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August 26, 2014 // 4:48 PM

Marketing Tools

10 of the Best Email Subject Lines You've Ever Read (Clone)

Written by Ben Lodge | @

email_marketing_subject_linesI'd venture a guess you get many emails in your inbox every day. Coupons, daily deal sites, newsletters, password resets, lead nurturing emails, social media notifications, invitations to your friend's party, and maybe even an email from your mom. That's a lot to sift through, never mind open.

So what makes you want to actually take that extra step to actually open an email? Most times, it's the subject line. After all, it's the email's first impression -- it lets you be the judge of the content inside. I always ask myself one question before opening an email pretty much solely based on the effectiveness of the subject line: If I open this email, will it be a waste of time?

Granted, there are other elements of an email that make me want to open it -- a familiar sender name, for example -- but 9 times out of 10, the subject line is the determining factor. 

If you're an email marketer -- or just someone who happens to send emails on behalf of your company -- you don't want to be one of those ignored, or (gasp) deleted, emails in your subscribers' inboxes. You've gotta make sure your email subject lines are top-notch ... and what better way to learn how to do that than by examining the best subject lines we've seen?

Check out the following 10 subject lines that we are completely bananas about to get some tips for your own emails. 

1) Barack Obama: "Hey"

Like most things in inbound marketing, simple subject lines can be much better than complex ones. This example isn't about a great subject line, but rather an even greater subject line and sender name pairing.

Regardless of your political leanings, imagine getting an email in your inbox like this. It's overly familiar, which makes you wonder, "What in the world would Barack Obama have to say to me? I've got to click this now." And that's what made this email one of the most successful of Obama's entire reelection campaign. 

In your own emails, think about how you can pair unlikely subject lines and sender names to surprise your subscribers and get them to open emails. Got a high-up executive your subscribers respect and admire? Try a casual greeting like Obama's in the subject line. Or, pair a goofy mascot with a pretty serious subject line.

The goal here is to get someone curious enough about the inside message to click on it. And in the case of Obama's email, I definitely would've clicked just to find out what personal message lay inside.

2) Zillow: "What Can You Afford?"

Imagine getting this subject line in your inbox from a website showing apartments for rent. It's both exciting and encouraging ("Here are a bunch of apartments RIGHT in your budget. Yay!"), but also kind of competitive -- pitting your cash against what the market offers. Would you click it? I certainly would.

Playing off psychological emotions is key to getting people to open your emails. You don't have to be a psychologist to know how to take advantage of them, either. Get caught up with this ebook from Unbounce -- while it's all about landing pages, the same principles can apply to email subject lines. Principles like urgency, scarcity, and social proof are all great ways to increase your conversion rates.

3) UncommonGoods: "As You Wish"

In addition to knowing what psych principles will entice your subscribers to click, you should also think about what makes them tick.

For example, take this subject line from UncommonGoods sent to me from a die-hard fan of The Princess Bride. Apparently, "As You Wish" is a pretty big reference to that movie (I know, I know -- I need to see it already), so when she got this email in her inbox with that subject line, she just HAD to click.

Even though she logically knew that the email was a blast, it seemed that it was tailored to be sent personally to her -- after all, why else would it include a reference to Princess Bride in the title? 

UncommonGoods knows its buyer persona like the back of its metaphorical hands. While it may not send emails to individual subscribers with references to their favorite movies in the title, it does know who its subscribers are and what their interests are. Every one of us should aspire to know our buyer personas that intimately. 

4) Eater Boston: "Where to Drink Beer Right Now"

Okay, you caught me: I'm a beer lover. (One of the many reasons I like working at HubSpot.) But that's not what hooked me in this email. The subject line arrived in my inbox just at the time I needed it: at 6:45 on a Wednesday night. Absolutely. Genius. 

Think about it: You're just over hump day and want to decompress with a few coworkers after work. You get a notification on your phone right as you're about to head out and it says "Where to Drink Beer Right Now." Perfect timing makes this subject line something you can't help but click on.

For your own emails, think about how timing will affect how people perceive your emails. Even if you send an email in an off-peak hour, you could get higher engagement on your email -- if you have the right subject line.

5) Ticketmaster: "Read your review for John Mulaney"

It's a natural tendency to be proud of something you create -- whether it's a cake, a 100-page ebook, or just a review you wrote about a show you saw last week. Ticketmaster knew that and catered to that tendency in the subject line above.

A friend of mine had seen John Mulaney and then left a review of the show on Ticketmaster. To get her back on her site -- maybe to promote her review or buy tickets for another show -- Ticketmaster sent her that email subject line.

