I recently caught up with co-owner and marketing mastermind behind Boston co-retail space For Now, Kaity Cimo. She runs the space with friend and business partner Katharine ReQua. They opened a year ago and have played home to over 80 brands in that time.
A Guide to Email Branding (+ Tips on Creating Your Own Guidelines)
In email marketing, a strong brand personality creates recognition: customers that receive strongly branded emails can tell who the sender is as soon as they open the email without having to look at the “from” line.
The importance of branded emails is supported by data: on average, consistent brand presentation increases revenue by 23% – an ROI that most investors would salivate over.
Luckily, building a strong email brand needn’t cost you a penny. With some creative thinking and simple design principles, it’s easy to build an instantly recognizable brand personality that customers will be happy to connect and engage with.
In this article, we’re going to go over the basic principles of email branding and provide some brand personality examples. We’ll look at how the pros are using images and fonts to build their marketing personas, and check out some of the best colors for email marketing. By the end of this guide, you should be one step closer to finding your own unique email voice.
What is email branding?
Email branding is the process of using images, text, colors, logos, and social media to craft a recognizable identity for your business. Companies that build a successful brand persona follow a few basic principles:
- Have a unique voice: The branding must be instantly recognizable. This can be achieved both through media like logos, images, and videos and also through copywriting and unique CTAs (calls to action).
- Foster an emotional connection: People connect emotionally with products and businesses. Playing off these emotional responses leads to higher engagement and revenue. Colors elicit different feelings and businesses must carefully select the best colors to use for their unique brand personality.
- Have a strong mission statement: Whether you’re making the world’s best ginger tea or building the world’s fastest microprocessor, your audience needs to be able to quickly understand what you do. Now that the average person has an attention span of just eight seconds, you need to provide your USP (unique selling proposition) and display how you bring value to your audience ASAP.
Successful email branding is achieved by properly applying these principles to each email you send. All emails should have a unique look and writing style, elicit some type of emotional response, and make it clear what your business offers to the receiver as soon as possible.
Benefits of using email branding
Although marketing efforts have largely shifted their focus to social media, email marketing remains a driving force behind revenue growth. In fact, a 2018 report from the Direct Marketing Association found that email marketing had an ROI of $32 for every $1 invested — a 3,200% return. To put that into perspective: if email marketing were a stock and you invested $10,000, you’d walk away $310,000 richer once your investment reached maturity.
A strong brand identity is at the heart of every successful marketing initiative and email is no exception. By strengthening the branding of your emails, you will increase the efficacy of your current email campaigns. In fact, one could argue that it’s impossible to have a strong marketing campaign without proper branding.
Let’s look at a few stats and examples to see just how important email branding can be. 48% of consumers say that brands have the best chance of gaining their loyalty shortly after they make their first purchase. Interestingly enough, the average open rate for welcome emails is 82%, and those emails are usually sent out within that critical period.
Considering that 91% of consumers prefer to buy from an authentic brand, you can put two and two together to see that well-branded (and well-timed) emails have the potential to turn buyers into long-term customers.
But the benefits of email branding don’t end there. 49% of consumers said they’d like to hear from their favorite brands on a weekly basis, meaning that email branding provides a superb opportunity to grow and develop lasting relationships with your customers.
How to develop your email branding strategy
Here comes the hard part — or easy part, depending on how you think about it. Your strategy needs to be authentic and the best way to develop it is to simply let your individuality shine through. Be you, and others will take notice.
Of course, saying that is like telling someone to “relax” or “stop thinking.” Being yourself takes practice, so let’s take a look at how the pros are doing it and how you can apply some of their strategies to your own business.
1. Set a color palette
Make sure your brand uses a consistent and recognizable color palette. According to Forbes, color increases brand recognition by 80%.
Curated Parcel’s email campaigns are an excellent example of strategic color use. As soon as you open the email, you’re greeted with a pleasant pastel pink. This color creates a mood that the rest of the email plays off of.
Scrolling down, we see that the color scheme is consistent with their products. This helps Curated Parcel extend their physical presence into the digital realm. The brand has a clear and well-defined color palette, which makes it easier for consumers to recognize them.
Even though VOOST Vitaminhaus’ email background is grey, it still manages to build an identity for the brand. The red and black of the logo is mirrored in the image directly below, and the grey background complements the color scheme nicely. The shades convey a sense of adventure and action, which builds upon the identity that the brand name establishes.
