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Brands defying the odds in email marketing

I’ve been having some trouble with the term “email marketing best practices” lately.

Even though there are plenty of general guidelines I’d advise most email marketers to follow, there are always brands out there that manage to find success using tactics that (in theory) shouldn’t work.

Don’t believe me? Here are three examples of major brands that get big results by defying conventional marketing wisdom.


Frequency: Kate Spade

Oh, Kate. This wonderful, whimsical brand does something I’d never tell a retailer to do: They email their subscribers every single day.

Normally, I’d find this incredibly annoying. There’s no way any retailer could have enough offers and products I’m genuinely interested in for me to want to hear from them THAT often… right?

Wrong. When I get to the office each morning, the first conversation I have (after “did you watch Westworld last night?” and “what savage left the coffee pot empty and didn’t start a new batch?”) is “have you seen the new Kate Spade email?"

My co-workers and I open every single email we receive from Miss Spade because the design is delightful, the copy is engaging, and we’re continually surprised and impressed by the work their email team does. Yes, it trumps any conventional wisdom out there about send frequency, but beautiful email that’s packed with value is welcome in my inbox anytime.


Content: The Hustle

If you work in email marketing, you’ve likely heard some iteration of this advice a thousand times: “People don’t like words, they like pictures. Use imagery over copy.”

And to some extent, that’s true. Most people are only scanning – especially on mobile, which accounts for over half of all opens – and would prefer to get the story of your mailing through images rather than text.

However, the traditional newsletter has recently experienced a bit of a revival. Brands like theSkimm, Lenny Letter, and yes, The Hustle, send out long daily newsletters that are almost entirely copy, and people LOVE them. In fact, they're some of the most successful brands in the inbox.

The takeaway? Email marketing is continually changing, and it’s people who are willing to disrupt the industry who often see the most success. Set the right expectations from the get-go, and your audience will love the breath of fresh air.


Everything: Chubbies

If I were to choose a single brand that exemplifies “best practices going out the window,” it would be Chubbies, purveyor of bro apparel and their signature short shorts.

These guys do everything that conventional wisdom says NOT to do, including using absurd subject lines, preheader text, and “from" names like these (but somehow evading deliverability concerns)…

…and sending emails like this...

Yet, their audience absolutely loves it. A little birdy told me that their open rates are WELL above industry averages, and people constantly praise their team’s creativity on social channels.


The takeaway here? We can give out all the email marketing advice in the world, but at the end of the day, your brand is not every other brand. What works for you may be different than what works for the masses, and not only is that ok – it’s actually a good thing. Own your brand’s unique voice, serve your audience above all else, and I guarantee you’ll be happy with the results.