When Subject Lines Are Embarrassing


Email marketers can stumble with subject lines when there’s a rigid attachment to calendars.

There is a curious belief that sending emails with subject lines and content related to holidays is somehow distinctive, relevant, and breaks through the clutter.

Maybe you’ve created an email marketing content calendar, an editorial calendar that you follow faithfully. And maybe you’ve aligned your email marketing content calendar with the holiday calendar.

Yes, it’s always a good idea to write email subject lines that relate to the interests of the subscriber.

But don’t expect to break through the clutter and distinguish yourself from every other email clogging your subscriber’s inbox when you use this holiday tactic.

Look at what happened on a recent St. Patrick’s Day…

Expedia Feeling Lucky today? St. Patrick’s Day Hotel Deals

ShopNBC  It’s your lucky day!‏

Linens ’n Things  It’s Your Lucky Day!

Avon  It’s Your LUCKY Day‏

Lane Bryant  It’s Your Lucky Day – Get $20 Off $40 Today Only‏

Petco  It’s Your Lucky Day! 17% OFF Sitewide + FREE Shipping!

Kmart  Today only: 5-20% off + free shipping (it’s your lucky day)

SmartBargains  Smart Shoppers, it’s your lucky day

Finish Line  Lucky Day! Double Points on Everything!

DisneyStore  Lucky You! Free Shipping Today Only‏

JCPenney  Luck Of The Stylish: Up To 40% Off‏

Chadwicks  Save Green! It’s the Luck of the Stylish‏

BevMo  Save Some Green for St. Patrick’s Day

Blair  No blarney! The shipping’s free with 4 items.

The Company Store  St. Patrick’s Day 30% Off 1 Item – 4 Hours Today!

J&R  St. Patrick’s Day Sale: Save Some Extra Green!‏

1-800-Flowers.com  Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Save 20% TODAY ONLY‏

Eddie Bauer  Free Shipping When You Like Us On Facebook – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!‏

As bizarre as this sameness looks on this list, imagine how it looks in your subscriber’s inbox.  The solution to the problem starts with a reasoned expectation of what the competition will be doing.

Define your competitors as anyone who sends a message to your subscriber. It doesn’t matter if they’re Eddie Bauer or Petco.

Next, decide if the holiday you’d like to leverage is actually a good fit. Is there a triangle you can complete that meaningfully connects your business, your subscriber, and the holiday?

Explore alternatives. Is there a way you can leverage a holiday with an email the day before, or the day after?

Is there a way to be cheeky, irreverent, and fun in a way that dovetails with the character of your brand?

Whatever your tactic, work hard to beat the competition with a better subject line. Bypass the obvious.

The Email Marketing Unknown

You don’t know if your subscriber will get four other emails on St. Patrick’s Day with the subject line, “It’s Your Lucky Day.”

And you don’t have to take the risk of getting lost in the blur of sameness in your subscriber’s inbox. Simply refuse to write a predictable subject line.

Push yourself harder to come up with something distinctive. Anticipate a fight and a struggle to break through the clutter.

It’s embarrassing when large and supposedly sophisticated marketers send out emails with such lame and predictable subject lines.

But it’s also a vivid reminder of the wonderful opportunities there are for smaller marketers who are creative, agile, and strategic.

The calendar that really matters isn’t hanging on the wall. It’s lodged in the mind of your subscriber.

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