Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Subject Lines… A Balancing Act

Today I fielded a quick question (recommended character length of a subject line) that ended up being a rather productive exercise in creating a subject line.

- What is the goal of this email?
- Who are we addressing
- When, in the line of communication, has the recipient gotten this email
- Is there anything from the recipient’s point of view, that is new or remarkable about this email (besides the offer)

In our case, it was a new communication to a new segment of members- so a first kind of welcome to the site email.

Branding & Targeting
After making that a priority, we then juggled the very real initiatives of Branding vs. Targeting. That is, do we talk about us, or do we talk about you. You like it when we talk about you, but we have some goals in talking about us:
- please whitelist us
- please enable images ongoing
- please remain subscribed

That’s the reasoning for talking about us, but what about talking about you? Because our studies and learnings have shown clearly that when we address you by name, talk about how we know you, and otherwise serve you very timely relevant communications, everything is rosy. The subject line is key in that it’s the initiative to open the email.

But it is a balancing act, and really, can we do both at once?

The third element, my marketer friend reminded me, was getting the offer in the subject line. So now we are juggling 3 balls in the air: branding, targeting, and the offer (in our goal: 35-50 characters).

The Offer
When talking about the offer, there are so many caveats. For one, it really triggers spam filters and Postini, namely, to refer to it as a “sale”, “deal”, or “offer”. Common punctuation, like $ or %, also makes the subject line spamworthy. The subject line is heavily weighted in the email’s overall spam score.

How do you avoid this? Well the following advice takes this into account, but in a rather devious manner.

Be creative! This goes in with targeting. Who *are* these people. Can you figure out a way of making the recipient special, showing your hand to a degree, in targeting them, and also communicating the offer in the email? I’ve seen report after report that shows that clever subject lines, eye-catching, engaging and funny, get seriously higher opens and clickthroughs than straight-up, no-nonsense, deal-hustling ones. So it’s a lot more work, and you may have to pull in various people to brainstorm, but believe me, it’s worth it. And, if you don’t believe me, feel free to test.


- 4/29 Cinco de Yelpo: Yelp has cornered the marketing in funny creative content, and they’ve nicely dovetailed it into branding. Note no targeting.
- 4/29 updates from Kim: Anna you have... This is a transactional message from GoodReads site. After the ellipses was in the email body copy, which Gmail shows. Personalized, no branding. The From Address was the only branding.
- 4/29 Anna: Membership Discount Extended ... to change your subscription eHarmony also used the From Address solely for branding, personalized and included the targeting reason in the subject.
- 4/28 The Perfect Chair for Summer + Shop Mother's Day! Almost a desperate plea for taking an offer, any offer. no personalization, little branding (from address) and no targeting.
- 4/29 Interop: the 3 Billion Electric Bill points for cleverness- despite being in publishing and not retail, I’m impressed with this interesting content. Not targeted or branded, but funny enough- and I did open it up!
- 4/29 – Give Mom Our Favorite Gifts Cute, funny, nice and short. Probably the right voice too, for Mother’s Day. The branding is in the From Address, and the reason is clear- impending mother’s day- in a clever way. This really stood out in my inbox- amongst all of the dollar signs and % Off.
- 4/28 – Suit it up for summer with our innovative swimware Mix & Match Tool Eddie Bauer just gets garbled up with that long-winded subject line. I’d tighten it up and make it snappier. I can see the ingredients for a clever subject line, but it’s just half-baked.

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Written on Tuesday, 29. April 2008 at 18:52 In the category subject lines. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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