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Finding the Right Tone
The subject line tone that will elicit the most
positive response from your audience has
everything to do with the expectations a
consumer has about your brand, says Kara
Trivunovic, vice president of marketing
services, StrongMail. in financial
services, people want cute or funny,
because talking about their money.
But if talking about travel, more
appropriate, because you want it to be
In healthcare marketing, for example,
whether to be direct or clever in a subject line
depends greatly on the category and demographic, says Daniella Koren, founder and
president of healthcare relationship marketing firm DKI.
should be relevant to what the reader
signed up for. And you have to be tasteful and
empathetic and Koren says.
marketers do need to have a personality and
not just deliver clinical information. Of course,
if talking about acne to a young demographic, funny might work. But if talking
about lung so
The proof, of course, is in the numbers.
Campaigns that marketers think are clever
might not resonate with the audience. Trivunovic cites one re-engagement effort that
gently poked the recipient with subject lines
such as know and followed
up with is when they
respond to the initial message. loved she
says. when I talked with the marketer, I
found out it
For many marketers, a more straightforward, offer-oriented approach to subject
lines is what works. However, a subject line
offer that seems good for the consumer may
not necessarily have the best return for the
sender. Return Path, for example, looked at
the percentage-off offered in a subject line
and found that, sometimes, less is better.
saw that the read rate for [subject
lines promising] less than 25% off was good.
But as the percentage-off increased, there
was a decrease in read of 25%
offers and even alternate means of
a phone number.
Keep It Real
One subject line tactic that some
marketers try is the fake
which makes it look as if
atoning for some mysterious
mistake. The consumer opens
out of curiosity to discover the
faux pas, and sees an offer. This
is one trick that works, notes
Sather: Read rates have jumped
anywhere from 10% to 30% with
Philosophy is one marketer that takes advantage
the fake goofs.
of responsive design to make their emails appealing
Likewise, some marketers
no matter what device a customer is using, mobile
have put fake RE: or FW: starts
to subject lines, he adds. This can
make a message seem more personor less got an average 25% read rate, but if al, but could also alienate customers who
it went up to 50%, the read rate was only like to be misled.
says Tom Sather, director of profesA good rule of thumb is to generate
sional services, Return Path.
authentic interest in what doing, says
Why the falloff hard to say, but Murphy. want to trick
spam filters have learned that as the dis- you want the open to be related to what you
count gets higher, the possibility that [a promised in the subject
message] could be spam goes he says.
Also, says Popick of Vertical Response, be
Using words like or putting excla- careful not to overdo personalization.
mation points in a subject line hurt just do it personal in a more
deliverability as much as it used to, but it informed way, based on behaviors such as a
still best practice, says John Murphy, recent purchase or whitepaper download.
president, ReachMail. not sure your
And if you do get personal, get it right. Getsubject line is appropriate, run it through ting it wrong is a definite turnoff. Trivunovic
remembers one marketer sending her personalized birthday greetings in the wrong
month, showing that they really know
The Long and Short of It
While subject line lengths still run the gamut, her at all.
brands that are focused on mobile are seeing
that shorter is better, says Waccara Yeomans, Status Symbols
director of creative services, Responsys.
Yeomans says seeing a ton of symbols
Adds Sather, email clients do cut popping up in subject lines, but adds that she
subject lines off, so always a good practice seen them making a huge difference in
to front load with important information. response rates. used once in a while, they
Seventy-five characters is the point where could get you want to
most email clients cut off, so that might be risk inboxes looking like
Trivunovic also says she
As subject lines trend smaller, the impor- seeing icons in subject lines having a big
tance of email preheaders gets bigger, notes impact on open rates. there are icons that
Janine Popick, CEO, Vertical Response. Serving are true to a vertical and add something to
the same purpose as the Johnson Box in old- the subject line, then seeing a little bit
school direct mail, the preheader is the sum- of a lift, but there has to be something worthmary text that readers will see in many emails while [in the message] in the first she
before they even open your message. Getting says. like and remember them, but they
this right is essential to enticing customers necessarily drive open rates.
and prospects to read your email. The length
Testing is essential to knowing whether
varies. Popick notes that she has hers set to five this is right for your brand, notes Alex Lustberg,
lines of text on her iPhone, giving marketers CMO of Lyris, who predicts symbol overload
valuable real estate to share their messages, in three to six months. is an art and
Continued on page 26
testing alternate subject lines into
your says Elle Woulfe, director of marketing programs for Eloqua. they bite
on the first email, send them different approach [on the same message] might
work better for that
important to collect and watch the
data on who sending to and how
responded to various subject lines in the
agrees Sanjay Dholakia, CMO, Marketo.