7 Thanksgiving Email Campaign Tactics That Actually Matter

Written by: Chris Donald

Published on: 11-01-2021

Chris is Managing Partner at InboxArmy and has more than 25 years of experience in email marketing

With Black Friday & Cyber Monday on the horizon, it can be easy to overlook Thanksgiving email campaigns.

But after creating hundreds of Thanksgiving emails for our clients, we’ve learned that Thanksgiving presents a great opportunity to:

  • Boost sales.
  • Show gratitude to your customers.
  • Create anticipation for Black Friday & Cyber Monday.
  • Build a deeper connection with subscribers by showing a fun, human side of your brand.
  • Generate goodwill by positioning your brand in a positive light.

Most other articles on the subject don’t really help you create great Thanksgiving emails.

They either provide barely useful tips that don’t actually matter – like “include gifs in your email” (don’t get us wrong, gifs are great. But do they really contribute to sales?) – or they just share Thanksgiving email examples without really telling you why they work or how to apply them to your own campaign.

So if you want to deepen your relationship with your audience…

If you want to build some goodwill for your brand…

And if you want to get the absolute maximum holiday revenue possible…

Then apply these 7 Thanksgiving email campaign tactics!


At Inbox Army, we help clients conceive, design, code, and deliver Thanksgiving email campaigns that drive significant revenue. If your past campaigns didn’t deliver the results you hoped for, or if you want help maximizing your holiday email marketing revenue, talk with a member of our team to learn how we can improve your results. Get in touch now.

7 Thanksgiving Email Tactics That Actually Move The Needle!

Like with most email and content marketing, the goal with Thanksgiving emails is to provide value to recipients in exchange for the opportunity to promote your business and/or products in some way.

So to create great Thanksgiving emails, start by answering three questions:

  • How can I help my subscribers have a better Thanksgiving?
  • What aspects of my business do I want to promote?
  • How can I combine the two most effectively?

The following 7 tactics will help you answer and utilize those questions in your next Thanksgiving email campaign.

NOTE: Many of these tactics can be combined. So consider brainstorming ideas using each tactic and match the ones that work well together.

1.) Create Organic Promotional Campaigns

The first question you should ask when creating Thanksgiving email campaigns (or campaigns for any other holiday) is: what’s my business, product’s, or service’s relationship to this holiday?

Other holidays – like Black Friday/Cyber Monday – are really just about offering deals and discounts. That’s the whole purpose of the holiday and that’s really all that your audience expects of your emails.

But Thanksgiving presents an opportunity to deepen your relationship with your audience by facilitating their holiday experience, as well as promoting products, deals, and discounts.

And by gaining clarity on your business relationship to the holiday, you can do so in more effective and creative ways.

When we talk about your relationship to the holiday, we mean: are your business, products, and/or services relevant to Thanksgiving or the Thanksgiving season in an organic way? Can they facilitate or improve the Thanksgiving experience for your customers?

If there’s organic relevance, you can create emails that promote your business in terms of how you can improve the holiday experience of your audience. Deals and discounts are great, but organic product promotions work best because they give customers a more compelling and relevant reason to buy.

Uber, for example, knows that many of their customers travel for Thanksgiving and need rides to the airport. So their Thanksgiving email prompts recipients to schedule their rides ahead of time for better organization and prices.

Uber TG Email

Similarly, Postmates’ knows that many of their customers will want to order meals or desserts on Thanksgiving. So they sent out an email that offers a $5 discount and connects with recipients over the common experience of wanting to leave a Thanksgiving party to avoid awkward conversations.

Postmate TG Email

If your business doesn’t have any organic relevance to Thanksgiving, then you’ll need to come up with alternative ways to facilitate the holiday experience and promote your products or send a non-promotional email (both of which we’ll discuss later).

NOTE: If you’re going to create this type of campaign, don’t wait until Thanksgiving to do so. If your aim is to influence sales by promoting how your products can improve the Thanksgiving experience, then shoppers will need to know early so they have time to buy, receive, and use your products on Thanksgiving.

We recommend starting your campaign and sending out emails at least 1-2 weeks in advance. Then remind them again on Thanksgiving Day.

Some of our clients have opted to run “Shopping Week” campaigns that start the week of Thanksgiving and run through Cyber Monday. Others run their campaigns through the entire month of November.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • Do my products/services have an organic relationship with Thanksgiving experiences or rituals? Can they facilitate or elevate Thanksgiving in any way?
  • I so, how can I present my products in terms of how they can facilitate my customers’ Thanksgiving experience?
  • How soon should we begin this offer to give customers enough time to take advantage?