2. Use unique fonts to highlight actionable items
Fonts can be a bit tricky: when brands try to be too unique with their fonts, their efforts often backfire. Just think of all the people who use comic sans to be a bit more “fun” but end up unintentionally nauseating everyone who reads their handouts.
In most cases, fonts that are simple but bold do the trick. They allow the copy to stand out and draw the reader in without impairing their ability to read the text.
Trish from Chromatical has the right idea: use a font that looks nice but doesn’t detract from the message she’s trying to get across. Her writing is unique, friendly, and conversational. It doesn’t need a fancy font to draw the reader in and keep them reading.
However, there are cases when using a more standout font works, usually for logos or headings. Curated Parcel uses unique fonts to great effect in their emails:
In this email, the more standout fonts are placed tastefully and are used to draw the reader’s attention to specific products. In addition, they build further on the general vibe of the brand: cute and handmade.
3. Ensure all your images maintain a consistent style
Humans are visual animals — we use our sight to determine objects of interest more than any other sense. Because of this, businesses need to use appealing imagery to capture the attention of their customers. Maintaining a consistent image style can go a long way in building out your brand’s identity.
Wallpaper Trader does this exceedingly well:
Their antique and elegant feel comes across in all their media, and each image looks as if it’s from the same album. The colors are consistent across their images as well.
4. Develop a unique voice for your email copy
With so much focus on visuals, it’s easy to forget that text is the most direct way to communicate with your audience. Engaging CTAs can go a long way in getting the engagement you want for your brand.
Lambchopssocks uses her writing to great effect: describing her socks with interesting word choices like “uniquely mismatched” helps to develop a quirky brand identity. Even in the coupon code itself (SPOILHER), the business manages to maintain a unique identity that’s fun and pampering in an eccentric way.
Karla Cola also has effective and brand-building copywriting:
The “xx” in her signature is a standout feature of her writing style. It helps create a very personal and almost flirtatious feeling when reading her copy. It works well with her brand, as her products have interesting names like “Flock Yeah” and “Thungarri”.
5. Utilize templates that make your content stand out
Templates are a bit more abstract than the other components of email branding that we’ve discussed, but when used creatively they can help organize your content in a way that shows off your brand’s individuality. The key to proper template usage is consistency: choose a layout and stick with it.
VOOST Vitaminhaus helps build their brand identity by displaying content in a unique grid formation. By using this template in each of their emails, they help build brand recognition.
6. Social media links
While social media links themselves are a bit less creative, they’re important to build brand consistency across platforms. Adding social media links to the bottom of your emails (or closer to the top if your brand relies heavily on social networks) gives customers a way to reach out and follow you on other social networks.
Cooking for Busy Moms does everything a social media section of an email needs to do: it directs readers to their other social platforms. This section doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be clear and easy to see. Include your Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and any other platforms you have.
7. Include a tagline or slogan
People remember slogans. Whether it’s short and sweet like “I’m lovin’ it” or a bit longer like “melts in your mouth, not in your hand”, a slogan helps you create that instantaneous recognition that brands should always be striving for.
Lambchopssocks has a concise tagline that fits in with their brand personality: “Sometimes all you need is a little splash of color.” The emojis help seal the deal by adding a personal touch.
Documenting your brand guidelines
Given how important brand consistency is, it’s important to develop a set of brand guidelines that everyone on your team can follow. Your guidelines should outline the following:
- Brand mission: What is your brand all about? What do you hope to achieve? Perhaps most importantly, what is your unique value proposition to your customers?
- Logo and variations: What is your logo, and what variations are allowed?
- Tagline: What does your brand represent, and how can you express it in the fewest words possible?
- Color palette: What colors describe your brand? What emotions are you trying to evoke? Your color palette should reflect your products and maintain consistency across all platforms.
- Writing style: What is your brand’s tone of voice, and how do you express it? Include any specific spellings you use, wording for CTAs, and any phrasing you try to avoid.
99designs has a great guide to creating brand guidelines here if you’re looking for more detailed instructions.
With these tips in hand, you should be set to craft unique emails that are authentic and represent your brand’s individuality in its fullest. Think we missed something? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be sure to include it in one of our next blogs.
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