of digital tools as Allbirds to simplify and refine both your design and delivery processes.
There is an abundance of excellent marketing tools out there to help turn that email list into an effective collection of leads — simplifying the sending process and often specializing in eCommerce.
If you’re trying to replicate that cool, casual, and so-in-touch-with-their-audience feel that Allbirds has, then copywriting tools can massively enhance your wording on everything from calls to action to brief descriptions. These tools are all about making life easier for email marketing professionals, and companies the size of Allbirds rely on them for guidance and providing a platform to mold creative inspiration
If Allbirds can teach you one thing in terms of design it’s that a foundation of clear and concise messaging with a garnishing of creative flourishes is a simple, yet very effective, way of getting across your aims and brand messages.
This email campaign is the perfect example to showcase their ability to bring customers a clean yet fresh look.
Define a lifestyle
When selling lifestyle products — particularly clothing and fashion accessories — via email marketing, you are first and foremost selling a lifestyle.
Selling a lifestyle can be achieved in a number of ways.
- Celebrity endorsements can give your products a higher stature, relating them to the lifestyles of the rich and famous for those who want to attain that.
- Sportswear can make you feel like an athlete or guide you towards the fitness levels you want to attain.
- Even office wear can be used to give people the impression of productivity and career growth.
Most commonly, selling a lifestyle is achieved through the visuals you use throughout your emails.
Allbirds do this particularly well, combining many of the elements we’ve already touched upon such as color, design, and simplicity.
Allbirds, again, don’t break the mold when it comes to lifestyle imagery. They make their products front and center of a promotional image which gives off a certain seasonal or cultural sense.
New line of shoes ready for summer? Allbirds use soft, breezy imagery that reminds you of evenings at the beach.
This kind of imagery needs to take the consumer there before they’ve even bought a product. They need to imagine their life with it, making it impossible to continue their day without at least clicking through to see more.
Trigger emails need to offer something tangible
One of the most important parts of an effective email marketing campaign is effective, timely trigger emails.
Emails that fire off when a website visitor makes a purchase or exits with products still in their basket are crucial parts of encouraging people to engage with your webstore and reach out to less than convinced consumers.
However, it’s not enough for these emails to simply remind people to come back or beg them to do so, they need to offer something tangible in return.
That’s where some of Allbirds email marketing really excels.
Covering two types of trigger emails — when a first-time customer hasn’t shopped for a long time and when a new customer abandons the cart — we can analyze what Allbirds do effectively and show how you can improve this cornerstone of a successful, evergreen email marketing campaign.
This email sent out to customers who haven’t shopped for an extended period doesn’t dwell on the idea of missed commerce by begging a customer to come back and shop with them. It gives them a reason.
Two reasons in fact. First, a unique discount code that gives them the incentive to buy. This makes the consumer feel special and drives them towards the store — rather than just reminding them you still exist.
Allbirds don’t just leave consumers with the code and hope they take the initiative to head to the store and browse the new selection though – they grab them by the hand and take them there.
This collection of new products ensures the consumer is seeing something they’ve never seen before and leaves the reader with the suggestion there’s even more to take in with the ‘Shop All’ button. “It doesn’t end there?” they’ll ask themselves – and there you have a new webstore visitor armed with a discount code.
Let’s look at another example quickly.
Catching customers that abandon a cart quickly is a crucial part of email marketing. It allows you to build upon what is obvious interest in your brand and website while tackling suspected problems head-on.
Allbirds use silliness (puns) and branding (the sheep) at the top of this trigger email to instantly let the consumer know who’s reaching out to them and hopefully ease their frustration with the process. Following on with contact information for their customer service team feels like an obvious step in email marketing, but this simple easing of concerns makes a huge difference to the overall approach.
Allbirds isn’t a revolutionary company by any means when it comes to email marketing. Much of what they do with their email marketing can be distilled to doing the simple things right and being in touch with a young, enthusiastic audience that appreciates a moral standing, culture-specific branding and the option to imagine themselves with products.