6 marketing emails received during the pandemic that have absolutely nothing to do with coronavirus (and one that does)

Close up of Studio Cotton founder Aime with her blonde hair tied up, wearing a brown dress and holding her hand to her mouth
Aime Cox
Founder of Studio Cotton
Aime is utterly obsessed with sharing heaps of small business and website advice that’s easy to action
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I put out a poll on Instagram yesterday, asking if I should write about 5 differences between optimising products for Etsy vs optimising products for your website, or 5 search engines you should optimise for (that are not Google) or something else. Turns out, my readers wanted something else – specifically 6 marketing emails I received during the pandemic that have absolutely nothing to do with coronavirus.

We’ve written a fair bit about marketing a small business during the current crisis. From how to start communicating during the early days of lockdown, through to investing in marketing channels that have a longer latency before pay-off, ensuring that your actions now will win you sales later – like PR and blogging. We even shared how we applied for our coronavirus relief grant, which coincidentally (and very thankfully) we received this week – which is one heck of a relief.

It’s unsurprising that with all our lives at least in some part consumed by the impact of coronavirus, it’s difficult to mentally pop it to one side when creating our brand communications.

Sat here in my home office/dining room, we’re just completing week 4 of lockdown, and although it’s looking like a lot of small businesses are getting a bit more BAU with most of their communications channels, a lot of business owners I’ve spoken to are extra hesitant about email marketing.

I’m here to tell you, ya lovely small business owners you, you don’t need to be.


Big brands are winning your sales

Ok, that heading is a little dramatic, but it kinda proves my point. As I type, I’m still receiving marketing emails, commercials are playing on the TV, and I’m sure I would be seeing all sorts of paid online ads if I didn’t use Ad Blocker like a muthafluffa.

The global and high street brands that are still open have not stopped marketing; they’re currently speaking to your customers and trying to win their orders. If you stop communicating, you’re infinitely less likely to win those crucial sales that will help you grow your business.

Sure, it’s easy to write such things – but Aime, can you prove it? Why yes I can. Here’s a selection of really great marketing emails I received over the past few weeks, that prove you don’t need to stop emailing, and you can make money during the coronavirus crisis.


Glossier: Goddesses of email marketing

When I talk about email marketing strategy and email design, pretty much the first thing I tell anyone is to subscribe to emails from make-up giants Glossier. Their campaigns are simple, clean, to-the-point and often whimsical too.

I received this email on 26th February, a couple weeks before lockdown reached the UK, but well into the period where coronavirus was sitting at the forefront of our collective psyche.

Look how dang simple and perfect it is. This email is a single product focus – just a little dive into an item from their catalogue. It’s not discounted, it’s not new – but it is for sale and Glossier wants you to buy it. The text is well-written and contains absolutely nothing you don’t need to start shopping.

We also have 3 complementary back-up products in case Skywash isn’t the one for you, and the little credit for Adot adds a personal touch. Perfect perfect perfect.

  • Email strategy: 10/10
  • Content: 10/10
  • Coronavirus mentions: 0/10


Monki don’t need no pictures

Now this is an email I can get on with. Look how simple fashion brand and H&M Family member Monki has kept this message – it knows ‘SALE’ is all it really needs to say. Even though this is at least the 8th email I’d received about this mis-season sale, they haven’t tried to overcomplicate things by adding unnecessary waffle.

Here’s something extra I really love about this Monki marketing email, it’s mobile-shaped. This content will look exactly the same on a desktop and a smartphone, creating a seamless consistent experience. Sure, that means the text looks massive on a laptop screen, but since when was readability a bad thing.

And here’s another extra something. Monki is a fashion brand with literally thousands of photos of their clothes – but they chose to not use a single photograph in this marketing email. Why? The mystery is more powerful than the reality for the consumer.

  • Email strategy: 9/10 (just because I’ve received so many sale emails)
  • Content: 10/10
  • Coronavirus mentions: 0/10


Ollie Quinn doesn’t need to be explicit

I love glasses brand Ollie Quinn, and I’m sure that’s because their team in the Park Street store are absolute delights – especially the insanely stylish man who has maaad Instagram makeup skills. I hope someone from Ollie Quinn spots this and praises their Bristol staff, they really are lovely.

Anyway, we’ve just come off the back of a stunningly sunny Easter break, and the first batch on summer holidays have been cancelled. I’m guessing that means a heck of a lot of us aren’t buying nice sunglasses. And, with their beautifully designed high street shops closed, not only are they missing out on foot traffic, but also the ability to perform eye tests and give customers peace of mind that their new sunnies are the perfect prescription.

