Short & Sweet Wins The Click: Killer Email Subject Lines

You don’t have time for bad subject lines; literally. On average, readers spend about a fraction of a second scanning individual email tag lines in their inbox. And a good portion of those end up in the land of things unopened. In short: if your email header it isn’t catchy or informative, all of your hard work on the email body will go to waste… literally. In the trash bin.

Gone.

Forever.

But there’s good news: according to HubSpot, 64 percent of people say they will open an email because the subject line caught their attention. So, before you send out your beautifully crafted email, give a little extra love to that subject line. To help get you started, we’ve compiled a few examples that stood out to us, and successfully made us open our emails.

Short and sweet wins the click

Think of an email subject line as a newspaper header, but with added urgency for action. Keeping it concise will ensure that your audience receives your message directly as they scan through their inbox.

These subject lines sum it up pretty well:

  • Top Golf welcomed us right after we had signed up for our first round, and prompted us to open the email with the promise of $10 off a future game.
  • A sense of urgency with some playfulness is nicely wrapped up in this two-word subject line from The Daily Carnage. Bare in mind that their pre-header enhances the subject line:
  • And once again, The Daily Carnage redefines bare-minimum with a simple sound (still backed up with that pre-header):

Make your email pop with emojis

You know how they say an image is worth a thousand words? How about one little emoji that’s worth at least ten? Humans are visual, and a small emoji can have a big impact in subject lines. But before you add in that emoji, make sure it enhances your message, rather than hinders it. Overuse or ambiguous implementation could prove detrimental.

  • Here, Imperfect Produce brakes down the word “Apple Pancakes” with the Apple emoji. Although this email was in the middle of the inbox sea-of-sameness, our eyeballs landed on it first. As an added bonus, it was sent in the morning, right when we were dreaming of syrupy breakfast:
  • Keep got mischievous with their sly-face emoji, reminding us of what we always tell ourselves when we buy something nice: “Treat yo’ self”:
  • And Quartz Obsession successfully evoked ABBA’s classic song “Thank You for the Music,” while making us nostalgic all at the same time:

If you decide to make use of an emoji or two, make sure it’s consistent across all platforms and on all types of mobile devices. Emojipedia can verify that for you. For more information and interesting insights on the use of emojis in email subject lines, check out this study.

Know and engage your audience

You know when you’re scrolling through Facebook and the header of an article makes you want to know what exactly “the most meme-able moment of the royal wedding” was? That’s because the title doesn’t directly inform you of the answer, but cunningly encourages you to click to find out. We could get into a whole conversation around the ethics and annoying tactics of click-bait, but it exists for a reason. And it doesn’t only work with news articles; Email has a little click-bait version of its own: substance and urgency.

While you want to stay away from blatantly annoying click-bait (which could actually backfire), you do want to aim for a subject line that gets your audience excited, and that is more informative than those click-bait titles.

  • This one from Core Power Yoga doesn’t directly reveal what’s in the message (it was a new app launch, if you’re wondering), but it makes the audience feel as if there is a nearly one-on-one relationship going on between the brand and themselves, like they’re in on a secret:

This works because Core Power Yoga knows their audience, and realizes that their community is quite strong (literally and figuratively). Like Soul Cycle addicts, Core Power junkies tend to be quite loyal to the brand. They know that any new updates will most likely benefit their practice, rather than be an annoyance. So, when writing email subject lines like this, keep in mind that you need to let your audience know that there is something in it for them. And when they open that email, they will stay engaged, rather than disappointed.

It’s okay to laugh (especially at yourself)

Everyone loves humor, and in a grey, mostly boring inbox, making someone laugh can be a huge bonus.

  • Father John Misty’s ironic representation of a sloppy, last-minute yet urgent email in all caps, complete with a vague description of what the email is for, is, quite frankly, brilliant. Many brands tend to over-use urgency to the point of ridiculousness, at which Father John Misty’s team flawlessly pokes fun by using ‘FATHER JOHN MISTY EMAIL THING’ as their tour dates email subject line. On top of that, the near self-deprecating tone and style match the singer’s personality to a T:
  • Another great example of all-caps is this email from Keep. Rolling with the emojis while simultaneously referencing the classic Mean Girls film, they sum up their own preoccupation with fashion while making a cultural connection that most of their targeted (millennial) audience will instantly understand:

Both of these brands successfully used humor and all-caps without coming off as spammy. Bare in mind that all caps won’t work on all audiences, and each audience (especially segmented ones), may have a different sense of humor.


In short, never neglect your subject line. And have some fun with it! You never know — you could potentially brighten someone’s inbox.

Have any email subject lines that you feel the world needs to see? Send them our way or drop them in the comments below.