Who wouldn't want to go check out their own review after they left it? Maybe someone would want to check out other reviews, see if anyone responded, or just see their own name in pretty lights. Heck, I blog for a living and I still get excited to see my name in a byline. Remember: Everyone's got an ego -- playing to it could have a big impact on your open and engagement rates.

6) JetBlue: "You're missing out on points."

Have you ever heard about FOMO? That's an acronym for "fear of missing out." It's a big deal, especially now with our hyper-connected society.

It's also an effective marketing tactic you can use to engage your email subscribers. Check out that subject line from JetBlue -- it's not shy about letting you know what you're missing out on. But naturally, most people don't want to miss out on things -- especially if those things could save them money or time down the road. JetBlue points may not be the most valuable thing you might be missing out on, but it's worth an email open to find out.

So, think about the value proposition of the email you're going to be sending before you write the email. Is there something unique you're offering that could save people time, money, or effort? Try modeling a subject line after JetBlue and let your subscribers know what they're missing.

7) BuzzFeed: "Not Cool, Guys"

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love BuzzFeed. I think its staff has some of the best writers out there. And that writing staff includes exceptional email marketing staff. I've signed up for BuzzFeed's daily emails, and pretty much any day it has the best subject line in my inbox. 

Okay, some of BuzzFeed's subject lines aren't always my favorite, but it's the combination of subject lines and the preview text that is golden. They're friendly, conversational, and, above all, snarky.

Here's the text that followed the subject line above: "Okay, WHO left the passive-aggressive sticky note on my fridge. Honestly, who acts like this?" That conversational tone and snark pulls me in over and over and over again -- but it's the preview text that completes the experience for me. 

We're not all equipped to be snarky writers, but most email platforms have the preview text easily available to edit. How can you use that little extra space to delight your customers -- oh, and probably improve your email stats? Maybe you could use the subject line as a question and the preview text area as the answer. Or maybe it's a dialogue: subject line is one person and preview text is another.

You get the idea. By using that space, you have more opportunities to attract new subscribers.

8) Thrillist: "DO NOT Commit These Instagram Atrocities"

No matter how humble people are, most don't like to do things wrong ... so why not play on that natural human tendency in an email subject line? Thrillist certainly does in the subject line above, and it makes the language even more vibrant by using DO NOT.

Instead of using the typical contraction "don't," Thrillist spells it out and adds the all-caps for effect. That way, you'll notice the subject line in your inbox and then not be able to resist clicking on it. 

Think about how going negative in your marketing can be a good thing. Most people have anxiety about looking silly and stupid -- so figure out how you can play to those emotions in subject lines. Of course, it's important to back up that subject line with encouraging, helpful content so you're not just ranting at people all day.

Getting negative can get your subscribers' attention -- this subject line certainly caught mine!

9) AddThis: "10 Engagement Tips to Gobble Over Thanksgiving"

I don't know about you, but I am a SUCKER for puns. If I get a pun in an email subject line, I pretty much open it, no questions asked. And I'd venture to say that I'm not the only one who loved this AddThis email in my inbox this past week.

If you are punny, think about small ways you can slip them into your emails to spice them up. It's easy to go overboard, so if you're concerned about being too punny, check with a coworker who really hates them. They'll tell you whether you're going overboard or hitting a sweet spot.

Puns can let your company loosen up a bit without going overboard -- definitely a way to dip your toe in the water of a fun, vibrant online brand.

10) Buffer: "Buffer has been hacked - here is what's going on"

Last, but certainly not least, is a subject line from Buffer. A few weeks ago, Buffer got hacked -- every tech startup's worst nightmare. But Buffer handled it exceptionally well -- especially on the email front.

What I admire about the subject line is that it's concise and direct. In a crisis, you better not be using puns (seriously, ignore example 9). People want to see that you're not only taking the situation seriously, but they also want to be reassured that the world isn't ending.

Because of the way the subject line is worded and formatted, you feel like Buffer is calm and collected about the issue and is taking your personal safety into consideration. That's pretty hard to do in just a few words. 

In your own emails, think about how your tone can be reflected through formatting. Buffer, for example, uses pretty causal formatting in the subject line so you feel much closer to it in the midst of the crisis. Play around with uppercase and lowercase words -- and maybe even throw in an ellipses or a dash. Your subscribers may love it.

These are just some of my favorite subject lines. Which companies consistently send you great email subject lines? Share your favorites with us in the comments!

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Topics: Email Marketing

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