Try wordplay, humor, creative techniques
Among the most popular subject lines for my e-zine Wylie’s Writing Tips:
Now you see it
The Awwww Factor
Paint the schnauzer
Can you read me now?
Don’t commit verbicide
Pleading for shorter sentences
Want to write subject lines that get clicked? Make them entertaining.
Why write clever email subject lines?
Entertainment comprises 2 of the top 3 reasons people share information via email or social media, according to a study by Chadwick Martin Bailey, are:
- Because I find it interesting/entertaining (72%)
- To get a laugh (58%)
- Because I think it will be helpful to recipients (58%)
In another study, three Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that subject lines that make recipients curious about the contents are more likely to get opened than those that don’t.
5 steps to crafting an entertaining subject line
So how do you write subject lines that are entertaining, funny or pique readers’ curiosity? Here are five ways:
1. Make it clever …
Try a little cheekiness, as in this subject line from RLM PR about a media barbecue with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos:
Jeff Bezos Has Great Buns
Or twist a phrase, like the fashion company River Island:
There’s no business like shoe business
Or steal a tip from Weather Underground and post a pun:
Weather to pack sunscreen or an umbrella
Or tie your message to a timely topic, as in this subject line from Ragan:
Mr. Rogers’ guide to healthy corporate culture
Note that while all of these subject lines are clever, they are also clear.
2. … But not too clever.
This Cato Fashions subject line bombed in a study by usability expert Jakob Nielsen:
So did this clickbait subject line from AT&T:
Steven, wait until you see this!
As did this InterContinental Hotels subject line:
Open Your (I)s to the Wonders of the Sea
Users in the NNG studies complained of “irritatingly cutesy” subject lines. Ouch! Don’t let that phrase apply to your messages!
3. Have a personality.
Make your message personable. In one split test, SmartBrief invited readers to opt in to a newsletter. One subject line:
You’re not receiving your [industry] news
We’re sorry to see you go …
The second, more personable subject line increased the open rate by 50% and the number of subscribers by more than 60%.
4. Avoid clickbait.
Subject lines with clickbait phrases — won’t believe, shocking and secret of — reduced read rates by .34%, 1.22% and 8.69%, respectively, according to research by Return Path.
5. Avoid labels.
“CEO’s Christmas message” is a label subject line. What does she say in her message? That’s a lot more compelling.
Source: “The Art And Science Of Effective Subject Lines” (PDF), Return Path, September 2015