Animate Your Catalog hero

Get Your Catalog Moving

Are you trying to create awareness of, or drive traffic to your online catalog? There’s an email for that! Sure, you can throw a graphic in your header or footer, but if that’s not cutting it for you, go for gusto with an animated hero! What better way to grab someone’s attention?! Here are three retailers that did just that.

From: Michaels
Date: 8/26/18
Subject Line: Your Fall Lookbook Is Here! 👀

Michaels email shortened   Michaels animation


Michaels did a good job placing their message above the fold. They also included images of leaves which continue throughout the design, tying it all together nicely. However, it’s missing a call-to-action and the animation begins without mention of the catalog. If the viewer doesn’t take the time to watch the entire gif, they might miss the objective entirely. Our next email has a solution for this exact issue.

From: Mark and Graham
Date: 8/26/18
Subject Line: 20% Off Sitewide + Over 100 NEW Arrivals Starting at $29!

Mark and Graham email   Mark and Graham animation

Mark and Graham placed their headline “View the New Online Fall Catalog” and CTA above the animation. This way, wherever you start watching the gif, you’ll know what it’s about and will always have a place to click-through. If I were to change something, I would remove the photo that’s next to the headline, allowing the title to take less space, moving everything up. The use of the picture and horizontal line also make it feel like 2 separate messages – I would like them to feel better integrated.

From: Target
Date: 8/05/18
Subject Line: Your new Weekly Ad is here.

Target email   Target animation

I saved the best for last. One noticeable difference that Target implemented: instead of flipping through the Weekly Ad, they animate the cover. I LOVE this! It brings the cover to life, making it fun and drawing your attention. You know they had to plan ahead to achieve this, and it pays off! They also fit their headline and call-to-action next to the animation, above the fold. I wouldn’t change a thing. Here are a few others they’ve done in the recent past.

Target animation 2Target animation 3Target animation 4Target animation 5

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Slime Bracket Hero

An Email Oozing with Engagement

From: Michaels
Date: 3/28/17
Subject Line: 1 Day Only! 20% Off Your ENTIRE Purchase
View Full Email

Michaels large crop  Michaels Slime Bracket

While sports fans are glued to their basketball brackets, Michaels has started a bracket of their own — for SLIME! If you’re a parent, you’re probably aware of the latest craze sweeping the kid nation: homemade slime. One of the key ingredients is Elmer’s glue and it has been flying off the shelves like hot cakes.

Michaels jumped at the opportunity to announce that their 1 Gallon bottle is back in stock and to call attention to their “slime bracket” where you can vote on your favorite DIY blobby creation! Are you more of a shimmery mermaid fan or a gooey zombie brain type? The email encourages you to hop over to Michaels’ Facebook page where you’ll find images of the different varieties teamed up against each other. Vote for your favorite and see if it makes it to the next round. What a great way to spark interest and get people involved with your social network! The email includes product images of the googly eyes, beads and pom-poms needed to create a few of the slimes from the bracket. All the gooey options are sure to inspire new ideas and encourage you to shop where you know ingredients will be available.

Michaels did, however, miss an opportunity by not linking the products. I (along with other Facebook commenters) would have liked to see full ingredient lists for each creation along with measurements. Finally, I wish the email didn’t go on to cover Morph and Easter products; it felt like too much crammed into one email. If they were mentioned as a small sub-message it wouldn’t be so bad, but they took up half of the email.

Overall, this strategy is a fun way to inspire people to shop while encouraging social engagement.

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happy holidays hero

A Very Merry [something] to You!

We live in a politically correct world where people can be easily offended, so simply wishing subscribers a Happy Holiday can be a tricky thing. Because Christmas and Hanukkah are religious holidays, you don’t want to exclude anyone or step on any toes. Here are a few ways retailers messaged their subscribers this year, ranging from the daring to the all inclusive and a little vague.

1. Retailers That Went For It

I was surprised to see a few retailers going with the Merry Christmas message this year. I personally only recommend going this route if your company is clearly marketed toward a specific religious group (ie: The Christian Book Store). I wouldn’t want to offend and potentially lose a customer.

From: Michaels
Date: 12/24/16
Subject Line: We Wish You a Merry Christmas!
See it animated


There’s no doubt which holiday Michaels was backing this year. Their headline spells out in all caps and dancing letters, “MERRY CHRISTMAS.” It is colorful, festive and attention grabbing. One nice thing about singling out a holiday is you don’t have to worry about choosing imagery that caters to everyone (for example snowflakes over Santa). They went a bit generic though with gold glitter stars throughout the email –glitter seems to be a common trend among holiday emails of all types this year.

