Memorial Day email marketing and SMS campaign guide: best practices + 21 brand examples

Profile photo of author Bani Kaur
Bani Kaur
23min read
Email marketing
January 3, 2023
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Memorial Day Weekend has a lot going on—including a long weekend off for Americans and a celebratory start to summer.

It’s always the last Monday in May. Falling on May 29 this year, it is a day of both remembrance and relaxation with family and friends—and that tendency to be outside socializing can create quite the challenge for marketers looking to reach prospects customers.

But don’t fret, especially if your brand sells sporting goods or outdoor equipment—this is your time to shine. If you sell food and beverages or any CPG products, even better.

Despite a rocky economy and inflation, total retail spending went up in 2022, including for holiday and party spending.

Recent Klaviyo data showed an incredibly promising season, with top performing brands earning an average of over $1M from Memorial Day email campaigns.

Image shows a chart indicating top performing Klaviyo customers on Memorial Day email campaigns
Source: Klaviyo

A holiday that lends itself well to last-minute purchases, SMS campaigns are worth the effort, too. Our research shows click rates over 10% and average revenue from SMS campaigns at nearly $150k for the summer holiday.

Image shows a chart indicating top performing Klaviyo customers on Memorial Day email campaigns
Source: Klaviyo

The question then becomes: How can you create a relevant email marketing campaign that engages your audience and drives early summer sales?

How can you create a relevant email marketing campaign that engages your audience and drives early summer sales?

To answer that, we analyzed last year’s email marketing trends, referenced these against consumer forecasts for 2023, and then built out 5 Memorial Day email marketing ideas you can use right now.

You’ll also find a bonus section on what to do if you think it’s too late to launch a Memorial Day campaign (or if you have leftover stock).

This guide will cover:

Important Memorial Day weekend stats for ecommerce marketers

In the post-pandemic digital landscape, ecommerce is evolving at a rapid pace—with benchmarks and KPIs constantly shifting. To create a relevant and contextual Memorial Day campaign, it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of last year’s insights and this year’s trends.

Memorial Day 2022 recap

  • Shoppers planned to spend $50-100 on Memorial Day celebration purchases, a significant portion of which included alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Only 4% of US holiday shoppers did not use digital channels for their shopping.

What to expect for Memorial Day spending in 2023

Despite economic uncertainty and inflation pressures, Forrester predicts that consumer spending will increase by 5% in 2023.

What does this mean for Memorial Day marketing?

5 best practices for Memorial Day email campaigns

In general, email marketing best practices are the same for every campaign you send—including for Memorial Day weekend. But there are several unique factors about Memorial Day weekend that may have your audience more on their phones and less in their email.

Here are the 5 most important best practices to keep in mind for your Memorial Day weekend campaign:

1. Customize your emails for mobile screens

A lot of people will be traveling over the long weekend, so it’s important you optimize your messages for mobile readability and engagement.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Use low-resolution images so that your images load even with limited internet connectivity.
  • Use live text rather than text embedded in graphics. Live text is readable by voice assistant, making your emails accessible to both drivers and folks with disabilities.
  • Use alt text in case images don’t load.
  • Embed a link to your mobile shopping app in your text messages so your readers are not redirected to slower-loading websites.

2. Write contextual, personalized, and thematic subject lines

It’s a Memorial Day weekend campaign! Talk about that in your email subject line.

Tap into what your audience may be doing this Memorial Day weekend, and wrap that into your campaign. Reference barbecues or family time, for example, if that will resonate with your subscribers. This is an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with your customer base.

Need help writing strong subject lines or choosing ones to A/B test? Klaviyo’s subject line assistant is available to all Klaviyo users.

Image shows Klaviyo’s Subject line assistant
Source: Klaviyo

3. Segment your audience by location

Memorial Day is not a global holiday. Make sure you tailor your sender list to only US customers.

Still want to send something similar to your non-US customers? For those in the Northern Hemisphere, editing Memorial Day copy so that it focuses on the start of summer is a great alternative. You can likely use similar images and CTAs.

4. Don’t forget about SMS

Create an SMS campaign to tap into the market that is logging out this weekend. Your audience might not check email this holiday weekend, but they will be on their phones.

The median time between an email being received and getting clicked is 2.5 hours.
For texts, it’s just 1 hour.

According to Klaviyo’s internal data, the median time between an email being received and getting clicked is 2.5 hours. For texts, it’s just one hour.

