The Best (and Worst) Black Friday Emails of 2016

Have you dug out from your holiday emails yet? They’re probably still coming…. And will, all the way up until December 24th! We received so many holiday emails, that we decided to concentrate on one day instead of the entire holiday season to give some feedback on the best and worst this year.

Black Friday used to mean everyone rushed into the physical store for the best items. Now ecommerce has made it so easy to shop those crazy deals from the comfort of your couch. To this point, retailers need to competitively compete with each other on subject line, creative, and discounts.  

We poured through the good, the bad, and the cluttered… here are 3 of the best and 3 of the worst Black Friday emails. Just like previous email reviews, I will grade each email on Subject Line, Relevance, Creative, & Call to Action (CTA). 

Who Made the Nice List? 

1. My Custom Case

Subject Line:  A Our Biggest Sale of the Year – 3 Days Only!  – The subject line is crystal clear. You will not get a better deal than what they’re offering now. It sets a time limit as well. Act within the next three days or you’re out of luck. Relevance: A The email pays off to the subject line that it’s a 40% off sale and the best sale of the season.   Creative: A The creative is festive with an animated gif using sparkling holiday creative, but it’s not distracting from its core sales message. The cases rotate through a bunch of different options to show the breadth of their products, and to capture your attention in a super cute way. Below the main sale creative, they have three modules that direct you to the correct case for the phone or tablet of your choice.   CTA: A- There is a shop now call-to-action, but it could be a little larger since it’s competing with two different moving creative features in the email.  

Subject Line:  A Our Biggest Sale of the Year – 3 Days Only!  – The subject line is crystal clear. You will not get a better deal than what they’re offering now. It sets a time limit as well. Act within the next three days or you’re out of luck.

Relevance: A The email pays off to the subject line that it’s a 40% off sale and the best sale of the season.  

Creative: A The creative is festive with an animated gif using sparkling holiday creative, but it’s not distracting from its core sales message. The cases rotate through a bunch of different options to show the breadth of their products, and to capture your attention in a super cute way.

Below the main sale creative, they have three modules that direct you to the correct case for the phone or tablet of your choice.  

CTA: A- There is a shop now call-to-action, but it could be a little larger since it’s competing with two different moving creative features in the email.  

2. Bobbi Brown Cosmetics 

Subject Line:  B Shop Great Gifts + Pick a Holiday Beauty Set with $50 Order  The subject line is relevant to the creative of the email, but it’s a tad long. They could have gone with Pick a Holiday Beauty Set with $50 Order and conveyed the message just fine. Yes, there are great gifts to shop, but that’s implied with a Black Friday email.   Relevance: A The email starts with showcasing the two gifts that you could choose from if you spend $50. It’s a nice way to entice buyers to purchase. After all, who doesn’t want a free gift?!     Creative: A The creative is on-brand, shows some holiday spirit, and does a fantastic job of showcasing the products. Both the free gift sets as well as the gorgeous gifts below those are styled and crisp to noticeably show the beauty of the packaging and products. If for some reason, none of the items in the body of the email tickle your fancy, Bobbi Brown does a good job of using their recovery module to keep you engaged. There are four boxes that you can click on for different reasons: Free Shipping and Offers, Talk to An Artist, Free Returns on Foundations, and Automatic Replenishments.   CTA: A  Under each item, they have a clear Call-to-Action. Either ‘Pick Now’ for the free gift sets or ‘Shop Now’ for the gorgeous gifts. 

Subject Line:  B Shop Great Gifts + Pick a Holiday Beauty Set with $50 Order

 The subject line is relevant to the creative of the email, but it’s a tad long. They could have gone with Pick a Holiday Beauty Set with $50 Order and conveyed the message just fine. Yes, there are great gifts to shop, but that’s implied with a Black Friday email.  

Relevance: A The email starts with showcasing the two gifts that you could choose from if you spend $50. It’s a nice way to entice buyers to purchase. After all, who doesn’t want a free gift?!    

