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Paola Bergamini
5 January 2021
Reading time: 10 min.

Email Marketing Awards: top email campaigns of 2020

2020 has just ended and it’s time to choose the best Email Marketing campaigns of the year. Being impressed by lots of emails, we’ve gone ahead and awarded the most effective in each macro category. These include design, GIF, newsletter, seasonal and top COVID-19 emails.

In 2020 Coronavirus emergency and update notifications have been invading our inboxes, adding to traditional and seasonal email campaigns.

Picking the best emails was no small feat given the overflow of events and information shared during the year. Therefore, like all great award ceremonies, we’ve set up categories and declared a winner for each of them.

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? Best seasonal email

When it comes to seasonal emails like Black Friday, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, it’s hard to find email campaigns that stand out from the crowd and feature distinctive content outside the usual gift guides and last-minute offers.

EmailMonk did just that this year. It proposed an email campaign that definitely left its mark and stood out in any inbox.

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The company introduced gamification, which happens to be a growing trend, into its marketing strategy. It leveraged the addictive aspect of gaming that keeps users glued to their screens, regardless of age.

? Best newsletter

Newsletters are great tools in building brand awareness. Their nature is informative and relational. They are meant to attract more people to your website, share information, and strengthen a sense of community.

For the newsletter category, the award goes to the luggage brand, Away, which targets the young and modern.

Each monthly edition offers more details on the company’s products, highlighting their quality and promoting offers and partnerships:

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This is how Away has relied on a variety of best practices to boost the effectiveness of its communication:

  • Smart use of colors and multiple CTAs plus an elegant design optimally balanced images and text. This helped shed the best, enticing light on the products.
  • User-generated content taken directly from customers’ social profiles enhanced the sense of community and reflected the brand’s youthful style and target.
  • The upper right “Refer a Friend” link is still a powerful tool. It has boosted both brand awareness and the number of customers.

Creating a successful newsletter be difficult: here are some tips for you!

? Best personalized email

Following 2020’s unusual trend, the best personalized email goes to a non-profit organization. 

Indeed, people tend to focus on B2C sales communications when it comes to customization. But even the non-profit sector needs Email Marketing (and even more) strategies. Sure enough, these include personalization.

So the award goes to Charity: Water. This organization didn’t try to convince its users to donate through the usual, direct, and explicit communication. Rather, it has developed an alternative Email Marketing strategy that focuses on personalizing the customer journey.

In fact, the organization went for reconstructing each donation’s journey by sending personalized, informative emails like the one below.

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This communication made the user feel as though he or she is more than just a contact in a database. The email conveyed the importance of the user’s contribution as a graphic progress report communicated its role within a given project. Further, Charity: Water provided users with a complete picture of their impact by presenting the project’s geographical, social, and political context.

Finally, the email ended with a proposed survey to close the customer journey and even reinforce the concept that the individual user and his or her point of view matters. 

? Best email for launching a new product

The launch of a new product or feature is always a hot topic for any company. Here, all departments unite. Email campaigns enter this process by creating the innovation’s first impact on the public. This is why following the right marketing strategy in designing this type of communication is key.

Magic Spoon is a new American cereal brand targeting young people. We think the best product launch email goes to them. The company has launched two new flavors through the following campaign:

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We noticed more than one winning element here. First, the design. Then, the use of pop colors that align to the brand image, product type, and target. People expect a cereal company to have a cheerful, lively, and simple style like this campaign.

And what about copy? Here, the brand intelligently used social media-like language and content to once again reach out to an audience that is young and modern. Using words like buzz with a user’s tweet and an image from a follower’s Instagram Stories let the brand strike up a conversation with its target through familiar platforms and formulas. Also, putting user-generated opinions and content in the forefront stressed how important the community is for the brand, strengthening such a relationship.

? Best transactional email

Welcome emails, order and sign up confirmations, birthday wishes, password recoveries, and so on are all transactional email examples that a company sends to boost sales and customer retention.

The winner of this category is MeUndies with its shipping confirmation email.

