Somehow I ended up on both the Obama and Romney email lists this election season. You might be surprised to hear this, but they actually have a few things in common: both send me too many emails, both consider me a “friend” (thanks, guys!), and both think that if they use the phrase “donate just $5” enough, I’ll be persuaded.

Joking aside, email marketing as a campaign tactic is obviously a relatively new phenomenon and one that could occupy quite a few blog posts, but the incumbent vs. challenger emails aren’t the ones I want to talk about today.

I want to take a look at something a little more… colorful. Rent the Runway is a website that allows people to rent high-end and designer dresses. The theory is that the Average Jo(sephine?) wouldn’t be able to afford these gowns, so for fashionistas on a budget, this is a creative solution. Instead of dropping $500 – $1000 on a dress, rent it for $50.

While the business model is fascinating, what catches my eye is their email marketing strategy. Most recently, this politically themed email:

Arriving on October 19th, just between the 2nd and 3rd Presidential debates, the subject line was on point: “The Debate Starts Now”. The Rent the Runway crew did a few other things well that should be kept in mind when building any email marketing strategy.

1. Timely subject matter. This “debate” email was well timed to play off of the ongoing Presidential and VP debates and featured the beautiful first ladies, whose style choices generate their own buzz. Relevant for the business and to current events.

2. Tactful approach. It’s election season and emotion is running high, but this timely email managed to be non-divisive, showing that if done well, piggybacking a marketing campaign on the presidential campaigns doesn’t have to be scary.

3. Theme and trend driven. From the headline “Fashion Face Off: First Lady Style” to pairing the First Lady pictures, the email shows a cohesive theme that easily translates into sales-oriented messaging and features their products.

4. Creative and visual. Strong design is a key driver of marketing effectiveness, and emphasizing visual over written content is what allows this email to hold the reader’s attention. When in doubt, incorporate a visual element.

5. Social elements incorporated. The Facebook “like” button is available at the top of the screen, other social media pages are linked at the bottom of the email, and a push marketing tactic provides incentive to share – “Invite friends, gift $20, get $20”.

What keeps you from boldly and creatively incorporating timely elements into your marketing campaigns?