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A simple Santa hat, some holly or a bit of tinsel hanging off the corporate logo is often the most companies do to make their email marketing festive. 

They are missing a trick.

Forecasts by IMRG suggest that online retail spending is set to pass £15bn in the last quarter of this year. That would be a 60% increase on the same period in 2006.

There is no doubt that Christmas offers marketers an unprecedented time to make considerable contributions to their e-commerce targets. But a little extra thought can ensure that you really cash in:

Get the timing right!

Timing is all important. Adding festive messages to your email newsletter after a competitor has done it to theirs will make you look ‘me-too’ and unoriginal.

On the flip side, don’t go too early. There’s only one thing worse than being too late - being too early - so if you sent your last newsletter of the year in mid-September stop reading immediately. 

Ideally your festive messages should start at the beginning of December - it is a bit like supermarket Christmas music - if it starts too early it becomes tired and irritating. Clearly, you are trying to reflect the festive mood not lead it.


Remember, not everyone celebrates Christmas as a national holiday. For international organisations, many of your contacts in the Middle East, for example, will be working hard over Christmas and won’t want reminding that you’re not working! Review who receives your email marketing - would they appreciate your festive intentions? 

It is a good idea to warn new subscribers that sign up over the Christmas period that there will be a break in email communications. Otherwise people signing up to your email promotion over the Christmas break will be expecting to receive communications from you when you’re not there! 

The festive period can form an extra reason to drive further acquisition. Why not suggest to your existing subscribers that they give their colleagues their very own Christmas present - a copy of your newsletter! You could say this is the ultimate in cheeky incentives to drive member-get-member registrations, but as it doesn’t cost anything, what it there to lose?


Making your email marketing design festive will inject some humour into your newsletter. This is not for everyone as it does not always ‘fit’ with serious messages and briefings. Make sure your redesign will not cheapen your content and does not detract from your core brand values.

At the simplest level, simple tweaks to images within your email newsletters allow you to almost ‘gift wrap’ your content. This low-cost method has been used by Google for a number of years, simply by dressing its website, so a simple, effective and consistent theme can be used both on site and in your email. 

The voice of each newsletter is its personality. If appropriate, don’t be afraid to include mentions of invitations received/parties attended - after all, in some cases you may need to explain some rather sub-par editorial performances!

Finally, highlight any changes to your service such as different opening hours in your design. 

When it is all over

If your company has a break between Christmas and New Year, don’t forget to take your Christmas messages down and perhaps replace them with New Year messages. Otherwise, your newsletter will look as stale as a left over turkey sandwich.

Henry Hyder-Smith is the Managing Director of Adestra.

Henry Hyder-Smith

Published 11 December, 2007 by Henry Hyder-Smith

Henry Hyder Smith is MD at Adestra and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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