Creative: A The creative is on-brand, shows some holiday spirit, and does a fantastic job of showcasing the products. Both the free gift sets as well as the gorgeous gifts below those are styled and crisp to noticeably show the beauty of the packaging and products.

If for some reason, none of the items in the body of the email tickle your fancy, Bobbi Brown does a good job of using their recovery module to keep you engaged. There are four boxes that you can click on for different reasons: Free Shipping and Offers, Talk to An Artist, Free Returns on Foundations, and Automatic Replenishments.  

CTA: A  Under each item, they have a clear Call-to-Action. Either ‘Pick Now’ for the free gift sets or ‘Shop Now’ for the gorgeous gifts. 

3. Old Navy 

Subject Line:  B+ you get a deal & you get a deal – For the most part consumers know that a Black Friday email will have a deal in it, but the question is, what kind of deal? Since Old Navy was planning 50% off on almost everything, they should shout that from the rooftops. To be fair, they send A LOT of email, so they may not have for this one because they were changing up their tactics and trying another way to get you to open your email. Relevance: A Old Navy does an amazing job of letting you know that they know you, your purchase habits, and your preferences. At the top of the email, they use my name and even tell me how many reward dollars I have. This makes the consumer feel understood and who doesn’t like when his or her name is used? Creative: A The creative pays off on the subject line because they show how you can get a gift for anyone on your list. It’s very apparent that this is the last day of the deal and that the deal is 50% off most things. They include the nav bar at the top of the email and the product categories below the bottom of the email, so if you are looking for something specific, you can land on the products you want and start shopping right away.   CTA: C – When you click on any of the creative, it drives to the Old Navy site, however Old Navy is missing out on the opportunity to explicitly tell consumers to ‘Shop Now.” Don’t go curl your hair, don’t put the baby down for a nap, shop now is the next step in this process, darn it!  

Subject Line:  B+ you get a deal & you get a deal – For the most part consumers know that a Black Friday email will have a deal in it, but the question is, what kind of deal? Since Old Navy was planning 50% off on almost everything, they should shout that from the rooftops. To be fair, they send A LOT of email, so they may not have for this one because they were changing up their tactics and trying another way to get you to open your email.

Relevance: A Old Navy does an amazing job of letting you know that they know you, your purchase habits, and your preferences. At the top of the email, they use my name and even tell me how many reward dollars I have. This makes the consumer feel understood and who doesn’t like when his or her name is used?

Creative: A The creative pays off on the subject line because they show how you can get a gift for anyone on your list. It’s very apparent that this is the last day of the deal and that the deal is 50% off most things.

They include the nav bar at the top of the email and the product categories below the bottom of the email, so if you are looking for something specific, you can land on the products you want and start shopping right away.  

CTA: C – When you click on any of the creative, it drives to the Old Navy site, however Old Navy is missing out on the opportunity to explicitly tell consumers to ‘Shop Now.” Don’t go curl your hair, don’t put the baby down for a nap, shop now is the next step in this process, darn it!  

Who made the Naughty List? 

1. MAC Cosmetics

Subject Line:  C+  M∙A∙C Black Plum Friday – Join in on Black Friday Fun with a New Deep Purple Vamplify. Plus Free Shipping and Samples Holy Longness!!! I stopped reading at Friday. No need to re-iterate it’s a Black Friday email. And a subject line should never have a plus in there. Trying to do way too much!   Relevance: C So points for clearly stating it’s a Black Friday email in the subject line and body copy, but I’m sorry what are we talking about? Is this a holiday email? What product are we pushing here?   Creative: D As mentioned above, it’s not very clear what we are doing here. Black Friday is a day with 23972392 emails. You want to tell your customers what deal they are getting, how they can get it, and what products you are talking about. The creative isn’t festive, doesn’t show product, and doesn’t include an offer. Oh and nice computer font that is an entire block of copy. Most consumers don’t want to spend time figuring out what we’re talking about. And the font choice is so random.  Thanks but no thanks, MAC. CTA: A Probably the only thing that’s clear in this email is its CTA. Kudos for making it prominent and clear. 