5. Plan and schedule your campaign well before Memorial Day

If you are selling products specifically for use over Memorial Day weekend—instead of offering a Memorial Day discount, for example—then you’ll need to send your campaign 7-10 days in advance so that folks can order and receive the product in time.

You’ll need to send your campaign 7-10 days in advance.
This way, folks can order and receive the product in time.

Your products need to reach people before they leave for weekend trips. This also leaves enough room for a post-purchase or a follow-up email campaign.

5 marketing ideas to anchor your campaign, + Memorial Day email examples

Based on data from Memorial Day 2022, as well as what analysts predict for consumers in 2023, we’ve come up with 5 email marketing ideas to help you create an effective campaign this Memorial Day.

1. Reach out to your travel-lovers

From a data perspective, travel spending improved considerably between Memorial Day weekend 2021 and 2022.

Since the emergence of the COVID vaccines in 2021, travel is the second-most-desired activity among respondents looking to get back into the world, following closely behind dining out, according to a McKinsey survey.

So, if your target audience is interested in travel, Memorial Day weekend is a good holiday for your brand to act on.

To start, craft a marketing message emphasizing the importance of preparing for a trip. Here’s how:

  1. Send out a travel-related email in early May to see how many of your customers engage with it. This will tell you whether travel is the right theme for your Memorial Day campaign.
  2. Send out a quiz to ask shoppers where they’re going this Memorial Day weekend so you can collect zero-party data to personalize your emails over Memorial Day weekend itself.
  3. Position your product as a travel essential.

For example, if your brand sells summer apparel, your marketing messaging might address beach trips or summer weekend getaways and pitch your product as a must-have.

For inspiration, let’s look at a few brands that target travel well, and why their campaigns work.

Bobbi Brown’s Memorial Day email campaign

This Memorial Day campaign customizes each product description with a travel theme—beach vacation, weekend picnic, or staycation. Then, the marketers at Bobbi Brown position several products as must-haves for those different vacation types.

Data suggests that 54% of consumers abandon ecommerce sites because of choice overload—indecision because of too many options. Bobbi Brown’s approach helps customers narrow down their choices.

To cover all their bases, the Bobbi Brown team ends the email with offers for a free eye cream, free shipping, and a discount that applies automatically at check-out.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from Bobbi Brown
Source: Bobbi Brown

White Elm’s Memorial Day email campaign

White Elm takes a different approach compared to Bobbi Brown. Instead of positioning different products as great options for different types of vacations, the White Elm team suggests their all-weekend getaway bag as the must-have vacation bag, regardless of the destination.

This approach, too, eliminates choice overload, directing audience attention to a specific product and call to action (CTA).

The body copy also empathizes with the customer by describing a universally dreaded travel scenario—aside from a positive COVID test, of course: packing. White Elm positions their bag as the solution to a common source of anxiety.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from White Elm
Source: White Elm

Perlier’s Memorial Day email campaign

In this email campaign, Perlier presents their bath and body products as travel essentials, specifically targeting people who are shopping in preparation for a trip.

According to behavioral psychologists, an urgent situation causes people to forgo logical thinking and act impulsively. The “1 Day Only” email tag in Perlier’s email instills that sense of urgency, suggesting customers should act fast.

Although this email isn’t specifically from a Memorial Day campaign, it hits all the right notes: context, exclusivity, and urgency.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from Perlier
Source: Perlier

2. Hype up the arrival of summer

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer for most Americans. That means there will be pool parties, barbecues, beach trips, lake vacations, and maybe even crawfish boils, depending on where your subscribers live. Schools in the US also start to close in mid- to late May for summer break.

Cue: The “Welcome Summer” Memorial Day email campaign.

To craft this type of marketing message, emphasize everything people love about summer: warm weather, ice cream, chilled beer, sundresses, baseball games—you name it. Show your customers how your products can help them get the most out of the summer season.

Let’s look at some brands that did this especially well.

Chubbies taps into FOMO

  • Subject line: I sincerely regret not opening this email.
  • Preview text: – Signed, Future You.

Chubbies uses a clever subject line to pique subscribers’ curiosity: “I seriously regret not opening this email.” The brand then brilliantly uses personalization in the preview text by signing the email “- Future you.”

