How email marketing copy has evolved over the last 10 years

How email marketing copy has evolved over the last 10 years

How email marketing copy has evolved over the last 10 years

Bex Osborn

Marketing Strategist

19 Apr 2022

10 Years of Email Marketing copy - How has it evolved?

While email marketing is counting its 44th year in existence, at ActionRocket we are celebrating our 10th year of creating within this space. This significant landmark has prompted a delve into how email marketing and in particular email copy has evolved over this time.

Email marketing first arrived in 1978, in the form of a 400 strong mass campaign sent by US company Digital Equipment Corp. It netted a phenomenal $13 million in sales – a pretty good ROI at $32,000 per recipient? This was even before the arrival of the early internet in 1983 that provided the platform for email usage to explode. Despite the development of many other digital channels for brands to reach their audiences, email marketing remains a front-runner for ROI. So, what has influenced email marketing copy in the last 10 years and how has it evolved?

Content Marketing as a term becomes recognised

2012 was the year social media began to gain traction as a platform for brands to be seen and grow. This prompted them to recognise that in order for their customers to give them value, they must give their customers value. This came in the form of insight and knowledge and led to the birth of ‘content marketing’ as we know it. Email copy changed from solely directing customers to what they should buy to also informing them on what they should know.

Babylon Health

This email example aims to inform customers, and push them towards babylon’s new app health check feature.

Mobile usage exceeds desktop usage

2014 - 2015 was the period that mobile usage overtook desktop usage, with more emails being opened on mobile specifically. Google even started ranking websites lower in search results if they weren’t optimised for mobile. Email content, user funnels and style of copy had to restructure for mobile first. It meant a tightening up on the number of words used, tone of voice to get to the point quicker and often one word CTAs.

BBC Perfect Planet

This email example shows how important thinking of mobile design is, especially when using interactivity to elevate it even further.

Automation and personalising the message

2016 saw automation as the hottest topic of the year where emails merged marketing and technology, resulting in personalised campaigns and user generated messaging. Email copy started talking to individuals based on their preferences and past behaviours with a view to shaping their future actions. The profile of subject lines and preview texts morphed significantly to reflect this embracing of dynamic content.

South West Trains

This email example shows that Being helpful doesn’t have to be boring - by pulling in the weather of the user’s next trip we were able to personalise the experience for each user.

Data permission aimed copy at only those interested

By 2018, the digital consumer and influencer’s voices were the loudest. With all this user information circulating in the space, concern with data privacy increased and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) launched in the EU. Email copy evolved to recognise that who you were talking to had given you permission. They wanted to hear from you, and they were telling you how.

The global impact of Tiktok

2019 saw the introduction of a completely new platform that during the pandemic has taken on a life of it’s own. It’s mass reach holds phenomenal potential for email marketers with a simple copy requirement – to be authentic. Well, that and to do a choreographed dance with your cat!

The next 10 years…

To predict the future of email marketing and how copy will evolve from here could be a trivial exercise, but the direction we are heading in is already visible. 100% personalisation driven by AI, a customer-centric platform that allows the consumer to limit, filter and influence their brand messaging in one place and full interactivity.

Just a few advancements that we will be keeping an eye on and being central to!




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