Subject Line:  C+  M∙A∙C Black Plum Friday – Join in on Black Friday Fun with a New Deep Purple Vamplify. Plus Free Shipping and Samples Holy Longness!!! I stopped reading at Friday. No need to re-iterate it’s a Black Friday email. And a subject line should never have a plus in there. Trying to do way too much!  

Relevance: C So points for clearly stating it’s a Black Friday email in the subject line and body copy, but I’m sorry what are we talking about? Is this a holiday email? What product are we pushing here?  

Creative: D As mentioned above, it’s not very clear what we are doing here. Black Friday is a day with 23972392 emails. You want to tell your customers what deal they are getting, how they can get it, and what products you are talking about. The creative isn’t festive, doesn’t show product, and doesn’t include an offer.

Oh and nice computer font that is an entire block of copy. Most consumers don’t want to spend time figuring out what we’re talking about. And the font choice is so random.  Thanks but no thanks, MAC.

CTA: A Probably the only thing that’s clear in this email is its CTA. Kudos for making it prominent and clear. 

2. Oriental Trading

Subject Line:  B Black Friday Deals End Tonight + Get Free Shipping on ANY Order & $10 off  This subject line isn’t the worst, but it’s best to not include two ideas in the same subject line. One would suffice.   Relevance: B- Unsure why Black Friday is the second module and not the first, but they do discuss the deal and include holidayish imagery. I’ve seen worse.   Creative: C- I’m DIZZY! Not sure what to look at and it’s making my head hurt. The branding is all over the place. Sometimes black and white, sometimes holiday, random price call outs over certain products. Plus they are using a recover module to talk about their blog and gift cards, but instead of it recovering the consumer, it’s just adding even more conflicting messaging to the email. What’s the opposite of clean branding….it’s a dirty, dirty email.    CTA: B Modules 1, 2, & 4 use ‘Shop Now,’ while the individual product offerings just have the name with an arrow. People are smart enough to know they can click the arrow. The question is, will they wade through all the clutter to actual click on what they want?   

Subject Line:  B Black Friday Deals End Tonight + Get Free Shipping on ANY Order & $10 off

 This subject line isn’t the worst, but it’s best to not include two ideas in the same subject line. One would suffice.  

Relevance: B- Unsure why Black Friday is the second module and not the first, but they do discuss the deal and include holidayish imagery. I’ve seen worse.  

Creative: C- I’m DIZZY! Not sure what to look at and it’s making my head hurt. The branding is all over the place. Sometimes black and white, sometimes holiday, random price call outs over certain products. Plus they are using a recover module to talk about their blog and gift cards, but instead of it recovering the consumer, it’s just adding even more conflicting messaging to the email. What’s the opposite of clean branding….it’s a dirty, dirty email.   

CTA: B Modules 1, 2, & 4 use ‘Shop Now,’ while the individual product offerings just have the name with an arrow. People are smart enough to know they can click the arrow. The question is, will they wade through all the clutter to actual click on what they want?   

3. Marc Jacobs

Subject Line:  A - Email Exclusive – The Black Friday Sale  – Clear, Concise, Good.   Relevance: B They get the award for didn’t try hard enough. It’s fine, but it could be more holiday-y, a better deal, just so much more could have been done.    Creative: C See above. You have gorgeous clothes and accessories…FLAUNT THEM!  Make an animated gif like you care about your email list and want to wow them. It’s just.so.boring. CTA: A- Yep it’s there. Points for that. Now excuse me while I nod off… 

Subject Line:  A - Email Exclusive – The Black Friday Sale  – Clear, Concise, Good.  

Relevance: B They get the award for didn’t try hard enough. It’s fine, but it could be more holiday-y, a better deal, just so much more could have been done.   

Creative: C See above. You have gorgeous clothes and accessories…FLAUNT THEM!  Make an animated gif like you care about your email list and want to wow them. It’s just.so.boring.

CTA: A- Yep it’s there. Points for that. Now excuse me while I nod off… 

Overall, there were a lot of great emails. So many cute animated gifs and so many great deals! Consumer expectations are that big brands will continue to 'wow', so we’ll see if they get the message by our Spring Email Review!