The body copy ties in perfectly with the summer theme—and Chubbies’ audience’s interest—with “less reading, more swimsuits,” making this email on brand and on point.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from Chubbies.
Source: Chubbies

Native whets your appetite for summer

  • Subject line: Dive into Memorial Day Savings ☀️

Native’s nod to swimming in the subject line and vibrant summer colors cue the onset of summer. Extra points for sneaking in “savings” in the subject line and mentioning “20% OFF” in the preview text.

With a lively reference to barbecues and lemonade in the body copy, this email is the embodiment of a summer weekend. Native finishes off well on-brand by tying in their signature deodorant with a shopper goal: “smelling great all summer long.”

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from Native
Source: Native

EightSleep creates urgency

  • Subject Line: Our Memorial Day Sale ends soon

This email from mattress brand EightSleep digs deep into why shoppers need a premium mattress for the summer: temperature control features.

Then, the team pushes readers straight to their $350 Memorial Day discount.

Contextual. Informational. And to the point.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from Eightsleep
Source: Eightsleep

Vitamin A rewards subscribers

  • Subject line: Early Access starts now! Up to 60% off Sale
  • Preview text: Memorial Day Sale

Vitamin A, a swimwear brand, offers their subscribers 60% off starting 5 days before the actual holiday. The image—a model well into her summer tan—and the copy both nod to the appeal of summer, inviting the customer to get a headstart on new styles for swimwear and loungewear.

“Consider this a sign to start your summer with some new swim + lounge”—the copy is inviting, appealing, and easily actionable, and there’s a CTA button above the fold.

No wonder this email earned the swimsuit brand a high click rate.

Source: Klaviyo Showcase

Ultimate Direction offers free shipping

  • Subject line: Our Memorial Day sale is here! Save 20% sitewide
  • Preview text: Free shipping on orders over $49

Ultimate Direction, an outdoor apparel and accessories brand, achieved a high click rate with this email, which offers a discount and free shipping.

Importantly, it also speaks directly to the brand’s audience with beautiful images that invoke summer—sunny landscapes, athletes enjoying warm weather, and the gear that gets an outdoorsy person excited to bust out their compass and start their summer adventures.

“Kick off the summer with 20% off hydration packs, running belts, apparel and more”—if readers aren’t already chomping at the bit to get outside come Memorial Day, getting the right gear may put them in the mood.

Image shows a Memorial Day email campaign from Ultimate Direction
source: Klaviyo Showcase

Mori Leaf’s design evokes a warm summer day

  • Subject line: 20% Off All Our Teas for Memorial Day 🌿!
  • Preview text: Sale ends 5/31

Mori Leaf, a tea brand, gets their subscribers pumped for summer with a warm yellow background, images of summer fruits and herbs, and copy that promises to quench their thirst.

“Get ready for summer by stocking up on our refreshing and nutritious teas,” the copy reads, after an image that invokes the warm colors of a summer sunset.

 Image shows a Memorial Day email campaign from Mori Leaf
Source: Klaviyo Showcase

3. Acknowledge the patriotism of the holiday

An important part of many people’s Memorial Day celebrations is paying tribute to fallen US military personnel.

If patriotism is an important and authentic part of your brand, designing emails for your Memorial Day campaign to emphasize patriotism—in images or in copy—can resonate deeply with your audience.

To craft a compelling message, focus on the importance of giving back. And make it genuine, not salesy.

Here are some ways to do this:

  • Add a heartfelt founder’s note in your email.
  • Share an interesting US history fact.
  • Acknowledge an important national milestone to show solidarity.

One more important tip for patriotic Memorial Day campaigns: Remember to either go for a celebratory patriotic tone or a somber one. Mixing the two might make you appear insensitive to your audience.

Let’s look at some companies that wear patriotism well in their Memorial Day emails.

JumpSport’s Memorial Day email campaign

  • Subject line: Ready, Set, JUMP! Save BIG for Memorial Day Weekend.
  • Preview Text: Logo Red White & Blue Sale to Kick Off MDW! See the Sale

This email from JumpSport rings in the Memorial Day weekend with a dash of patriotism and a boatload of enthusiasm—perfectly on-brand for a sports company.

