We often hear the saying “Looks aren’t everything”, but when it comes to email marketing, how your content looks could make or break the impact of your communication. Consider the most captivating content compiled as a solid block of text – no format, no images, and no calls to action. The result would be no interaction from your audience. But, don’t take our word for it, the judges and winner of the You Mailed It Email Marketing Awards 2023 say it best when it comes to email layout strategies.

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More About the You Mailed It Email Marketing Awards

If you’re wondering what the Everlytic’s You Mailed It Email Marketing Awards are, don’t sweat, we’re thrilled you’re taking a moment to learn about them here. The competition is a first-of-its-kind initiative in South Africa, aimed at giving marketers an opportunity to showcase – and be rewarded for – their email prowess.

As South Africa’s largest digital messaging platform, Everlytic acknowledges email marketing continues to be the dominant channel for brand communication. We also recognise creating, sending, and tracking a top-performing campaign isn’t easy!

This is why we started the You Mailed It Email Marketing Awards. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the hard work, gusto, and creative talent that email marketers put into building bulk emails.

Everlytic presents the awards for the second year in 2024, and by entering your best-performing email campaign(s), you and your team stand a chance to win a fab and fun experience for four people.

Anyone in the business of sending bulk emails – either for marketing or internal communication – is eligible to enter. (You don’t need to be an Everlytic client to participate.) All you need to do is enter your best marketing email and/or internal email sent at any time between 1 January and 31 December 2023. Entries close on 17 May 2024.

Enter the You Mailed It Email Marketing Awards 2024 today to stand a chance to claim this year’s title of Best Marketing Email and/or Best Internal Email.

How to Compose an Award-Winning Marketing Mailer

What does it take to compose a marketing email that’s considered an industry best? The judges of the You Mailed It Email Marketing Awards examine the email entries in terms of the following criteria:

  • Creativity & Innovation
  • Impact & Design
  • Functionality & Accessibility
  • Objectives Reached
  • How Email Engagement Measured Against Local Industry Benchmarks

For the inaugural You Mailed It Email Marketing Awards, there was only one category – Best Marketing Email – which was won by Discovery Vitality for its first-ever Vitality Traveller newsletter.

The judges pointed out what they liked best about the newsletter:

  • Beginning-to-end storyline
  • Fun, creative, and easy-to-read copy
  • Clever, integrated calls to action
  • Calming, aspirational imagery
  • Enjoyable pace and simple message delivery
  • Biteable content that made it easy to consume
  • Relevant use of personalisation

Research to Establish the Messaging of Your Bulk Email

Before you start composing your marketing or internal email, it’s important to get clear on what the objective of your email is. For this, you need to research thoroughly to create a concise content plan. This was Discovery Vitality’s strategy for creating the Vitality Traveller newsletter.

Divisional Manager of Discovery Vitality Marketing, Katie Lu, revealed during an interview with Everlytic in May 2023, the overarching aim of the newsletter was to ignite readers’ wanderlust in a bid to boost engagement with the Vitality Travel platform.

“We did a lot of research behind what sort of content should go into a travel newsletter – it’s almost like a magazine for members, but we wanted to create a monthly newsletter,” Lu said.

“So, we did extensive research into how we would communicate it: how we would showcase all the beautiful places to entice people to think about their next holiday trip and book with us.”

Email Layout Elements That Made Winning Email Stand Out

In a bid to learn from the best, in this section we explore the email layout elements Discovery Vitality used in their award-winning newsletter, as shared by Lu during our interview.

1. Design

Every content element of Discovery Vitality’s newsletter was centred to guide the readers’ eye from the beginning to the end of the newsletter for an easy read. This included the images, headlines, short blurbs, and call-to-action buttons.

The design was also clean and simple, with a balance of short copy and picturesque imagery. White space was used wisely to provide optimal breathing room.

2. Structure

The content was written using an inverted pyramid structure. This is where the most important information is placed at the start of the email, tapering down to less important information at the end. This is handy as if your recipient doesn’t read the whole email, they will still learn the most important information you want to convey from the first few lines of the email.

Discovery Vitality also used the F-shaped scanning pattern to structure the content of the email. This is where the first few sentences of an email as well as the first few words of each sentence are viewed as the most read – and therefore the most important.

