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The Modern Marketing Blog covers the latest in marketing strategy, technology, and innovation.

Email marketing: Outstanding holiday creative, part 2

As the march through the holiday season begins, U.S. consumers will receive a seemingly endless daily stream of Christmas, Chanukkah and non-denominational holiday messaging, framed primarily around gift buying. Last year, retail email volume hit an all-time high the week before Christmas, and some analysts predict even bigger sends this year (accompanied by bigger revenues).

Before we all start frantically tracking the success of our organizations' email marketing programs - and before we become immersed in our own shopping lists and the messaging hitting our personal inboxes - it makes sense to orient ourselves to what holiday success has looked like in the past. Reflecting on the best of the 2012 holiday creative can inform our final touches in approaching this year's even savvier customers.

Uncommon goods: Best gift card messaging

Many gift card messages passed through my inbox last season, but this one from Uncommon Goods took the cake for cuteness: the envelope with the ribbon? The play on Christmas magic in the headline, and the “there in a twinkle” burst? Please. Too adorable.

What I love most about the email copy though is how it shows that even an e-gift card can make a sweet, sincere gift when played right. The message to a new parent in the letter feel so genuine. Uncommon Goods takes the notorious procrastinator’s gift and turns it into something thoughtful.

Uncommon Goods gift card

Terrain: The best gift categories messaging

I love the neutral background with the bold product photography, and the subtly quirky gift-buying categories feel both on-brand and classically holiday. Best of all, though, this email leads with a benefit for the giver rather than the recipient: free shipping.

Terrain holiday

JetBlue: Best holiday travel messaging

Not only does this JetBlue email copy read to the tune of jingle bells (try not to sing it out loud) and speak to the particular needs of holiday travelers, but the icon-based design is also sleek and easily scrollable from a mobile device.

JetBlue holiday

American Apparel: Best (only?) Chanukkah messaging

American Apparel was the only brand we caught sending Chanukkah email, which could signal a missed opportunity for other brands. This messaging is fun and offers daily deals for each day of Chanukkah.

American Apparel email

Philosophy: Best mobile layout

The design sweet and simple, the copy is huge and easily readable (check out the promo code), and that button is big enough for any thumb. While these are basic design moves, they boost the usability of the email in a way that shows consideration for busy customers' needs.

philosophy

J.Crew: Best employee-curated selection

As with the Terrain email, the light background and bold product photography makes for a classy, scannable look, but the reason this one stands out to me is the messaging spin: it speaks to the benefits of these items for the people who own them during the holiday season rather than describing them as gifting opportunities. The email from J. Crew is a refreshing departure from a barrage of marketing messages implying that subscribers’ personal wants get set aside in favor of gift buying.

Jcrew email

There's a much longer list of excellent messages sent during the 2012 holiday season, all of which showed the level of concern for subscriber needs that these six demonstrate. Before the season hits full swing, take one final look at your brands' creative to ensure it will make your customers' "Best of 2013" lists.

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