Marketers try to keep their audiences engaged through constant email communication. That’s the main purpose of newsletters. Over the course of our lives, we get tons of newsletters, which can become a problem for many.
Only a few newsletters survive my harsh inbox-cleaning habits. I regularly unsubscribe to those newsletters that I don’t find relevant or useful. Many of you do the same, and the rest probably just ignore them.
But, every once in a while I get an email that wows me or makes me smile. It’s usually the unconventional emails that have that effect. It’s really hard for a marketer to pull that off, but it’s not impossible. It takes some creativity, a few experiments, and some work.
Before we talk about unconventional newsletter ideas, I want to state that there’s nothing wrong with sending conventional newsletters. The content of the newsletter is what makes people read their emails. It’s more important than any gimmicks marketers try. It’s more important than the design or the format of the email. As long as subscribers dig your content, they’re not going to unsubscribe or mark you as spam. This article is for marketers who want to try new things or add some spice to their newsletters, and see what works out and what doesn’t.
Perhaps these ideas will help you improve your relationship with your subscribers. Here are a few ways you can infuse your newsletters with your brand’s personality.
You might also enjoy these two other posts we’ve published around this topic. Here’s a list of newsletter ideas to fill up your email calendar and over 30 best email campaigns as picked by fellow marketers.
Start with an unconventional name.
If you’re thinking of starting newsletter or rebranding your newsletter, start with the name.
Most newsletters don’t have a name. Some people think that the name is not important, but it can have a big impact on your audience. If they find it cool or endearing, they’re more likely to open your emails.
Don’t just call it a newsletter. You can do better than that.
Think of something fun, endearing, quirky or punny, because an unconventional newsletter starts with an unconventional name. Choosing the name can be an incredibly difficult task. Perhaps a brainstorming session with the creative team will result in a few great options. Make sure the name that you choose resonates with your subscribers and fits your brand image.
Need a few examples? Here are two newsletter names that stuck with me.
Taco from Trello
Taco is Trello’s newsletter. Every time it lands in my inbox it makes me smile, because I happen to love tacos (just like 99% of the people living on this planet). It’s an unexpected name for a newsletter, but it works.
This is another unconventional newsletter name that I like. Moo is a printing company which sends out a monthly newsletter, known as the MOOsLetter! Naming your newsletter is a sign of pride and affection towards your brand. Your readers will notice it, and they’ll start to feel it too.
Add a twist with freebies and discounts.
The standard newsletter contains the latest information about products, news, updates, tips, and articles. But why send out a standard newsletter if you can achieve more with an unusual one? Make sure you have a section in your newsletter where you include freebies or special discounts. It will add more value to your newsletters, making your readers more interested in them. Soon you will notice results, which might include fewer unsubscribers, a boost in open rates, and a more loyal base of subscribers.
Freebies come in many shapes and sizes. Since your newsletter is digital, you should pack some digital goods in them (e.g., ebooks, courses, fonts, illustrations. mock-ups). Just make sure you have the right kind of freebie for your audience. If your audience consists of marketers, they will be interested in free, high-quality marketing resources. If they are photographers, they will probably be more into Lightroom presets, for example.
One of my favorite emails comes on Monday, and it’s from CreativeMarket. Every Monday they send a newsletter that contains six new items that I can download for free, for a week. It’s one of those emails that I look forward to.
Discounts are another great way to keep your subscribers engaged with your brand. Make your newsletter discounts special. Offer exclusive deals to incentivize your audience to subscribe and to stay engaged with your newsletters. This strategy is also a great way to boost sales.
Just because it’s called a “news-letter” it doesn’t mean you can’t make the content a little more varied. Your email readers will appreciate these “treats”, and they will look forward to getting your newsletters.
Case study: Learn how TechSoup Polska, an organization helping nonprofits get access to new technologies, increased their orders’ value by 1200% year over year thanks to targeted email campaigns.
Experiment with the design.
Your newsletters represent your brand, so their design should obviously match your brand’s identity. If your brand is fun and unique, make your newsletter look the part.
An original design will make your newsletter memorable.
There are lots of examples that I could share with you, but there are two that stuck to my mind.
One of them is the Starbucks newsletter, because it looks so fresh and engaging. One of the reasons why I chose it, was to show that even big brands can be unconventional, in a good way. Doesn’t this newsletter from Starbucks look like a million bucks?
The other one features bold, powerful colors and textures. These combinations make the design unexpected and memorable. I subscribed to this newsletter just to see how their next newsletter will look.
Yes, I’m a sucker for great designs.
Animate your newsletter
In a sea of static email designs, an animated one will stand out. Always.
GIFs and memes are still a major trend in marketing. They are often used in promotional emails, but you can experiment with your newsletter by having an animated GIF in them. Just because everybody sends static newsletters, that doesn’t mean that you should too.
Still, this doesn’t mean that you should have 15 different GIFs in your newsletter. Don’t go overboard with animation; you don’t want your email to give your readers a seizure when they open your email.
So what kind of GIFs work great in newsletters? If you’re announcing product updates, you can have a GIF tutorial presenting the feature. If you’re announcing a collection of products, you can make an animated GIFs presenting a few items.
Another idea is to induce the illusion of an interactive email with images that look like embedded videos. Link these images to the actual video.
Try a new newsletter format.
In most cases, the email is the newsletter. However, I can think of at least two situations in which the email is just the channel and not the message itself. That’s pretty unconventional, I’d say.
Readymag doesn’t publish their entire newsletter as an email. What I get in my inbox is a very short, compact little email that invites me to view the actual message on their site.
This is an excellent strategy if you have a lot of important interactive elements in your newsletter. If you clicked the link, you will probably understand why this solution works for them.
I also like their online newsletter archive. Readers can de-clutter their inbox, knowing that they’ll find every newsletter on the site.
Another reason why you would want a web newsletter is if you’re obsessed with having your newsletter look a certain way. It would help avoid various issues with email clients not displaying your content properly.
The next unconventional format is the newsletter magazine. It’s the ideal solution if you have a long, long newsletter with lots of pictures, articles and reporting. The magazine layout will make it look more digestible and more interactive. If you plan a long-form newsletter that will not fit in an email, try this.
Publish your newsletter as an online magazine and simply use the link in your email. It’s better than attaching the newsletter PDF, because it sometimes gets blocked by firewalls, or the PDF file size can be a problem.
When it comes to newsletters, the most important thing is to have your own, original and creative ideas. Make your emails stand out, and make your audience smile when they see you in their inbox.
What other unconventional emails do you get or send? Please, leave a comment to let me know. I’d love to get more inspiring newsletters in my inbox.