Heat maps suggest readers often scan the upper part of content in a horizontal motion (from left to right), characterised by the top bar of the letter F. As readers scan further down the content, they cover a shorter horizontal distance – a movement represented by the second shorter horizontal bar of the letter F. As readers cast their eye vertically down the content, they tend to move their eyes down the left-hand side of the text, which resembles the vertical bar of the letter F.

Both the inverted pyramid structure and F-shaped scanning pattern reaped benefits for Discovery Vitality’s travel newsletter, as demonstrated by how recipients interacted with the content.

3. Content

The team explained the content followed a logical structure to answer pertinent traveller questions, from what the newsletter was about to why travel makes one happy, where to visit, and how to get discounts and apply them to different types of holidays.

The email also provided some inspiration with a chef’s note and travel anecdote, followed by a word from the Vitality CEO and a product block linking to an article that summarised all you need to know about Vitality Travel.

The second article in Discovery Vitality’s travel newsletter received the highest open rate, which the team attributed to the value of placing powerful content upfront. This gives a nod to both the inverted pyramid structure and F-shaped scanning pattern, as described above.

The team also used poetic devices to persuade, which worked well, as the article with the most clicks was titled “21 show-stopping South African tourist destinations”. The team believed the uneven number and use of power words with a touch of alliteration nudged the readers’ intrigue to click the link.

The first article in the email received the third-highest number of clicks, and the blurb used the “power of three” effect to entice readers.

Discounts were a big drawcard too, and the team said they learned the importance of discounts and that readers will scroll to the bottom of emails to find them, which was the case for the final content piece of the email, which received the second-highest number of clicks.

4. Images 

The Discovery Vitality team was deliberate in ensuring their images told one brand story. They did this by using the same muted colours, and they rounded the corners of the images to create a soft experience on the recipient’s eye.

For the Vitality corporate identity, they brought in a touch of pink, and the other two colours they used were grey and white. They used gentle images and a light font. The team said this created “a personal, educational, immersive reading experience for the target audience”.

Everlytic’s research has found images have a powerful impact on our brains, which can process visual information faster than other information. This is known as the Picture-Superiority Effect, and it’s beneficial in creating a connection with the recipient.

5. Personalisation

The Discovery Vitality team used various techniques to personalise the newsletter.

Standing out in crowded inboxes is essential and an effective way to do this is by using a persuasive and personalised subject line. Discovery Vitality’s winning newsletter did this by using a play-on-words for the subject line, which read “Go everywhere, Vitality Traveller”. Calling the member a “Vitality Traveller” – the same name as the newsletter – helped to make each recipient feel they were already a Vitality Traveller. The subject line also used a car and aeroplane emoji, which probably enticed recipients to open the mail that was showcasing something new.

In the first line of the email, the recipient was greeted with different languages, which the team said “signifies this is no ordinary newsletter”, and their name. The newsletter also used personal pronouns, such as “you” and “we” to make the recipient feel they were chatting about their travel plans with an old friend.

The mailer was segmented into two cohorts: Members with a Discovery Bank account and those without. Dynamic content was used in a bid to upsell the Discovery Account to the members without one.

The Importance of Timing Cannot be Underestimated

Discovery Vitality’s newsletter was sent in October, and Lu explained this is the time people think about their December holidays. “Timing was crucial,” she said.

Everlytic’s research has also found customers are more receptive to communication based on when they receive it. Our behavioural linguistics analysis of the top-performing travel mailers sent from our platform in 2022 found October had the second-highest level of email engagement. The highest was in February, which likely signals consumers are pining for the past holiday season and are planning upcoming holidays to have something to look forward to in the coming months.

In terms of time and weekday engagement, travel emails sent between 09:00 and 10:00 received the most engagement followed by between 14:00 and 15:00. Thursdays followed by Mondays were the days that saw the most engagement.

Email Layout Impacts How Your Content Is Received

Looks may not be everything in general, but in email marketing, they matter. Discovery Vitality’s award-winning newsletter demonstrates, the way you present your email has a big impact on how it is received. The Discovery Vitality team’s ability to explain why they compiled every element of their email – and why their recipients responded how they did – shows how important it is to plan your email layout. This may seem like a daunting task, so breaking down the components into design, structure, content, images, and personalisation techniques makes it more manageable.

Get Award-Winning Advice to Enhance Your Entry

So, you want to learn everything you can about creating a You Mailed It winning newsletter? We’ve got you! The winner of the You Mailed It Email Marketing Awards 2023 shares advice in our case study.