Subject Lines That Work
Standing out in the inbox isn't easy. A lot of promotional emails I receive have subject lines that aren't special. They simply promote a 10 percent or 20 percent off sale. We know that the main mission of a subject line is to spike interest. So, let's take a look at some subject lines that did resonate with me.
1-800-Flowers: "☼ Good Day, Sunshine! Save 20% Sitewide ☼"
I like the reference to the Beatles’ song from 1966. Note that special "sun" characters were used to bracket the subject line. I think these work, particularly if they're only used occasionally. Speaking of special characters, the company sometimes uses them in the "From" line: e.g., 1-800-FL✿WERS.COM. The payoff for the subject line was a headline that read, "The forecast calls for lots of sunshine … and smiles." I wonder if 1-800-Flowers.com checked weather forecasts and didn't send this subject line to subscribers in areas that had inclement weather.
"You're Awesome. Take 20% Off Everything!" It's nice to be told I'm awesome; it makes me feel good. Plus the snippet for the email explained that 1-800-Flowers.com was having its annual customer appreciation sale.
Moosejaw: "All of Our Snakes are Missing"
Now that's a provocative subject line! The email was promoting hoodies and tees artfully laid out on the grass with cute little snakes wiggling over the products. There was a note superimposed over the images that said: If you get a snake in your package, email Clifford@moosejaw.com and we'll give you 500 points.
"Do you want a Free $20?" This email offered customers who spent $100 an "almost" gift card for $20. The $20 gift card did have a time limit of three weeks for redemption.
Sephora: "Doesn't a reward sound nice?"
The cosmetics purveyor has a loyalty program and its email reminded me that I have accumulated points which I can apply to a purchase.
Motorcycle Superstore: "Can You Hear It?"
This subject line asks a question and invokes the senses. The email was about the sound of freedom (I received it around July 4) and addressed exhaust systems for bikes. It also included a helpful buyer's guide as value-added content.
"Remember. Honor. Respect. Thank You, from Motorcycle Superstore." This subject line appeared in my inbox around Memorial Day. The email did no selling; it simply paid tribute to the heroes who sacrificed their lives for our country. Taking a break from ongoing promotions and saluting current and past veterans set this company apart from its competition.
Whole Foods: "On-the-Go Recipes for an Adventurous Summer"
There's only oblique selling in this email as it's filled with many recipes for summer delights. This is another example of building good will with an audience by providing value-added content.
"Meet Pioneers of Unconventional Ideas. Read Dark Rye." Dark Rye is an online magazine that Whole Foods produces. This email says: "At Whole Foods Market, we're about more than food. Dark Rye is our James Beard-award-winning online magazine that celebrates innovation and creativity in every walk of life." This is an example of a great use of content to engage recipients.
Nine West: "How do you rock your Nine West?"
This email promotion featured a social engagement theme. Recipients were encouraged to snap a stylish selfie wearing Nine West and share with others via Twitter or Instagram. Nine West promised to post most pictures to its site within 48 hours. This is an example of a great way to build brand enthusiasts and get the word out.
King Arthur Flour: "I love love love this … "
The repetition of love draws attention to this subject line. The email promoted ice cream and shake makers.
"Pizza pizzazz!" The snippet that supported this subject line said, "Take the takeout out of pizza." The headline went on to say "Nothing beats homemade!" The email featured variety in terms of crusts, sizes and toppings.
Philosophy: "who says you can't have it all?"
This skin care and fragrance company always stands out in my inbox. The company's From line is all lower case, as are its subject lines. That's a real differentiator. This subject line was part of an email campaign that featured a 20 percent off plus free shipping promotion. It didn't scream sale, however. I found the subject line intriguing. Some might argue that the recipient has to open the email to know what it's about, but I like that Philosophy doesn't use a heavy-handed approach.
"unravel the mystery." This subject line was part of an email promotion for a mystery gift with every order of $60 or more. This is another common promotional practices, but the subject line grabs attention. Philosophy did a nice job of supporting the promotional theme by using the promo code "Surprise."
National Geographic: "Expedition Granted: Win $50,000 for Your Dream Expedition!"
This email proclaimed, "We are excited to announce Expedition Granted, a nationwide competition to discover the next generation of explorers and award one person a $50,000 prize to fund the expedition of their dreams." It was a great way to grab attention and instill interest in National Geographic.
Nordstrom: "Summer Lovin’"
We started with a subject line that called out popular music and we'll end with that. This subject line harks back to the song from the musical "Grease." Nordstrom included a cute main picture with the headline, "It's Getting Hot!" Plus a fashion tip was included.
I've spoken with copywriters who say that 40 percent of the time spent on your email campaign should be focused on the subject line. That might be an exaggeration, but there's an important point here: Subject lines play a big role in driving open rates. The challenge is to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps you have an attitude. Maybe you ask a question. You want to be different and engaging.