Sometimes, Rules Were Meant to Be Broken

Less than 4 days after our Creative Director, Steve Sharp, explained how to design emails to be width-compliant on this very site, something very strange began happening to my email inbox. Every so often I would open my new messages, just minding my own business, when the strangest, most eerie feeling would come over me. I felt as if I was moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. Seeing the contents of my inbox, I realized what had happened. I had just crossed over into…the Twilight Zone.

What could cause such an unusual feeling? Why, it’s the latest Abercrombie and Fitch emails of course!

Yes, just days after Steve explained the rules of keeping email width limited to the tidy confines of the preview pane, Abercrombie went ahead and broke the rules, sending some of the widest side-scrolling emails I have ever seen. And I for one, think that this is a really clever idea because of the smart way in which it was executed.

Looking at their wide design, one can see that even though Abercrombie breaks the width rules email marketers have come to accept, they still follow the important rule of maximizing the preview pane area. In other words, they have kept the important text on the left side of the email so that the call to action comes through regardless of how wide the user’s screen resolution is. Equally important, the ultra-wide image is situated far-enough to the left that even if the user does not scroll to the right, they will have still seen the most important part of the image showing what Abercrombie’s shirts and jeans look like.

A second critical design choice that Abercrombie made was limiting their message to one ultra-wide image rather than a series of images in a row. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of human psychology involved in creating successful marketing campaigns. The last thing a serious brand like Abercrombie would want is a loyal customer asking themselves, “hey, did Abercrombie just mess up when they sent this?” Because their ultra-wide emails consist of one continuous image, the user is gently encouraged to look further while never doubting the intention of their message. It’s a unique, eye-catching idea that certainly made me do a double-take and re-read the email. I never once thought that the layout was the result of some type of execution glitch.

What else can you say about the rules of email marketing? A&F proves that sometimes, rules were meant to be broken.

P.S. – And in case you were wondering what these emails look like in the preview pane of a 23-inch Apple Cinema Display, this screen cap should give you an idea. Hint: it looks really good!