9 Cliché-Beating Christmas Email Marketing Tips


If you’re anything like me, you hate hearing this so early in the year. But if you didn’t plan your campaigns far in advance, you wouldn’t be much of an email marketer, would you?

So I’m sorry, but I have to say it: Christmas is coming.

Yes, the festive season is on its way once again. It’s time to start thinking about all those great Christmas email marketing ideas.


– the sale prices that are so low, they’re like a gift from Santa
– the traditional seasons greetings message, with snowy scenes full of prancing reindeer, smiling snowmen and colourful Christmas trees
– or how about those seasonal winter products that tie in so well with Christmas themes?

These are all sure-fire ways to boost customer engagement at Christmas…

…Aren’t they?

Or could they be so tired at this point – and so similar to what your competitors are doing – that these Christmas clichés won’t have much impact at all?

Of course, you probably know all this already. It’s not exactly a revelation to hear that decades-old Christmas themes and imagery aren’t as effective as they used to be.

What you’re here for is fresh Christmas email marketing knowledge – ideas that work.

Let’s have a look.

1. What works the rest of the year works at Xmas too

One of the first, and most important, things to remember when planning your Christmas campaigns is this: don’t throw out all the effective methods you’ve used throughout the year, just because it’s December.

Global Head of Strategic Services at digital marketing consultants Lyris, Philip Storey, puts it like this:

Stick to your guns and use all of the knowledge and progress you have made with your email marketing creative over the year… make sure all of that best practice, testing, learning and so on is poured into your Christmas email campaigns.

Laurence Green of The Telegraph has a similar take on things:

Year-round advertisers face a difficult problem. Obliged by custom to change their advertising spots in deference to the season, their efforts can become perilously disjointed from ‘business as usual’ campaigning.

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense.

You’ve spent all year finding out what your customers respond to best – the kind of subject lines, offers and images that work for your business.

Now that your most profitable time of year has come around, these evolved email marketing methods are going to work better than ever… so why would you ditch them for a picture of Santa and a cheesy Xmas pun?

Don’t do it.

Customers are spending more than usual at this time of year. Build your Christmas email campaigns around your proven techniques, and you should get an even better response than usual.

2. Up the tempo

If the answer is to not throw out winning methods during the Christmas period, then what should you change at this festive time?

Frequency is one aspect you could play around with.

Your customers and subscribers are actively looking for unusual buying ideas at this time of year. Therefore, they’re much more receptive to your email marketing campaigns.

As Tom Sather of Return Path puts it:

Customers will always be more forgiving of promotional messages when they’re in the mood to shop, especially when it comes to their favorite brands.

However, be careful not to ramp up the frequency too suddenly or too excessively.

When spam filters see sudden rises in email volume from a brand, it can often result in that brand being blacklisted – however unfairly.

Customers, too, have a limited threshold for how much email they can take – even at Christmas!

Give subscribers a bit more of what they love, but don’t overdo it.

3. Step outside of Christmas conventions

Red and white trim. Snow-capped page elements. Falling snowflake backgrounds. Gifts under the tree.

These are all images that spring quickly to mind when we think about Christmas emails, because we’ve all seen them so many times.

That means that when you use these images, you can’t possibly stand out from your competitors.

So why not create your own, original Christmas theme? Coca-Cola managed it – that’s where the famous red and white of Santa’s outfit comes from.

There are a few good reasons to try this for yourself:

– You want customers to recognise that your campaign is Christmas-related – they’ll be more likely to open it when they’re buying gifts.

– Differentiating your campaign from countless others is a must.

– If you succeed in delivering an original take on Christmas advertising, your customers will really appreciate your creativity – and the value of your brand could go up.

How might you do this?

First, make a list of all the Christmas clichés you can think of. Include every tired old colour scheme, image and phrase. You’re going to exclude all these things from your campaign design.

Next, think about what Christmas means to your own subscribers – and how your branding could be adapted to this special time of year.

With this knowledge in place, you’re ready to create your brand’s original take on Christmas.

4. Prioritise subject lines over graphics

Shouldn’t it be this way all year round? Open rate is the number one metric for most email marketers after all. And graphic design can’t impact open rate.

Your subject lines are your biggest opportunity to influence open rates – and everything that follows. That goes for your Christmas campaigns, and every other campaign too.

The key point, as summed up by Adestra account director Parry Malm, is this:

If only 15% of your list is opening your emails, shouldn’t you spend your effort and budget on the disengaged 85%, who clearly don’t give a toss about your pretty design? Focusing on your subject lines is time better spent than photoshopping a picture of Santa into your images.

