What You Can Learn from Basecamp’s Redesigned Email Newsletter

Article first published July 2014, updated February 2019.

It’s no secret that we love Basecamp, by the same team behind
Highrise, Campfire, and other well-frequented apps. But as savvy as
their services are, I personally tend to get just as excited about
their email campaigns.

Think your campaigns need to lighten up a bit? After Basecamp
switched to a new, mobile-friendly look and feel using Canvas, I
thought we’d look at how they’ve balanced the brand’s
business ethic with a healthy dose of fun. If this sounds like
something you’re striving to achieve with your own campaigns,
read on.

Putting it in plain English

How often do you get emails that use staid language and stale
analogies when describing new features? Wouldn’t it be nice if
more companies spoke to you like an ordinary person would?

Basecamp has always done a great job at communicating with their
customers. Instead of just saying “we’ve changed the icons in
the app,” they adopted a friendlier approach in their email,
announcing that “we’ve made it easy to see what’s in your

Not only does the copy sound a lot more normal, but it describes
an outcome and a purpose, instead of the simply stating what’s
changed cosmetically in the app.

The illustrated campaign

It goes without saying that the simple illustrations throughout
the email add a sense of whimsy without being there for simply
whimsy’s sake. Created by Nate Otto, a Chicago-based
illustrator, they’re a cool way to project Basecamp’s
down-to-earth image while creatively reinforcing the email’s

You’ll notice the illustrations on the Basecamp site as well as on The Distance, their digital magazine
covering longstanding businesses and the people behind them.

Made lovingly for mobile

Finally, this newsletter looks great on mobile screens –
really great. Jamie Dihiansan at Basecamp (who we
interviewed the other month
) mentioned Canvas
mobile-friendliness, saying, “I wanted to design a campaign that
would for sure look great on all devices.”

Basecamp's newsletter design

If you click on the screenshot above, you can see that they’ve
achieved just that, through a one-column design that squeezes so
much on to a small screen without losing the ample white space.

Are shorter subject lines better?

Interestingly enough, an A/B
was run on subject lines, being:

  • New Feature: Preview PDFs, videos, and sound files
  • New: Preview PDFs

While I personally thought the “New Feature” subject line
would be the clear winner, the ultra-short “New: Preview PDFs”
version was much more popular, gaining 16.7% more

More testing would be required to determine whether the
shortness of the subject line was an influencing factor or if the
word “feature” was potentially a turnoff. In the interim,
we’d love to know what you think!

What can you learn from Basecamp

Basecamp consistently sends engaging and memorable email
newsletter campaigns that just have to be put under the microscope.
You can definitely learn a lot from them. From how to design an
email newsletter to the kind of content it should contain and much
more, Basecamp has set a good example to follow.

Here are a few tips you can glean from their latest email

Focus on how you can improve your customers’ lives

With email inboxes becoming cluttered, it’s harder for
businesses to get their email newsletters opened. To get around
this, take a cue from Basecamp and provide value. That’s why

experts advise
that your newsletter should be 90% informational
and a mere 10% promotional.

People can’t resist anything that adds value to them. That is
why your email newsletter must be value-packed.

Mentioning that something’s changed in-app is one thing, but
then saying, “We hope this update makes finding, sharing, and
managing files in Basecamp a little easier” is so much more

Take a cue from Basecamp: Put the emphasis on the goal, not the

Basecamp's email newsletter

Really Good Emails

Notice in the above newsletter that although Basecamp is talking
about what they do, they flip it by talking about what it does for
their subscribers. In short, it’s not about Basecamp, it’s all
about you.

The reason your subscribers signed up for your product or
service in the first place is that they saw it as a means of
solving a particular problem in their lives. And they expect you to
continue being a help through your email newsletter, not a

So focus on how you can help improve your customers’ lives,
and they, in turn, will be loyal customers.

Use images to support your message

Human beings are naturally visual creatures. That’s why images
help convey your message clearer. Images also help your subscribers
remember the message in the email. Basecamp’s email newsletters
feature fun images that actually help readers understand and digest
the content in the email.

However, include too many images and the email may not look
appealing if the images take too long to load. That’s a sure
recipe for disengaging your reader.  

Another reason to use images strategically is that they can
easily distract from your main message – especially if you use
stock images.

Having said that, when used well, images can be used to increase
the impact of your content. One way they can do that, apart from
visual appeal, is as visual cues that lead the readers to specific
areas of your email.

Used strategically, visuals increase the impact of your
newsletter. Use images that convey what you are trying to say.
Don’t just use images for the sake of using them. Use them to
speak the thousand words you can’t fit in your email

Look for images (or illustrations!) that either directly
demonstrate what you’re trying to convey, or communicate your
message in a clever way.

Be a friend

Basecamp’s email newsletter does a few things really well. One
of them is to befriend their subscribers.

By maintaining a warm friendly tone instead of “salesy”
language, Basecamp’s email newsletter becomes more of a trusted
guide than a sales tool. The result is a newsletter your
subscribers look forward to receiving. Particularly, if you use
humor (that fits with your overall branding, of course) like
Basecamp does, your email newsletters will be a breath of fresh air
in your subscriber’s inbox.

This makes it easy for subscribers to engage with the brand, but
it helps earn trust. And in the world of business, trust is

One tip you should learn from this is that your email newsletter
must have a personality of its own, a friendly one. Avoid a dull,
boring, and—most importantly—an overly promotional personality
in your email newsletters.

Speak to your subscribers like friends. And like a friend, give
guidance – don’t push your agenda. When you succeed in turning
your subscribers into loyal friends, you won’t have any trouble
converting them into loyal customers.

Consider the mobile experience

Mobile devices account for up to
77% of email opens

Now that’s a stat you can’t ignore as you map out your email
marketing strategy. In essence, this means you need to ensure your
email newsletter utilizes a mobile
responsive template

In this multi-device generation, your email newsletter will
quickly find itself deleted if you don’t accommodate your users.
So whatever you do, go mobile. Like Basecamp, you can build
mobile-friendliness into your email design workflow, either by
studying up on responsive
, or simply by using a tried-and-tested email builder
like Canvas.

It will guarantee that your well-designed, value-packed email
newsletter succeeds in its mission. 

Wrap up

A big thanks to Jamie and the Basecamp team for sharing their
newsletter with us. In fact, they have nailed their email
newsletter marketing strategy. This has led to high engagement and
a healthy subscriber base for them. Both factors are critical to
the success of any business today.

Do you know of a newsletter that makes great use of the
techniques above to share significant news without being way too
serious? We’d love for you to share your examples in the comments

The post
What You Can Learn from Basecamp’s Redesigned Email
appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

Source: FS – Email Marketing Blogs!
What You Can Learn from Basecamp’s Redesigned Email Newsletter