The next event in our heated Email Olympics battle is “The First Glance.” BellyFlop came out on top in our first event, “The Inbox Impression”—who will win gold today?

We’re all familiar with the saying, “You should never judge a book by its cover.” But I think it’s fair to say that “you should never” inevitably gets replaced by “always.” Think of your email template as the cover of your email campaign and design it knowing that your recipients’ “first glance” at your template could determine if they decide to read your email, or move on.

Today, we’re going to put BellyFlop, Tilla’s Sandals, and Congdon Park to the test to see who is presenting the best formatting, design, and branding in their email.

Congdon Park

Congdon Park’s neighborhood newsletter is delightful: bright and cheerful. On an initial skim, the colors immediately catch my attention and are consistent throughout. This consistency is key—especially with your CTAs. Here, Congdon Park uses the same design for their 3 CTAs, leaving no confusion about what actions they’d like their readers to take.

Congdon Park also uses a 2 column format for their updates, which makes the email easily scannable for those on the go. The format and fonts also make this newsletter super readable whether you’re on a desktop or a mobile device. The only thing missing is…branding! The only way I know that this email is from Congdon Park is the header and from address. Even HOAs can benefit from some branding, so it would be nice to see Congdon Park make that brand connection in this newsletter.


BellyFlop’s welcome email screams summer and leads off with a bang with that enticing pool image. But, is it too much of a good thing? BellyFlop can consider mixing up their imagery for their second header image to keep the recipient intrigued as they read.

BellyFlop also seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to fonts and font color. They switch from bold, to underlining, and change their font sizes without warning. It’s crucial to establish a style guideline for your emails, or you risk looking scattered, like BellyFlop does here. Decide when and how often you’ll implement bolding, italics, and underlining. Use them sparingly, or they lose their impact. Also decide whether your H1s, H2s, and H3s (if applicable) will be title case, sentence case, and/or all the same font size. Create a template that draws your recipients’ eyes to the most important parts of your email and that doesn’t interrupt reading flow.

BellyFlop also takes a risk here with the using turquoise and white fonts. Beware with font colors that could make your readers squint! And lastly, BellyFlop! Where’s your logo?! I’m pretty sure their stylized company name is their logo, but don’t keep me guessing. Sometimes being straightforward is the way togo!

Tillas Sandals

Bravo to Tillas Sandals for having a logo! Those little flip flops are subtle, but they’re in there! At first glance, Tillas summer sale email is easy to read, colorful, and on brand. The content doesn’t require too much scrolling, so I can get all the information I need right in that first look and the call outs immediately let me know the main takeaways from this email: 1) There’s a sale 2) It ends at midnight! 3) Free shipping is available. Tillas is also the first of our competitors to use a single column template, which is effective here because they have less content to offer.

The only thing I would warn Tillas about is to be judicious with their use of capitalizations. No one likes to feel like they’re being yelled at, so use caps only for occasional emphasis and otherwise, let your clever copy speak for itself.

The Winner

All three contenders gave it their best, but there’s a clear winner in our “The First Glance” event. Gold goes to Congdon Park for keeping it clean, classic, and colorful. Sometimes keeping it simple can reap you the most return. While Bellyflop and Tillas Sandals take some risks with their font styles and colors, sometimes this risk taking should be kept to a minimum. Tillas was the only company to include a distinguishable logo, so for that they take the silver! Which means BellyFlop takes home the bronze.

Stay tuned for our third event next week to see if Congdon Park can make it two in a row! And if you’d like to take advantage of the Marketing Campaigns templates used to create these Olympics examples, you can download them for free here!

Jillian Wohlfarth
As SendGrid's Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, and more. When not writing and editing, you can find Jillian frequenting Denver restaurants in search of the best queso.