2.) Create Non-Organic Themed Promotional Campaigns

If your product/service doesn’t have an organic relationship with Thanksgiving, you can still create promotional campaigns that generate revenue. You just have to give your audience a reason to buy – like a discount.

But don’t just slap together an email announcing a random Thanksgiving Day email with a coupon code. Get in the spirit of the season by creating themed promotional campaigns.

A themed promotional campaign has at least three requirements:

  • It attempts to relate your products to the holiday in any way it can (no matter how tenuous).
  • It presents the campaign using holiday-themed copy.
  • It includes a holiday-themed discount code (if a discount is being offered).

We created a simple but effective Thanksgiving email for our client BOIE. BOIE sells eco-friendly hygiene products, including toothbrushes, face scrubbers, and body scrubbers. The email meets all three requirements by:

  • Connecting BOIE’s toothbrushes with the need to clean your teeth after feasting.
  • Uses themed copy: “Stuff your cart before you stuff your face.”
  • Includes a themed discount code: “Stuffing”

BOIE Thanksgiving 2

No one is going to buy a mattress to improve their Thanksgiving experience. Still, mattress retailer Casper found a way to promote their products by connecting them to an activity many people want to engage in after their Thanksgiving feast – sleeping.

Casper TG Email

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • What kind of connections can I draw between my product/service and Thanksgiving?
  • How can I present my products in terms of that relationship (copy and discount code)?

3.) Facilitate Thanksgiving In A Non-Promotional Way

And while you may be turned off to the idea of spending time on something that won’t generate revenue, consider two points:

First, never underestimate the power of non-promotional emails. These emails help you deepen your connection to your audience and create positive associations with your brand.

If they haven’t already seen dozens of promotional emails from other brands, your subscribers will soon be bombarded with BF/CM campaigns. Being non-promotional will be a welcome relief and can differentiate your brand from everyone else.

They also show that you’re not just a cold, heartless brand that sees customers as dollar figures – you actually took some time to create an email for their benefit only.

Second, many of the non-promotional emails we’ve created for clients have still generated sales anyway.

Perhaps it’s because of the goodwill and gratitude these emails create. Perhaps the email just reminds customers of products they already wanted to buy. Whatever the reason, non-promotional emails have great, often surprising benefits.

But emails that simply wish subscribers a happy Thanksgiving are boring and uninspired. So try these three non-promotional email ideas instead:

1. The Gratitude/Appreciation Email

Thanksgiving is a holiday devoted to expressing gratitude. And your customers/subscribers are the reason your business exists.

Celebrate the holiday properly by sending them an email expressing your gratitude for their patronage.

You can make gratitude emails even more powerful by:

  • Get specific about what you’re thanking them for.
  • Connecting with recipients over a shared experience.
  • Reminding recipients of the journey you’ve shared together.

Our client Vitamedica is a health supplement retailer. We created a 2020 Thanksgiving email that thanks subscribers for “the trust you place in us” and for “letting us be a part of your journey to better health and wellness.” It connects with them over the shared experience of struggling through the 2020 pandemic. And it uses a quote from Nhat Hanh to connect Vitamedica’s mission of living a healthier life to an “expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos.”

Vitamedica Thanksgiving

Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. Brandless’ Thanksgiving email feeds this desire by thanking customers for “living the #brandless life with us every day” and telling them that, with their help, Brandless has donated over 100,000 meals to people facing hunger.

Brandless TG Email

Another way to remind recipients of your shared journey is to create personalized emails that share info about each individual customer’s relationship with your business. This can include:

  • The number of products they bought.
  • The number of hours they’ve used your software.
  • Accomplishments they’ve achieved with your software or service.

One of the biggest benefits of these types of emails is that they can increase customer retention. When customers see the journey you’ve shared and what you’ve accomplished together, they’re more likely to stick around because they’ve already invested so much.

While it’s not a Thanksgiving email, this email from RunKeeper perfectly illustrates this concept.

RunKeeper Stats Email

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • What specifically can I thank my audience for?
  • What shared experiences (related to my business or otherwise) can I discuss in the email to connect with my audience?
  • How have my customers helped my business? What business accomplishments can I share to remind customers of the journey we’ve shared?
  • What other types of accomplishments or milestones can I share (i.e. products the customer has bought; accomplishments they’ve achieved with your tool(s); length of time they’ve been with you; etc.)

