Where's The Lettuce?

We spend a lot of time talking about the beef of email marketing: perfectly clean copy, clear calls-to-action, highly scannable designs, solid coding, and the right offer. But there's more to a great burger than a great patty.

A recent Crate & Barrel email included in our Email Design Look Book provides the answer to the missing ingredient. The May 1 email promoted knives with a minimalistic design that used silhouette photography of the knives and simple blocks of product information. The design is nice and clean, but what makes it exceptional is the ribbon of lettuce used as the bottom border of the primary message block. Smith-Harmon designer Ellen Bolotin, who brought the email to our attention, says that "the lettuce on the bottom just makes me laugh."

That's what so many emails are missing -- a little, cool crunch-a-little lettuce. Most emails are all business, all beef. While effective, there's something a little boring and joyless about them.

Many people view their inboxes as stressful places, so delivering a little unexpected delight is well worth the effort -- and likely to make opening your email feel less like a chore.

Here are some other examples of marketers taking the time to add a little lettuce to their email designs:

  • An April 30 PB Teen email (which is also in the Email Design Look Book) supports its "Pop into the sale" headline with a background of fun animated bubbles. A flat background image of bubbles would have sufficiently supported the theme, but adding the animation just makes it more fun.

  • Subscribers that scrolled to the bottom of this Dec. 8 Norm Thompson email about holiday gifts were rewarded with a secondary call-to-action being proclaimed by a cute gingerbread man with a frosting bow-tie.

  • This April 28 L.L. Bean email includes a banner that promotes insect-repellent apparel with a picture of an L.L. Bean logo hat with animated bugs fluttering a safe distance around it.

  • This Nov. 23 Urban Outfitters email featured a fairly crude drawing of a hand turkey. To support the "Don't Forget: Free shipping ends MONDAY" message, the company drew some string tied around one of the fingers. While that's clever, the real lettuce is a little caption with an arrow pointing out that the hand turkey is "Not Wearing Pants."

  • And many of Northern Tool's emails carry a short, manly "words to live by" saying in the header section. These creative sayings are wonderful examples of brand building; some of them are hilarious.

    So after you've perfected the beef of your email message, don't forget the lettuce.
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