Email Subject Lines – Standing Out in an Ocean of Offers

Email Subject Lines – Standing Out in an Ocean of Offers


Email Subject Lines – Standing Out in an Ocean of Offers

Recently I’ve had some emails that stuck out in my inbox. Some for positive reasons. Some for negative. Though normally I give pretty general advice, because these stood out so much to me, I wanted to use them as examples. Below I detail for each what did, and didn’t work. These are my personal opinions both as an email marketer, and an online consumer.

The Worst

Hashtags in Emails


This hashtag was in the subject line of an email I received this weekend. While I don’t always hate hashtags in emails, if there’s no reference at all to the hashtag in the email body copy, on their website, or anywhere else — it makes me wonder why they chose to use it in their subject line. Why not just use “Savings Goals — Save 15% on Reg-price items”?

Upon researching the hashtag they used, it doesn’t even seem to be popular. This leaves me wondering why they chose to integrate this into a marketing campaign. My recommendation, if you’re going to use a hashtag, do your research and make sure you’re using it properly, and that it’s a hashtag that’s actually used.

Special Characters in Emails


I had this email arrive in my inbox yesterday, to a Gmail account. As you can see, whatever special character they tried to use in the subject line for a clever % off, did not work. It makes me wonder if this email was tested at all.

If you’re considering using special characters in your emails, it’s very important to take a close look at the demographics for your audience. Emojis don’t work in some clients/browsers. Special characters don’t work in all clients/browsers. And really, what does it add to your campaign?

I’ve never opened an email because of a special character or emoji. When I’ve asked others about their thoughts, every person I’ve asked thinks that emojis in subject lines look spammy.

Wasted Space

While I know that it tends to be common practice to feature the unsubscribe link/view in a browser copy at the top of an email. If a majority of your customers have Gmail addresses, this is wasted space that could be used to entice your customers into opening the email.

Now, this isn’t only for desktop users. In the Google Inbox app I can see 43 characters of the first line of the email. On desktop, how much I see depends on how long the subject line is. Play around with this to see how you can optimize this space for your campaigns.

The Best

Here are two email subject lines that got me to not only open, but purchase something recently.

Why Did These Emails Work?


Well, the Star Wars email — because I’m a Star Wars fan. They had a pretty good sale going on for some new gear, so I purchased a few things.


Think Geek’s email — I purchased because the sale was great. They featured a product I’d wanted for a while for a discounted price. So I purchased it.



These other emails, I opened, but did not purchase from. Usually because their ‘free shipping’ meant free shipping over a threshold that I thought was unreasonable ($100, really?).


This email, while I didn’t purchase from it, I forwarded it to a friend — and she purchased something. So that’s still a win for the marketer.

How to Stand Out in the Inbox

As we get closer to the holidays, the amount of emails hitting the inbox for your customers will increase dramatically. That means it’s even more important to make every email you send count for your customers. If you’re emailing every-single-day, you might want to take a look at your methods and figure out if that’s really effective. How does once a week do vs. every day? How does once every few days work vs. every day?

Sometimes it’s the simplest subject lines that make users click. Instead of focusing on the latest trends, hashtags, or humor — feature the sale, feature the reason your users should click. Whether that be free shipping, a coupon, etc. Be clear, be concise, and conversions will follow.

Email Subject Lines - Standing Out in an Ocean of Offers
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Email Subject Lines - Standing Out in an Ocean of Offers
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