Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Filter by Categories
Admissions campaigns
Coaching in-house teams
Communications planning
Content development
Development campaigns


Content development

5 favorite things: consumer emails that work for higher ed

December 20, 2016   //   Zehno

Teenage email users are unforgiving. You’ll hardly stand a chance if you send them an ugly email.

Sixty-eight percent of them will delete it, according to Adestra. And 25-29 percent of young mobile users will even opt out of your emails if they don’t look good on their phones.

So your emails need to be sharp.

But when work is piling up, who’s got time to seek inspiration for novel email ideas? Inspiration can be closer than you think. Just check your inbox.

We culled the best consumer emails from our inboxes to bring you five great ideas that you can use now.


For animation: Kate Spade

Kate Spade Animation

Why it works

An email from fashion designer Kate Spade used an animated GIF to unwrap a present shaped like a purse. It provokes an element of surprise, gets your attention, and entices readers to click on the call to action.

How you can use it

Animate your emails to make a statement — whether you’re making a final admissions push to apply, delivering an acceptance letter, unveiling a new building or sending a special invite for a campus event.

Runner up: Boden

British clothing retailer Boden never disappoints with its animated GIFs. This email features a multi-day sale with quirky product images — a stuffed giraffe in a hat, an inflatable pink flamingo and pineapples wearing sunglasses — rotating left on an invisible conveyer belt. How could you resist clicking through? You could animate your program options.

Boden Animation


For clever content: Fab

Fab email

Why it works

After retailer Fab mistakenly sent a test email to its subscribers (that only contained an image of a cat!), it followed up with the most choreographed save—a humorous cat-filled apology giving subscribers a 10-percent-off coupon. Clever copywriting and images turned Fab’s mistake into an opportunity.

How you can use it

The next time you mistakenly send out an e-vite with the wrong date have a branded email ready to insert copy and send as a quick save.

Runner up: Bespoke Post

This newsletter from Bespoke Post, a monthly men’s subscription box, breaks down making the perfect cold-brew coffee into step-by-step instructions. The email contains a lot of content for an email, including a section that features products needed to make the perfect cold brew and a call to action to shop the entire site. But bold headings, an itemized list and high-quality images make this email easily digestible. You could use this template as a step-by-step guide for newly admitted students or to highlight the best spots on campus.

Bespoke email


For photography: Blu Dot


Why it works

Don’t overlook photography to get your message across. Let it tell the story for you. Modern furniture designer Blu Dot captures attention with this email that features a woman pushing papers off a table, encouraging readers to drop everything to browse. It sparks intrigue, and curious minds will wonder: What are they selling? Oh, yes, furniture (nice product placement).

How you can use it

High-concept photography isn’t only meant for magazine features and viewbooks. It works for emails, too. Rather than relying on the photography you have stored in your stock archive, plan a photo shoot for your email campaign, supplying you with customized images for your next series.

Runner up: Harry’s

Harry’s, an online men’s shaving products retailer, uses minimalistic design, fewer than 30 words of copy and oversized still life in this email. You could replace this larger-than-life imagery with an unexpected oversized student portrait to draw attention to your program outcomes. 

Harry's razor image


For personalization: Mark & Graham

Mark and Graham

Why it works

Personalizing your emails increases your open and click-through rates. In general, emails with personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened, according to Campaign Monitor. You can use personalization in a variety of ways—from inserting a prospect’s name in the subject line to switching out content based on your prospect’s gender, location or any other details you know about him or her. Mark & Graham, a monogramming retailer, regularly distributes an email that serves up items appealing to subscribers’ interests.

How you can use it

Use this email as a visual template and insert content based on what you know about your prospects. Instead of deploying a campaign with general messages, tailor content to your prospects’ interests. You could even set up your personalization and collect data by asking readers to choose from programs. If you already have reader data in hand, entice your prospects to learn more about a specific major that you know they’re interested in and use playful still lifes that appeal to their interests.

Runner up: Keds and Birchbox

Keds’ email about customized sneakers for Birchbox matches subscribers with what they like. Your custom product could be one of your majors.

Keds email


For typography: Anthropologie

Anthropology sale

Why it works

In this Anthropologie email, the background contains a list of the retailer’s clothing on sale—everything from kimonos to strappy heels. It’s a unique way to handle long listings (think majors or programs).

How you can use it

Get students interested in your college with a similarly styled list of majors or college facts, punctuated by big stats and a call to action. For extra appeal, turn the overlapping stats into animated circles.

Runner up: Banana Republic

Banana Republic, like many top retailers introducing a big sale, gets its message across with one clear statement: “Extra 50% Off Sale.” To get your prospects’ attention with one big college stat, use clever typography. Don’t forget to make your message pop with style, padding and color.

Banana Republic


Read more about our content development services.

Share This Page