2.) The Storytelling Email

Storytelling is a great way to entertain your audience and capture their attention.

What’s more, our brains are hardwired for stories. So if your aim is to deepen your relationship and create positive associations with your brand, stories are the perfect vehicle for doing so.

With a storytelling email, your goal is to tell a short story that connects the positive emotions and experiences of the holiday to your brand.

You don’t even need to draw direct connections with Thanksgiving and your company/products. You just need to tell a story that relates to customers over their favourite Thanksgiving experiences. Because the email comes from you, customers will subconsciously make the associations themselves.

Artifact Uprising – a company that sells custom, premium-quality photo books and gifts – shares a story designed to help us all appreciate how funny, messy, and quirky our families and Thanksgivings are.

While many people and brands focus on the awkward and uncomfortable aspects of Thanksgiving, Artifact Uprising chooses to help us appreciate our own unique experiences for what they are. Because of this email, recipients are likely to connect Artifact Uprising with the act of appreciation and the aspects of their Thanksgiving experience that they enjoy.

Artifact Uprising TG Email

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • What Thanksgiving-related themes, experiences, and emotions do I want my audience to associate with my brand?
  • What does my audience love about Thanksgiving?
  • What common Thanksgiving experiences can I write about?
  • How can I tell a short story that encapsulates the three questions above?

3.) The Helpful Email

Another easy, non-promotional way to facilitate Thanksgiving for your audience is to share helpful tips and info.

Your audience will appreciate the fact that you put effort into creating something that helps them rather than trying to make money off them. And if they actually use your tips or info to improve their Thanksgiving experience, that appreciation will increase ten-fold.

To create helpful emails, think about what problems, opportunities, rituals, and activities your audience will encounter on Thanksgiving. Then brainstorm information you can share that can help them better navigate and/or make the most of those situations.

It doesn’t even need to be your original content. You can curate articles from other sources in your email.

The point is to invest time in making their holiday experience better.

Helpful content can include recipes, tips for navigating awkward conversations, dinner convo topics, party games, etc.

Neiman Marcus created a helpful Thanksgiving email by offering 25% off products relevant to Thanksgiving and sharing 6 tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving.

Neiman Marcus TG Email

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • What problems, opportunities, rituals, and activities will my audience encounter on Thanksgiving?
  • What information can I share that’ll help them resolve or improve any Thanksgiving issues or situations?

4.) Segue To Your Black Friday & Cyber Monday Sales

Let’s face it: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are going to be way bigger moneymakers for your business than any Thanksgiving campaign. And your audience is probably more likely to shop on those holidays anyway. So you may want to keep their focus there.
If that’s the route you choose, then you should create a non-promotional email, as described above, that also reminds customers about your looming BFCM sale.

Ideally, you’d create a non-promotional email that facilitates their Thanksgiving experience AND reminds them about BFCM – giving you the best of all three worlds.

You get the goodwill, deeper relationships, and positive brand associations that non-promotional, holiday-facilitating emails can provide.

You won’t overwhelm your audience with too many promotions or too much info.

And you build anticipation that’ll enable you to maximize BFCM weekend revenue.

To accomplish this, simply:

  • Create a non-promotional, holiday-facilitating email campaign.
  • Add a BFCM sale reminder at the beginning or end of the email.

You can keep things simple by just including a bit of copy telling them when Black Friday begins.

BFCM Reminder 1

Or you can make your BFCM promotion more prominent and use tactics like urgency to influence more sales, like this Urban Outfitters email.

[Insert “Urban Outfitters BFCM Email” Image]

Another great tactic to incorporate is to include examples of the products or product categories that’ll be on sale over BFCM weekend, like the Tradesy email below. Doing so gets your audience to start thinking about the products they’ll want to buy.

Tradesy BFCM Reminder

5.) Connect Over Shared Experiences

You can instantly make your emails more relatable by connecting with recipients over common Thanksgiving experiences.

Awkward conversations, getting seated next to someone you’d rather not talk to, the urgent need to sleep after gorging on food – these are things we’ve all experienced on Thanksgiving.

The more specific the experiences and the more resonance they have with an individual recipient, the more the recipient will relate to your email.

And if you can connect those shared experiences to your product or offer, then you’ll create a hyper-effective way to get your message across.

This email by Betterment connects common Thanksgiving conversations to their product in a humorous way where the answer always involves an unnecessary mention of Betterment’s app.