With an offer of “BIG” savings in the subject line, the brand tempts the readers to open the email. The body of the email seals the deal with cute kids and red, white, and blue imagery. The CTA, “see the sale,” is simple and unambiguous—giving customers one easy button to click.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from JumpSport
Source: JumpSport

Lala Daisy plays to patriotism—with a balance

  • Subject line: Huge Memorial Day Savings
  • Preview text: Memorial Day Sale – 2 Day Sale – Sun 5/30 through Monday 5/31

This email from cosmetics brand Lala Daisy uses lots of tools in the patriotism toolbox—red, white, and blue images and copy; stars; and a discount code that nods to the meaning of the holiday: SALUTE2021.

The email doesn’t go further into patriotic (or political) territory, which is on brand for Lala Daisy.

Image shows a Memorial Day email campaign from Lala Daisy
Source: Klaviyo Showcase

Alx Rods honors fallen soldiers

  • Subject line: Memorial Day Sale!
  • Preview text: Use code MD2021 for select items!

This email from Alx Rods starts off with a note of sobriety to “remember and honor” fallen soldiers—creating an emotional connection with the company’s American shoppers.

It then announces a sale on military-related products, remaining on-theme for Memorial Day.

Image shows a Memorial Day email campaign from Axl Rods
Source: Axl Rods

4. Help them plan a party

Barbecues and parties don’t need to be introduced with trends and data. They’re the very essence of a good time over Memorial Day weekend.

To craft a marketing message around barbecues and parties, show your customers how your product can elevate their partying experience. Whether that means dressing for the occasion, having the best lawn party furniture, or putting together the fanciest hot dog, focus on the specific value your product offers.

Important tip: Don’t mix elements of a sincere, heartfelt email with one about partying. It will confuse your audience.

Let’s look at a few brands that mastered party-themed memorial day marketing last year.

BlendJet keeps it simple

  • Subject Line: BBQ Madness
  • Preview text: Up the Memorial Day Heat

This creatively designed email by BlendJet is patriotic, party-like, and poised for summer—targeting 3 of our 5 campaign ideas.

It showcases its blenders in the colors of the American flag (low-key targeting the American spirit), while actively addressing barbecues, picnics, and pool parties.

The short one-liner, meanwhile, relays 3 party uses for a Blendjet—making the email not just creative, but also informative.

Image shows a Memorial Day email campaign from BlendJet

Teakoe gives you everything you need to know

  • Subject line: Memorial Day Refreshment
  • Preview text: UP TO 25% OFF Fizzy Tea

This email has a lot of great elements to round out a Memorial Day theme:

  1. The brand’s remix of the popular “Netflix and chill” to “Teakoe and Grill” makes it catchy and memorable.
  2. Teakoe urges readers to visualize the summer barbecue scene with yard games, tunes, and ice coolers.
  3. The email tells subscribers the order deadline to receive their drinks by the holiday, making party planning easier.
  4. It positions 4 cases as a better deal by offering a 15% discount along with free shipping, as opposed to 2 cases with just free shipping.

Well done, Teakoe.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from Teakoe
Source: Teakoe

Tommy Bahamas offers a reward for loyal customers

This SMS from Tommy Bahamas announces a VIP offer, making customers feel special.

It also offers a deal on the unofficial barbecue uniform—polos and tee—right on cue for a barbecue-themed holiday. The email tempts people who might not be interested in polos with a 15% site-wide discount and a definite dollar amount off.

That’s quite a lot of ground for a short text! We’re impressed.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from Tommy Bahamas
Source: Tommy Bahamas

5. Focus on family—and that extra day off

Meeting up with family is a big part of Memorial Day for almost everyone. The sobering reality of the sacrifice of soldiers on Memorial Day, and the extra time off work, makes people want to spend time with loved ones.

Mentioning family in your Memorial Day emails allows you to extend a personal, heartfelt connection to your customers. When crafting a family-themed Memorial Day campaign, emphasize emotion, love, and good times.

Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Encourage gifting by sending customers emails like, “How about surprising your [Mom/Dad/Sister] this Memorial Day?” with a link to your sale.
  • Add a personal, funny family story to build a genuine connection to your customer base. Ask them to share theirs, too.
  • Include a picture of your pet wishing their pet a fun family holiday. People consider pets family and 80% of pet owners care for their pets like their children, according to UCF. Also, pet images convert well.

Let’s look at a brand that focuses on family and pets for their Memorial Day campaign.

Freedom Grooming honors soldiers

This email from Freedom Grooming honors those that selflessly served the country—appealing to subscribers’ patriotism.

It then extends the emotional connection to an immediate family member—Dad—and also the brand’s target audience—veterans.