From: Christopher & Banks | CJ Banks
Date: 12/25/16
Subject Line: Wishing You A Merry Christmas From All Of Us!

Christopher and Banks

Christopher & Banks also wishes a Merry Christmas in both the subject line and headline. They chose a nice photograph of a wreath hanging on a front door to fill the design. The copy is heart-felt and personal, coming from the President & CEO. I always enjoy receiving these types of communications (personal letters). It’s a nice reminder that there are real people behind the company that appreciate my business.

2. Did We Cover Everyone?

These emails did their best to incorporate multiple December religious holidays. This method can be fun and a little comical with original holiday phrases. It also shows your desire to bring everyone together.

From: Cupcake Polish
Date: 12/25/16
Subject Line: Merry Christmahanakwanzika! Celebrate with a FLASH SALE! ❤💚💙

Cupcake Polish

Cupcake Polish invented the word “Christmahanakwanzika” in their subject line. Their email went on to read: “Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year! We hope you are having a great day no matter what you celebrate!” I like how all encompasing it is with a bit of humor. The email design is a little lack-luster, but they did included a graphic “word cube” that includes all the holidays with some graphics.

From: Madam Glam
Date: 12/24/16
Subject Line: Merry Chrismukkah ! 🎉

Madam Glam

Madam Glam started with a similar approach, using the subject line and headline Merry Chrismukkah, but the copy leans a bit more Christmas (mentioning Santa). The graphic they chose could be viewed as generally winter themed — a tree made of glittery gold hearts, surrounded by falling snow. Overall, not a bad email, but make sure to stick with the plan from beginning to end.

From: Gap
Date: 12/25/16
Subject Line: May your day be merry and bright


Gap started out with a vague subject line (May your day be merry and bright), but got more specific within the email. They laid it out plain and simple: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah from our family to yours. The imagery is winter-clad models sporting cozy hats, coats and scarves. Glittery titles and background add to the generic but wintery design.

3. Happy … December?

And finally these retailers took the safe approach by sending well-wishes in a general way. It’s honestly the safest approach. It’s a way to say, hey, we care about you and want you to be happy, whatever you’re celebrating. There were plenty that used the well-known “Happy Holidays,” so here are a few that used an alternative method.

From: Tiny Prints
Date: 12/25/16
Subject Line: ❄ A Special Season’s Greeting for You
See it animated

Tiny Prints

Tiny prints decided to go with the headline “Merry Everything.” Since this choice of words doesn’t call out any holidays specifically, I’m going to place this under the slightly vague category. It is all encompassing, but a little noncommittal. It’s not a bad option, but I did find it a little funny to read, thinking, “Wow, they really weren’t sure what to say here.” It is, however, one of my favorite designs with texture, depth, color and even a subtle animation.

From: Neiman Marcus
Date: 12/25/16
Subject Line: Merry Christmas + a treat for you!
See it animated

Neiman Marcus    Neiman Marcus wink gif

Although the subject line is clearly Christmas, the email itself is more general holiday. The headline reads “May Your Day Be Merry & Bright!” The design, while colorful and creative, got the creepiest award in my book. The good: a model with a winter hat surrounded by doodles of snowflakes, doves and swirly patterns. I could even be okay with the strange choice to doodle a mustache on her, but … The creepy: they add an animation of her winking in a really weird and unnatural way. The right eye doesn’t squint as it should in a normal situation. It’s just a little unsettling.

From: Serena & Lily
Date: 12/24/16
Subject Line: Brightest holiday wishes.
See it animated

Serena and Lily

Serena & Lily went with a broad headline, “Wishing you a bright holiday.” They created their own unique graphic of a snowflake containing drawings of home furnishings. They also animate a little sparkle. I have to say, it is quite unique, but the design lacks a bit of flow and color.

One Final Observation:

As far as these day-of holiday emails go, I prefer it when the message is solely focused on well-wishes. It shouldn’t look like a last-minute inclusion tacked onto the top of a product/sale message. It makes the message a little less personal, not to mention that not many people will be shopping on the day of the holiday they’re celebrating. However, I don’t mind the addition of a link to send a virtual gift card. That’s an easy last-minute gift that doesn’t involve shipping or leaving the home.

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November Design Inspiration Hero

Design Inspiration of the Month

The holiday season is here! Are you in need of some fresh design ideas? Break out of that template and make your emails stand out. Here are some cool designs that hit my inbox this month.