Betterment TG Email

Kate Spade also created a Thanksgiving email that connects with recipients over several common Thanksgiving experiences.

Kate Spade TG Email

Make sure you tailor the experiences that you mention to your audience. For example, young people have different Thanksgiving experiences (awkward convos with uncles, having a Friendsgiving, having to wait through long prayers before eating, etc.) than their grandparents (seeing your grandchildren for the only time all year, asking people to speak up so you can hear them, not knowing anything about the celebrities people are discussing, etc.).

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • What are some common Thanksgiving experiences that our audience can relate to?
  • Which common experiences are related to our product/offer, or can be connected to it?
  • How can we draw the connection in a humorous or relevant way?

6.) Tap Into The Spirit Of Generosity

Thanksgiving is a holiday about expressing gratitude and being generous. You should tap into that spirit by giving your subscribers something to be thankful for.

There are two ways of incorporating generosity into your emails:
A Gift
Give your subscribers a gift to show them how grateful you are for their support.

Gifts can include discounts, free products, free content, free shipping, free set-up, or anything else they wouldn’t normally get.

If you want to make your gift extra special, give them something you don’t offer any other time but Thanksgiving. Otherwise, it just becomes another promotional campaign.

If you offer a discount, make it a big discount or a discount on products related to Thanksgiving.

You can also gamify these emails by requiring subscribers to do something small in order to redeem the gift – like sharing a link on social or using a special hashtag. This way you both benefit – they get the gift and you get promotional value.

In their Thanksgiving email, London Bridge gives recipients 20% off their next purchase and free shipping

London Bridge TG Email

The Donation Drive
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to run a Donation Drive campaign.

Select a cause or non-profit organization that your audience will like and/or identify with. Then pledge to donate a certain portion of all Thanksgiving Day/Week sales to that cause.

This campaign gives shoppers an extra, morally-righteous incentive to make purchases. You can drive sales while enabling you and your customers to feel good about helping an important cause.

Consider running this campaign for the month of November or Thanksgiving week so shoppers have ample time to make a purchase.

B2B Marketing Exchange, in partnership with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, ran a Thanksgiving campaign where every ticket purchased to their B2B marketing event provides a meal to a family in need.

B2B Marketing Exchange TG Email

7.) Get The Timing Right

Timing is critical for Thanksgiving email campaigns, especially with BFCM weekend coming the very next day.

Depending upon the tactic you use, you need to give your audience enough time to learn about and take advantage of your campaigns and tactics.

Non-promotional “Happy Thanksgiving” emails and Thanksgiving Day-only sales can be sent out on Thanksgiving Day.

But you have to think about the actual logistics of how your audience will interact with your campaign. We’ve seen many businesses send out emails that promote Thanksgiving products – like food and cooking utensils – on Thanksgiving Day. Even if they were to buy, shoppers wouldn’t receive their purchase until long after Thanksgiving.

So if you’re sending out an email that contains things that facilitate a pleasurable Thanksgiving experience for your audience – whether that be products, tips, or otherwise – then you should send out these emails at least a week or two in advance (or longer depending upon your shipping times).

And remember that people are busy spending time with friends and family on Thanksgiving. So if you’re running a Thanksgiving sale campaign, let them know about it ahead of time so know about it in time and can decide whether to take advantage of it or not.
Maximize Your Holiday Revenue
You now have everything you need to create Thanksgiving campaigns that drive results. Whether those results be to generate more revenue or simply to build your relationship with your audience to boost conversion potential and maximize customer lifetime value.

It’s never too early to start planning and building your campaigns.

Start by determining which type of campaign you want to create – promotional or non-promotional – and determine if you have an organic relationship to the holiday.

Then go through the other tactics and add the other elements that are in line with your goals to maximize the efficacy of your campaign.

At Inbox Army, we help clients conceive, design, code, and deliver Thanksgiving email campaigns that drive significant revenue. If your past campaigns didn’t deliver the results you hoped for, or if you want help maximizing your holiday email marketing revenue, talk with a member of our team to learn how we can improve your results. Get in touch now.


About Author

Chris sent his first email campaign in 1995. He’s worked directly with Fortune 500 companies, retail giants, nonprofits, SMBs and government agencies in all facets of their email marketing and marketing automation programs. He’s also a BIG baseball fan, loves a good steak, and is mildly obsessed with zombie movies. For more information follow him on linkedin

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