That’s why I really enjoy how this marketing email from Ollie Quinn contains an offer designed to generate revenue now, for orders that can be fulfilled later. It’s bold, and simple. Unfortunately it’s also sharing white text on a gold background, which is hella illegible and kinda ironic (Alanis-style, not proper ironic) that I can’t read it without my glasses which are currently sat on my bedside table. I am very lazy today.

Personally, I think this campaign would be better served as two individual marketing emails. The first with 30% off now, the second with a ‘save a sale for later’ – they’re both incredibly compelling messages and the way they’re proposed right now is muddying the two. Literally with that mustard gold and figuratively.

I am also docking a couple points for brand identity application too, the grey and gold backgrounds are an odd choice considering their website is all white backgrounds, so it adds an unnecessary inconsistency. Sorry Ollie, I still love you!

  • Email strategy: 7/10
  • Content: 6/10
  • Coronavirus mentions: 3/10


Anthropologie Europe and a car crash subject line

I love perusing the homeware sale section of lifestyle and fashion brand Anthropologie. It’s a site I visit at least once a week, even though I don’t think I’ve made more than a fistful of orders from them ever (but I do have a lovely Anthropologie rug in the living room).

This marketing email is an absolute classic, completely inoffensive and direct. But that subject line. Oof.

“WFH? You’ll need these, up to 70% OFF!”

Oh Anthropologie. This subject line is tone-deaf and potentially cruel. Distributed in the early midsts of lockdown, it not trivialises the extreme circumstances, but it seeks to profit from them directly. It’s so bizarre, and doesn’t match the blandly acceptable email contents – that I’m guessing the subject line was written by a completely different person.

“Sat at home as you just closed your business and are worried you won’t be able to open it again? Give us your money!”

“Trying to balance parenthood and paying the bills because people are literally dying? BUY STUFF!”

I want to say I’m being hyperbolic, but those scenarios are extremely common right now. Sure, it’s just an email subject line, but it’s bad marketing. Booooo.

  • Email strategy: 0/10
  • Content: 8/10
  • Coronavirus mentions: 5/10


Wool and the Gang gives us what we want: free stuff

I am one heck of a yarn lover, and when it comes to a modern craft brand that challenges the twee stereotype, it’s impossible to beat Wool and the Gang for both style and substance.

This email is absolutely superb, because it’s making you think it’s about one thing – but it’s really about another. Yep, they’re giving you a lovely free pattern – and a warm fuzzy feeling to boot – but they’re really promoting their shiny happy cotton.

They’re not even being subtle, in this screenshot alone they mention the product 3 times, and include 6 product pictures. Those sneaky, strategic, clever, woolly, lil fellas.

Giving away a free knitting pattern is an incredibly strong and timely offer. Like I mentioned earlier we’re all stuck at home, and a lot of us are crafting. Wool and the Gang are giving away a free method for killing a few evenings – and selling yarn at the same time.

  • Email strategy: 10/10
  • Content: 10/10
  • Coronavirus mentions: 0/10


Heist Studios: the one that does mention coronavirus

I bought some undies from Heist last summer, to give me confidence for a public speaking engagement at Creatival. It definitely worked, because I not only felt pretty darned confident, but I told pretty much everyone I saw that day about my new undies. Ever the professional.

Heist Studios are still selling online, but they used their mailing list and their manufacturing facilities to add more good to the world during the crisis.

It’s a really lovely, genuine and caring email. It works because it’s an authentic offer to provide help, and because they don’t try to blend selling content with an altruistic and sensitive offer.

Heist absolutely smashed their target, and you can still donate now.

  • Email strategy: 10/10
  • Content: 10/10
  • Coronavirus mentions: 10/10


Don’t stop marketing.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit different retailers in different ways. Having peaks and troughs in sales is not a new experience for any business; knitting brands are often quietest over the summer as we shed wool in favour of sun tan lotion, and swimsuits don’t sell so swimmingly in late September.

I can bet you all day long that those knitting brands don’t stop marketing their yummy squishy yarn, and although swimwear brands might pivot – they certainly don’t stop for the winter either.

The marketing emails I highlighted work because they isolate the profit-driven messaging from the harsh circumstances we’re all enduring. Apart from ruddy Anthropologie, those silly sausages.

Marketing is more important than ever during a sales lull, to gain each one of those few orders out there and build an audience for our boom season. We just need to communicate strategically and sensitively – you got this.

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