Resources Hub » Blog » Using Dynamic Images in Your Email Newsletters

This post has been updated as of May 2019

We’ve had a question or two lately about adding dynamic images to email campaigns. By this, folks have meant:

  • Images that are personalized according to the reader’s interests, gender, age etc; or
  • Images that change over time, like a holiday countdown

And the skinny of the story is that yes, it’s possible, but you will have to have to host the images on your own server. By default, our application imports and hosts all images found when an HTML email is uploaded to a campaign (usually a really good thing), but unfortunately, this doesn’t let you overwrite existing images on the fly… Or use the img src= path in interesting ways throughout your campaign.

Once you have the images hosted somewhere, adding the cm_dontimportimage attribute to your image tag(s) will ensure that Campaign Monitor does not import the externally-hosted image from a path. Here’s an example:

.codeblock {
background: #ededed;

<img src="" width="20" height="20" alt="alt text here" cm_dontimportimage />

Simple, eh? Now we have that sorted, lets look at 2 ways you can use dynamic images to your advantage.

Personalizing an email by interest, or gender

Using custom fields

You guessed it – we’re going to get messy with custom fields here. Say you have a subscriber list with a custom field for interests – say, ‘Arduinos’, ‘Faraday Cages’ and ‘Gewgaws’. You want to display a header image in your email, personalized according to your subscribers’ tastes. Too easy. Simply create 3 or 4 images – one for each preference, plus an additional fallback image if required. Once these are happily hosted on your server, here’s the kind of code you would add to the HTML email, in order to display the correct image to each subscriber:

<img src="[Interests,fallback=gadgets].jpg" width="20" height="20" alt="Exactly the gadget you're after!" cm_dontimportimage />

The path,[Interests,fallback=gadgets].jpg will be changed to include Arduinos.jpg, Gewgaws.jpg or the fallback, gadgets.jpg at send time. Here’s more clever ways to use custom fields in images and links.

Changing an image over time (the holiday countdown)

We’ve all seen it on television and the web – ‘Sale starts in 3 days!’, ‘Limited offer starts tomorrow!’, ‘Sale on now!’ – but funnily enough, adding exact, time-based messages to email hasn’t quite caught on. Maybe it’s because most of us assume that our emails are going to get read on the spot, then never opened again. However, cool customer Anna Yeaman at Style Campaign punted on a different kind of behavior – that her email would be opened, then re-opened repeatedly – when creating a dynamic Christmas countdown. Click on the image below to view the design (and code):


From: ‘Xmas email results‘, courtesy Style Campaign

Using a bit of in-house wizardry combined with the technique above, the image in the email is generated by the server in real-time, each and every time the image is requested (ie. when a subscriber opens the email). So if a subscriber opens the email above a daily basis (or even every second), they’ll see an updated image each time. As a result, the countdown is true to the timezone it’s viewed in – a subscriber in New York will see a different image from a subscriber in Sydney, even if the email is opened simultaneously.

I know what you’re thinking – this is a bloody lot of work for a single email. But then again, Anna’s results have been convincing. From her blog:

“The big shift was the no. of times each recipient opened the email… each recipient viewed the email 5.36 times.”

And if this wasn’t appealing enough, then there’s always the engagement stats:

“We also saw an increase in replies, a favorite was a short and sweet,”Niiiiiiice”. Our CTR was 40.5% up from 35.8%.”

Full results, plus more detail can be found on Style Campaign’s blog.

Although it’s yet to be seen as to whether dynamically loading images based on subscribers’ interests, or time/date are particularly effective techniques, we sure think it’s nifty for providing a more personalized, and/or timely email experience. If you have any examples of your own, we’d love for you to share them with us – as always, it’s our customers that are pushing the envelope when it comes to building innovative emails!

Roundup of the best dynamic email content (with Images)

Dynamic content, specifically dynamic email content, is designed to wow users and keep them engaged. Impactful email creation involves using imagery just as much as it does good copy. Why? Email images, whether they be based on the company, location, or occasion, liven up a newsletter substantially.

Let’s go through some examples of dynamic email images being used to enhance newsletters and examine why each one works so well.

The first example is a basic one, but demonstrates how it’s easy to get started with dynamic email content.  What’s more personal than someone’s birthday? Not only does this type of occasion make for the perfect time to send an email, but it gives you obvious choices for imagery.

This Woman Within emails shows how using dynamic images in email can improve your newsletters

Source: Woman Within

Not only does it start off with a pleasant wish for the receiver’s special day, but it entices them to click through with a CTA. Notice the CTA is integrated into the image, in both the button-style presentation and the color scheme.

Don’t underestimate the value of simple gestures, both for eliciting responses and the tendency to inspire great images.

Fandango email newsletter example - Using dynamic images in your email newsletter

Source: Fandango

Fandango admittedly has an advantage here. The industry provides Fandango with plenty of awesome posters to promote the latest content. This email combines numerous ones together—smartly superimposing the titles and CTAs on the images themselves.

Companies like this can also personalize images to improve a user’s browsing experience, highlighting the movies they have on the watch list or simply showing new releases from favored genres. Email timers can also be used for content as new or upcoming releases can be promoted with automated emails.

Molly Sims email newsletter graphic example - Using Dynamic Images in Your Email Newsletters

Source: Molly Sims

While the previous example shows off content relevant to a user’s interest or to a release schedule, this one goes with a holiday everyone can enjoy. While the birthday example is a holiday too, this one (and the time period it takes place around) is the same for everyone.

The benefits of this type of marketing are clear: You can ensure people don’t miss out on holiday sales. It’s also a great place to use email timers to promote coupons or to advertise specific product lines that may be relevant to specific subscribers.


Bon Appetit email example of using dynamic images in email newsletters

Source: Bon Appetit

Just looking at this email is likely to make your stomach rumble. A clever newsletter from a brand that demonstrates recipes that asks the question: why just tell people about the food? Even the best adjectives out there can’t replace the feeling of actually seeing a completed dish.

This also gives a much better presentation than simply showing people eating at a table or even showing ingredients in the dishes. The images can make a person more likely to click through. The subscriber is focused on results and benefits, which means they’re more likely to facilitate engagement.

Dishes like this are great at a time of year when people head outside to the picnic table. Recipe-based emails can also work for holiday food or to satisfy the taste preferences of those who are signed up to receive info about specific foods.

Don’t just add dynamic email content to your newsletters. Learn how to improve your images to make the best impact on your readers.

This post was originally published in February 2011

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This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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