I just love this image layout! Cutting images into diamonds and triangles and forming them into a geometric shapes… Just so much yes. Creative. Stunning. More of this please!

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 11/22/15
Subject Line: BOGO 50% off the sweaters (& everything else) you need now.
See the email

American Eagle Outfitters

Date: 11/23/15
Subject Line: Online Now: Up to 50% Off + Free Shipping
See the email


Neiman Marcus first sent an email with animated little people painting the border around the email. So clever and cute — as if they were setting the scene for the beginning of the holiday season. Then, a couple weeks later, I received another email with the return of some tiny people. This time they were sort of photobombing the scene (as was the product). It gives the image a little something special to grab your attention.

From: Neiman Marcus
Date: 11/05/15
Subject Line: The Love to Give Collection is here!
See the email

Neiman MarcusNeiman Marcus

From: Neiman Marcus
Date: 11/18/15
Subject Line: Triple Point Event + Our exclusive gifts!
See the email

Neiman Marcus

Sephora sent an email using red ribbon for a little holiday accent and a pop of color. It’s a classy (and holiday neutral) graphic choice that I love. It’s reminiscent of another email they sent back in September with gold ribbon weaving throughout the products and design. The ribbon adds flow, dimension and a little fun to the email.

From: Sephora Beauty Insider
Date: 11/21/15
Subject Line: 12 party-perfect samples, 1 festive bag
See the email


From: Sephora Beauty Insider
Date: 9/15/15
Subject Line: They’re here
See the email


I really like how Michaels added bows and tags onto their products. It’s a great way to make an ordinary item feel more in the spirit of the holiday season. It also takes less imagination to consider the products as being gift worthy.

From: Michaels
Date: 11/18/15
Subject Line: The Latest Creative Tech Tools – Now on Sale!
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Personality Quiz Email

If there’s anything Facebook has taught us, it’s that people love personality surveys. So why not create your own? Make a quiz that determines the subscriber’s personal style. Then offer product suggestions based on their results! Tip: Don’t forget to make your survey answers images, like in the popular Facebook quizzes. Finally, include a button to allow the subscribers to share their results on Facebook. Well, aren’t you just #trendy?

From: Michaels
Date: 11/11/15
Subject Line: Have You Used Your Coupon?
See the full email


Here’s the email that inspired the idea. Michael’s included a sub message where viewers could see their “tree profile.” By clicking on which tree they liked best, they’re given an explanation of their personality type and offered DIY projects and items that fit their taste. Pretty cool. Here is the landing page for the top/right tree.

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Uncommon Holidays Hero

Uncommon Holiday Emails

There are so many holidays that people don’t know about that can really make a fun promotion. Until recently, who knew there was a National Siblings Day? And how many people had heard “May the 4th be with you?” Thanks to social media and promotions, many of these uncommonly known holidays are being brought to light. My suggestion: browse through the list of upcoming uncommon holidays and use them to your advantage! Here are 2 emails that did just that.

From: Michaels
Date: 10/22/15
Subject Line: Happy National Color Day!


Michael’s sheds light on National Color Day in this email. The design receives an A+ in my book! I love the incorporation of the coloring page doodles throughout the design. It has just the right amount to support the theme but not be overwhelming. They chose to color some of the doodles and leave some black-and-white to add to the staggered effect. The love continues with the stylized headlines, flag graphics, colorful borders, angled & staggered products, ripped page edges, and call to actions that pop! The sections are nicely separated but still all work together to support the theme. They even included a video at the bottom. Someone clearly had a lot of fun with this one and it shows. Awesome job!

From: Cheesecake Factory Greetings
Date: 10/20/15
Subject Line: , Did Someone Say Pumpkin Cheesecake?

The Cheesecake Factory

This email from The Cheesecake Factory is about National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. Who knew?? What a great excuse to send a giant picture of a delicious slice of cheesecake to make subscribers’ collective mouths water. They get people involved by announcing a Twitter chat, creating hashtags, and offering a contest. The design isn’t bad but the image could be a little more interesting and the headline could look better in a more appealing font. The call out for Twitter chat and the hashtags get a little lost and don’t really highlight an incentive for people to get involved. It might work better in its own section and with revised copy. There also seems to have been a mishap including my name in the subject line. Lastly, it would be better to have the “trouble viewing this email” link in the preheader (instead of the footer) to make it easier for subscribers to find.

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