6 Superb Email Marketing Subject Lines

Writing a subject line can be tricky. It’s often left to the last minute, you’ve exhausted all creative thought processes during the template creation process, and your brain just isn’t working.

As a marketer you’ll be aware of how much pressure can ride on the subject line alone. If an email marketing campaign succeeds or flops, the subject line is one of the main reasons. The subject line is there to entice the contact to open, read and ultimately take action after receiving the email.

Here’s a list of 5 ways to improve your subject lines, and below are some examples from my own inbox over the last week:

1. It’s better to be clear than clever

It can be tempting to try something quirky or clever in your subject line, but this can results in a lot of annoyed contacts. When writing a subject line, it’s best to be clear and explain the content of the email.

When the user clicks on the email they should know what to expect when they open it. They don’t want unwanted surprises, and don’t want to waste their time.

2. Avoid certain words

Certain words will flag up spam filters and may mean your email doesn’t reach the specific inbox. This isn’t a set rule for all emails, rather a gentle suggestion. Try to avoid:

-     % off

-     Reminder

-     Help

-     Buy

-     Free

-     Urgent

-     Earn

-     From home

3. Subject line length

Whilst it is important to explain the content of the email, you don’t want to waffle on. Your subject line should be no more than 50 characters in length. Remember some contacts will use a mobile device to open the email, and will not see the whole thing.

4. Create a sense of urgency

As always with marketing, the trick is to get to consumer to buy something now, you need to instil a degree of urgency into the contact to get them to take action now. Try something along the lines of:

-     Buy one dress and have another on the house – today only

-     Crazy reductions: Only two hours left

5. Use personalisation

Emails that use personalisation have been proven to have a higher open and click through rate than those that don’t. Try using a first name in your subject line. This states to the customer that you care, and have taken time to find out your name, and implement it into a campaign.

What sounds better? ‘Amy, great deals for you’ or ‘Valued customer, great deals for you’. Definitely the former.


One of the best ways to gauge if your subject line will be successful is by putting yourself in the contact’s shoes. Imagine yourself as an email recipient: what would you like to receive, what would you expect when you open the email, which subject lines would make you delete or junk the email? Use the subject line to say to tell the customer that great content is only one more click away.


Here are 6 subject lines that landed in my inbox over the last week:

1. Bank Fashion

We’ve been debated the use of symbols in subject lines for a while now, and whilst some marketers don’t like symbols, more and more companies are using them. This may be because more and more email users and opening them on mobile devices and symbols look great on mobiles and tablets. It also makes the email stand out from the rest in the inbox. But be careful, as they may not display correctly on all devices and email clients – your user may end up seeing a blank white box.

sl bank


I also really like this similar subject from New Look:

sl new look



2. Tumblr

This subject is so short and simple that it immediately caught my eye. I’m sure many recipients had the same thought process as me: ‘What’s brilliant? I must immediately find out!’

sl brilliant



Upon opening the email, there was one single line and a straight forward call to action:

Tumblr are taking the very direct approach.

tumblr email









3. Lumosity

Lumosity email me as I have downloaded one of their apps, and I’ve been receiving emails ever since. I picked this subject line, again because of the great use of a symbol. And this subject line is intriguing. I want to know more about the study, can I download it? Or do I need to read it online?

They have made me want to click without directly trying to sell me something, they haven’t lied, and they and it’s clear what content I will see when I open the email.

sl lumosity



4. Subway

I really loved this subject line. The personalisation caught my eye, and the personality. Let’s face it, newsletters aren’t the most exciting emails a contact will receive, but they do work well for driving traffic back to the site, and encouraging engagement. Subway have kept it nice and simple, and I obviously know what to expect when I open the email.

sl subway

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