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Several elements of this campaign caught our eye, making it effective:

  • The brand anticipated any possible customer complaint from the very first lines by stating that there might be delivery delays due to COVID-19.
  • The email focused on Haiku, adding originality to an otherwise ordinary shipping confirmation email.
  • The color combination and use of curves gave the email a strong visual impact.
  • Like the previous case, the inclusion of a bring-a-friend discount (for both the user and friend) was effective in attracting new customers and retaining the audience.
  • The last lines of the email invited the customer to contact Customer Care for any need, showing the brand’s helpfulness and consideration.

? Best design

New design trends have emerged this year and will keep going well into 2021. Companies have unleashed their creativity and originality. The new trends range from minimalist, simple, and clean designs to increasingly realistic macro images, 3D graphics, and animations.

Out of many, we picked this email from Bellroy:

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The company leveraged one of the latest email design trends, namely the inclusion of delicate and simple animations to display how handy the magnetic closure of their product is.

In fact, animation can boost image realism, hence, the email’s visual impact. Embedding it into the email as the very first visible element was a highly effective decision.

Matching the nuances of the product with an accent shade on plain white also turned out to be pretty smart.

The result is a clean, tidy design that catches the eye. Even more, it helps convey the strengths of the product. 

Improve your email design: follow the trends and our tips to generate more sales

? Best GIF

Embedded animated GIFs are excellent in capturing the user’s attention and giving more visual strength to your communication.

Among the many ways in which GIFs can be used, this year’s award goes to Woolf and the Gang.

This Email Marketing campaign used such an informal, youthful element like GIFs to take on a tone of voice that relates to the new generations. Would you ever expect that from a company that sells knitting kits?

The company made an original communication right from the subject line: “Plans for tonight?” It took on the language of its audience and inserted the dynamic element of the GIF to recreate a conversation between two young people on a messaging app:

Wool and the Gang Email

Key for this campaign’s effectiveness was the analysis of the brand’s audience composition. Woolf and the Gang decided to communicate directly with a young target through a GIF, and this audience really appreciates it. So the audience could relate to it.

? Best COVID-19 campaigns

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly upstaged this year’s traditional campaigns. Companies have focused their communications on the emergency for most of 2020. No matter if from the Food & Beverage, Fashion, Tourism, or Non-profit sectors, all have sent at least one coronavirus-themed email. So we couldn’t help but make room for the top COVID-19 emails.

Best self-care message

In our opinion, the best self-care message came from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). They adopted a genuine and empathetic tone without going too far:

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Their tone of voice was very empathetic right from the first lines. The message centered on: “You are not dealing with this alone.”

WWF’s email went beyond demonstrating closeness and empathy. It made itself useful by recommending a series of resources and activities to its audience (online courses, documentaries, magazines, etc.)

Best informative email

Many brands have kept their public informed since the onset of the pandemic. They have even reported on the security measures implemented in the reopening phase.

For category information, we picked Dunkin’ Donuts.

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This email was meant to settle all the doubts a customer could have about returning in person. The brand listed all of its hygienic rules and operators’ standards to ensure a 100% safe experience. It also provided an explanatory video for the user to clearly visualize how the premises and kitchens have been rearranged to cope with the emergency.

Undoubtedly, a video makes an email campaign more effective. This was the campaign’s winning element in convincing the customers to come back. They could see the actual steps with their own eyes.


Our top 2020 picks were meant to offer you a variety of ideas and best practices that inspire your 2021 campaigns. We hope you can now rely on some useful tips and ideas, which include the most effective, eye-catching newsletter design strategies and the best style and design options. Put them into practice with your next emails.

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Paola Bergamini

I was born in 1993 in Como and I escaped from this little town to study in Milan, where I graduated in 2017 in philosophy. I've always been interested in marketing and communication and I love writing and reading. As Content Editor at MailUp, I try to keep up to date with Email and Digital Marketing news, in order to share trends, theories and tools about this constantly evolving sector.

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