Freedom Grooming positions its products as tributes, making them appear unlike material comforts and more like tokens of gratitude.

Finally, the email ends with 3 tailored suggestions to move the reader to act immediately.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from Freedom Grooming
Source: Freedom Grooming

BONUS: an all-purpose Memorial Day SMS campaign from Brooklinen

This SMS campaign by Brooklinen plays on the human tendency to click more quickly through content that appears to be bad news vs. good.

Once you open the text, this message creates a sense of urgency by mentioning that the sales are ending soon and offering a clear solution via the CTA—”Shop now.”

This message takes the reader on an intriguing journey from shock to solution—quite remarkable for a short text.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from Brooklinen
Source: Brooklinen

It’s not too late: 3 Memorial Day marketing strategies for procrastinators

Have your own plans for the long weekend and you’ve run out of time to create a marketing campaign? Or didn’t have as many sales over the weekend as you expected?

Either way, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s how to repackage your leftover deals in shiny wrapping paper with great subject lines to match.

  1. Be genuine. Admit you’ve been busy celebrating with your family and friends or taking time off work. People can relate to this—and people buy from people they relate to.
  2. Tie the post-Memorial Day email to your next campaign, like Father’s Day, Labor Day or a summer sale, to make your email come across like a planned event.
  3. Extend the sale because customers loved it.Add customer reviews to match. This builds social proof.

Important tip: If you run a post-Memorial Day email campaign, make sure to sound neither apologetic—”We’re sorry we’re late”—nor proud—”We showed up late…on purpose”—in your emails. Neither extreme works well. Sounding proud positions you as cocky and unapproachable, and apologizing too much makes you appear irresponsible.

Let’s look at some brands that execute this type of email effortlessly.

Joah Beauty rewards loyal customers

  • Subject line: FOMO? Our 40% off is extended
  • Preview text: Memorial day is still on but ending soon

This email goes all-in on exclusivity. Joah’s Beauty positions the post-Memorial Day sale as a VIP event, making readers feel special. Even the code says “VIP40.”

The Joah’s Beauty team then uses this as an opportunity to introduce a site-wide sale. The CTAs cleverly highlight the difference between a site-wide “30% off” and a VIP “40% off.”

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from Joah
Source: Joah

Angler’s Headquarters includes social proof

  • Subject line: We’re back and you can save on everything!
  • Preview text: Post-Memorial Day sale, 15% off everything

This email from Angler’s Headquarter’s starts off with a genuine message about how the people at the company were away for the weekend. It sneakily introduces its product—fishing gear—by telling readers it’s understandable if they were gone fishing over the weekend.

The email ends with a fun fishing story and a picture to match—establishing social proof and making readers smile.

Source: Angler’s Headquarters

CityLocs looks ahead to Father’s Day

  • Subject Line: Happy Memorial Day

First, the simplistic subject line “Happy Memorial Day” will stick out in someone’s inbox when it shows up after Memorial Day. Smart trickery, CityLocs.

Second, this email reminds the shopper that now is the perfect time to purchase Father’s Day gifts and have them customized and delivered in time—creating a sense of urgency.

Finally, the red, white, and blue colors align with the patriotic Memorial Day theme.

Image shows a Memorial Day email marketing campaign from CityLocs
Source: CityLocs

Your next steps for successful Memorial Day marketing

When you craft your Memorial Day email campaign, make sure to:

  1. Tailor it to your buyer personas as closely as possible. Make sure your customers feel represented (with user-generated pictures, like Angler’s Headquarters) and special (with VIP offers, like Tommy Bahamas).
  2. Add information like 8 Sleep and BlendJet. “Instead of showing the subscriber a product and telling them its 15% off, ask yourself, ‘What information does this person need to desire this product in their life?’ or ‘How can we speak to a common push-back?’” suggests Monica Grohne, CEO of Marea Wellness.
  3. Automate your emails so you can focus on performance, strategic marketing goals, and learning from what worked and what didn’t. Then, you’ll be ready for the next holiday campaign.

Done well, Memorial Day is an excellent opportunity not just to drive sales, but also to create a memorable connection with your customers.

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Bani Kaur
Bani Kaur
Bani Kaur is a freelance writer and a part of the SaaS Nordic CEO and Executive Masterminds. She uses design thinking to write value-driven and deeply-researched long-form blogs, ebooks, and white papers for SaaS and technology brands.