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Andrew loves making things. After 10 years making websites and growing his business Brown Box, he now manages some of Australia's biggest corporations as they communicate with their customers through email through Oracle Marketing Cloud. Twitter | LinkedIn

A Year and 6 Feet Apart: Email comparisons from 2019 – 2020

Marketing often comes across as ahistoric – with little reference to tactics and strategies that have been done in the past. People often think they’re implementing new ideas or that because platforms and technology change, the messages must be new too.

But I’m interested in more than just ‘what now’ – as a trained historian, I have a practiced habit of thinking about how things change over time.

In that vein, I’ve put together a series of retrospective posts I’m calling ‘A Year and 1.5m Apart’ – how email marketing has changed (or not) from company to company due to COVID-19. Let’s kick off with everyone’s favourite, – I hope you learn something, do comment if you’ve got thoughts of your own.

Founded in 1996 in Amsterdam, has grown from a small Dutch startup to one of the world’s leading digital travel companies. Part of Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG),’s mission is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world. Website

Messaging 2019

In 2019 the focus of this email was largely on getting deals. Travel broadly, travel cheaper is the main thrust. The email serves up what looks like a data driven deal type template, and seems like a ‘business as usual’ kind of send.

Local travel options are present however it’s a largely international affair, with deals from the UK, Indonesia, USA, Japan. The message is clear, enjoy the traveling life, you can go anywhere and you can go without breaking the bank.

The presence of a whispering woman with a ‘50% off’ headline goes further to reinforce this by drawing attention to itself with a small animation upon load.

Messaging in 2020

The 2020 version is a simple and explicitly stated message, travel nearby, travel safe. A short but clear difference that comes with a more cautious tone.

Gone is the lead in with deals, goodbye whispering woman with your 50% off header. Cheaper is no longer the primary concern of this email.

Don’t worry about deals, don’t worry about secret offers – now’s the time to stay nearby. The buttons have become gentle, ‘Show me more’ is a much more passive voice than ‘see all deals’ from 2019.

Destinations have also become more restricted. Clearly I have indicated at some point I’m in Australia, as there are no international holidays on offer.

Not just deals though! Research for future holidays is also a feature of this email, though lower priority given its position lower down in the email. I’m not sure it worked amazingly well, as it seems it’s pushing staying local – but in the UK.

Additional Modules

2019 Module – See top deals today.

In 2019, additional call out modules were really supporting the main message. Top deals – and finding savings. We know that people don’t read linearly on the web, so additional modules that call out information in different ways can go to support the primary message. In this case, it’s business as usual – get deals.

2020 Module – Cancellation policy.

In 2020 we see the emergence of supporting messaging like the one above. Free cancellation policies. Because of COVID, and the uncertainty around the ability to travel – many businesses have been swamped with the additional cost and burden of cancellations, leading to customer dissatisfaction and insurance policies not being paid out. is no different.


These changes shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, travel is significantly reduced, international travel from and to Australia is not a widely done at the moment. Globally the world is cautious, weary, and very much shut in parts.

Australian Government website on travel in to Australia.
“Australia’s borders are closed.”

These changes make sense from’s position – and providing a cautious approach to travel, while still offering the core function of the website (booking travel!) is a necessary change.

Overall I think the approach has been done well. The change is so clear when contrasted with a year ago, and has changed along with general population’s expectations about their own lives and movement.

Newsletter as a Business

My first serious attempt at a website included a weekly newsletter that I would send out of Outlook Express (!) with a maximum of 50 people at a time. It was just a weekly wrap of interesting links and design thoughts around the Internet – and I had loads of fun doing it.

Since then, I’ve been fascinated with email as a business building tool. Not really just email marketing, because I feel like there’s ways of doing email to groups that doesn’t really come under ‘marketing’ – but for all intents and purposes the banner ’email marketing’ works.

I’m also a big fan of email newsletters! Like a step back to when the Google of the day was Alta Vista, and directories like DMOZ were super useful – email as a business has that personal touch. Where it can be a one on one communication with thousands of people at a time.

Here’s a list of email businesses I can find (updated periodically):

News Related Newsletters

  • Next Draft (Daily, USA)
    Each morning I visit about 75 news sites, and from that swirling nightmare of information quicksand, I pluck the top ten most fascinating items of the day, which I deliver with a fast, pithy wit that will make your computer device vibrate with delight. No bots. No computer algorithms.
  • Morning Brew (Daily, USA)
    A daily email newsletter covering the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley
  • The Skimm (Daily, USA)
    The Skimm is a daily newsletter of news stories intended to be simple and easy to read.

Working from home changes things

I’m not sure I want to go back to an office. We’re not allowed to at the moment and that’s fine with me.

People have adapted to not being in person, I don’t have to travel 45min to go 8km in to work – and kids present in a work call isn’t “unprofessional” any more.

Working from home means I seethe family more, can participate in more work around the house, and have time to make sure my garden is being eaten by me instead of all the insects and other animals.

Covid-19 Isolation Creativity

Although it feels like six years ago, at the beginning of COVID-19 isolation here in Australia, we were looking for some creative ways of engaging with art and culture inside the home.

Someone showed us how people were engaging with paintings and artworks by recreating famous pieces with whatever was around the house.

It gave us a chance to educate our kids on pieces of art (they rifled through books and looked for their favourite pieces), have turns discussing how people were feeling in both the home (being isolated) and in the work itself, and then reaching out to friends as we shared a common experience of being playful.

April Fools Content Marketing

As someone once said, April 1st is the one day of the year that people actually check to see if what they’re being told on the Internet is true.

It’s a great day for companies wanting to engage their customers and have a little bit of fun – and while it has in latter years become a little predictable, there’s still something about it that is enjoyable.

The thing is though, the content being produced really only has a lifespan of a couple of days. Many companies go to great effort to produce believable material for people to consume only to be told it’s a joke.

But what if it wasn’t just a one off? What if brands had such a focus on their real products and services that they were able to produce content as good as the content on April fools day? To me it seems we’d live in a much more interesting world.

Take the following email from Contiki – it’s a great example of a fun company making their content fun. Almost believable, and worth pursuing to engage with them.

Contiki Introduces A.T.I.T.A: World First Artificial Intelligence Trip Managers

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Andrew Beeston

Digital & email marketing professional

Hi, I'm Andrew Beeston - apart from my day job I'm currently thinking about email marketing in the travel and tourism industry.

To help me create new ideas and engage in the practice of my profession, I write something fresh every day about email marketing, and observations of emails in my inbox.

hear from you if you have any reaction to anything I post here.


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