In other words, don’t just assume a Christmas theme will be enough to give you maximum value from your campaign.

During the festive period, you need to keep working just as hard on increasing your open rates. And the best way to do it is through great subject lines.

Christmas is no holiday for email marketers – so keep working!

If it’s not mobile, it’s not worthwhile

5. If it’s not mobile, it’s not worthwhile

According to recent US consumer data, 66% (or two thirds) of emails are now read on iOS or Android devices. In other words, they’re read on mobile.

Those stats are from January 2015. But the numbers are only shifting further towards mobile for the foreseeable future. 48% of US consumers now use their smartphone as a “vital tool” during the holiday season.

As email marketing specialist Jordie van Rijn writes:

Smartphones and tablets can no longer be ingnored by email marketers. They represent a massive part all email interactions and revenue.

So the lesson here is: if your Christmas campaign isn’t responsive, mobile friendly, or whatever you want to call it, then you’re failing more than half of your subscribers this season.

Sure, this advice isn’t specific to Christmas. You need to sort this out whatever the time of year. But it goes back to the importance of prioritising what works over seasonal themes.

Make sure your campaign is mobile-ready, and you can reach the biggest possible audience.

6. Start as early as your customers

…And that’s around October.

38% of Christmas shoppers get started before November. 70% of Christmas shoppers are active in the three months before the big day (October, November and December).

If your subscribers have already bought their gifts before you even send out your campaign, then… you’re really going to miss out, aren’t you?

Make sure you plan ahead. You can start thinking about ideas, offers and themes as early as August or September (or even before).

And if you want to catch those super-organised, early Christmas shoppers, then your campaign could begin, softly, in October. You could test things with a small segment of your subscribers first.

It sounds like a lot of work. But if the holidays are your biggest time of year – and they can be – then it’ll all be worth it.

7. Use segmentation to reach different cultures

A few years ago, many advertisers began switching their seasonal message fromMerry Christmas” to “Happy holidays.”

The move was largely a response to the increasingly multicultural make-up of our society. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, so marketers wanted a more inclusive message for this time of year.

It didn’t quite work out – many people were offended by the shift, for various reasons.

It just goes to show, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Except, with email segmentation… maybe you can.

You probably can’t gather data about your subscribers’ religions. But you could ask them about their favourite holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid and so on.

This will allow you to segment your subscribers. You can then send appropriate, personalised seasonal messages to each group.

Get this right, and your campaign response rates could really soar.

Keep the same goals you had before

8. Keep the same goals you had before

Running a Christmas email marketing campaign sounds like a no-brainer. But of course, you still have to engage your brain.

Don’t just fire out Xmas emails because everyone else is doing it – you actually need a goal, a reason to run your campaign.

It could be something as simple as capitalising on the seasonal spending rush, with a quick and dirty special offer.

Better, it can tie in with your wider marketing goals and channels. You can use your Christmas campaign to draw people to specific products, or increase engagement on social media.

With a little creativity, almost any marketing goal can be achieved at Christmas.

And once again, it’s about doing what works for your business – not expecting snow and Santa to boost your sales on their own.

9. Try a different kind of Christmas offering

When we think of Christmas email campaigns, we often think of special offers that offer price cuts, free delivery and other money-saving incentives. Christmas card-style messages are all-too-common as well.

So, while everyone else is doing the same old thing, why not stand out from the crowd? Why not try a different kind of Christmas offering, designed especially for your subscribers?

If you want to avoid Christmas clichés this year, this is one great way to do it.

Here are some ideas:

Be useful: Giving your subscribers value at Christmas doesn’t have to mean saving them money. Think about how you could share your knowledge this season. Create a guide to having the best Christmas decorations, or gift ideas, or cards, or whatever your business is good at. You’ll be front of mind with your subscribers when they come to do their shopping.

Give them something fun: Around Christmas, lots of people are in a holiday mood. They’re more receptive to the idea of doing something fun and frivolous. That’s why Christmas competitions, browser games and jokes play well at this time of year. If you can help your customers enjoy the festivities that little bit more this year, your brand can only benefit.

Appeal to bah-humbuggers: This idea might be a little out there. But if all of your competitors are focused on seasonal stuff, who’s catering to all the people who hate Christmas? They might be a niche audience, but there are plenty of them. With an anti-Christmas campaign, you could reach thousands of people them – and so long as you keep it light-hearted, you might get a smile out of people who love Christmas, too.

From everyone at Mailrelay, have a wonderful Christmas – and good luck with your seasonal email campaigns!

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