47% of recipients open emails based on a subject line only. In this article, we’ll walk you through 11 effective approaches you can take to make your emails break through the ice, engage with your subscribers boosting their curiosity, and encourage the open.

1. Use allusion

Allusion is a literary device which refers to a historical, mythological, political or any other well-known fact which took a toehold in the language. Marketers often use this figure of speech in naming, but you can also successfully imply it for email headings and subject lines.

Here are three simple steps you can follow to create an allusion-based subject line:

  1. Choose the keywords for your email, i.e. the words that represent its content.
  2. Pick up words consonant with these keywords: think of advertisements, movies, songs, pop-culture, or proverbs.
  3. Once you’ve found a perfect proverb or a phrase, replace consonant words with the key ones.

Choose only those words, slogans and proverbs that relate to your target audience not to sound confusing. Banana Republic, for example, plays with the name of the brand and a famous idiom “going bananas,” which comes from the American college slang, to make the email relevant to the young audience the company is targeted at.

email subject line with allusion
Email subject line with allusion from Banana Republic

2. Promise value

If the email brings perceptible value to the user, tell about it in a subject line to stimulate curiosity. For instance, Clinique promises a free makeup item and a foundation trick right in the email subject so that a recipient can see what perks are waiting for them with half an eye:

value in email subject line
Valuable email subject line from Clinique

3. Appeal to the pain points

If you have a clear vision of your target audience, then you might understand the problems they’re struggling with. Personalize your subject line to the recipient’s pain points and try to solve them with the relevant content. Just look at the example from Buzzfeed; the brand created a subject line which would definitely appeal to the female audience:

pain points in email subject line
Email subject line personalized to audience pain points from Buzzfeed

4. Stay up to date

The trick of this approach is to be just in time with the latest events, trends, or even the weather. For instance, Fashionista made a digest about the royal wedding for those who’ve missed it. If they had sent out this email even a week later, it wouldn’t be that relevant anymore.

relevant email subject line
Timely email subject line from Fashionista

5. Show off big brands

Mentioning the brands popular with your subscribers will help you attract extra attention. Multi-brand stores often use this trick, but not only they do. For example, in one of their subject lines, The Paper Store promoted Pura Vida brand, which was a bestseller among their audience.

brands in email subject line
Email subject line mentioning popular brands from The Paper Store

6. List the benefits

If your offer has multiple advantages, show them off in the subject line of your email. You can also use this approach for welcome emails, where you can describe the benefits of being your subscriber or club member — just like Vueling Club does:

benefits in email subject line
Email subject line promising the list of benefits for subscribers from Vueling Club

7. Talk numbers

The human brain is receptive to numbers because digits help organize information in a logical order. Moreover, numbers are more believable and thus convincing for people. Using them in your subject lines, you will not only attract users’ attention, but also create the feeling that the information you are going to provide in the email is unique and will work as a real lifehack for them. For example, TopShop used this approach to talk about three different styles to wear one blouse.

numbers in email subject line
Email subject line with numbers from TopShop

8. Create the sense of urgency

This technique is not new, but it still works perfectly, bringing up to 22% higher open rates. Just sprinkle your subject line with some words that threaten scarcity or urgency to motivate people to open your email and make the purchase. Urban Outfitters, for example, show up saying that the discount for an entire order is valid for one day only, so a recipient knows straight away what the email stores.

urgency in email subject line
Email subject line calling to urgency from Urban Outfitters

9. Mention the timeframe

If the timeframe is one of the benefits of your offer, state it in your subject line. It will only add value it. Skillshare, for instance, promoted their new course with 99designs, indicating its duration in a subject line of their email.

timeframe in email subject line
Email subject line stating the timeframe from 99designs

10. Create an intrigue

Create tension or leave the subject unfinished to shock your subscribers or wake up their curiosity. For instance, Messy Nessy made the email subject line sound confusing so that the users can’t resist the mystery and open the email.

intrigue in email subject line
Intriguing email subject line from Messy Nessy

11. Fool around

Humour helps to set a friendly mood and build strong relationship with your subscribers. Do not hesitate to include jokes in your subject lines — just be careful about controversial or sensitive issues. Take a look at the example from Urban Decay. The brand is “flirting” with their subscribers saying that the offer inside the email is even hotter than a summer fling, and it’s absolutely appropriate considering that their audience is mostly ladies.

funny email subject line
Funny email subject line from Urban Decay

Best email subject lines for holidays

They make people smile and laugh, arouse curiosity, address real-life problems, and, most importantly, make everyone want to click. Get inspired by our collection of holiday subject lines and think how you can implement these ideas in your emails.

Halloween subject line examples

Sometimes interesting insights can be found in regular things. Every year on Halloween, people throw away the pumpkins on which they have carved out scary faces. Cook company paid attention to that simple fact and based their email subject line on it. They asked not to throw away the pumpkin and offered supper pumpkin recipes in their Halloween email campaign.

halloween email subject line
A Halloween email subject line from Cook

“Trick or Treat” is a famous Halloween phrase which you can play around with. Spirit Airlines used allusion to it in their email subject line — “Trips and Treat” — to offer “unboolivable” deals.

halloween email subject line
A Halloween email subject line from Spirit Airlines

Thanksgiving subject line examples

When you know that your audience has some special needs or preferences, use that information to make relevant and valuable offers in your Thanksgiving emails.

The Feedfeed prepared an entire gluten free menu for those who feel frustrated by a traditional Thanksgiving table full of dishes, which are usually beyond their diet.

thanksgiving email subject line
A Thanksgiving subject line example from Feedfeed

Double your sales with a fun offer to share your products with friends. Starbucks invited everyone to celebrate Friendsgiving and order breakfast sandwiches for two: a customer themselves and their friend. They noticed that when their customers come to Starbucks with friends, they tend to buy matching drinks or dishes, and organically incorporated this insight into their holiday emails.

thanksgiving email subject line
A Thanksgiving subject line example from Starbucks

Black Friday & Cyber Monday subject line examples

Use popular song lyrics or well-known quotes from movies to build your unique subject line. Cyber Monday happens every year, but Ace Hotel Shop found a way to bring a little more attention to it by changing the “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” line up to their context.

cyber monday email subject line
A Cyber Monday subject line example from Ace Hotel Shop

If your subscribers missed out on Black Friday deals, it’s time to send out one more email and extend your offer. In their Black Friday email, MAC called all the “procrastinators” out there to enjoy extended 25% off.

black friday email subject line
A Black Friday subject line example from MAC

Christmas subject line examples

Every Christmas, users receive tons of emails, offers, and discounts. How to stand out? See beyond the name of your company and products or simply play with the words, as BlissWorld did. Their Christmas email celebrates “Blissmas” as a fun alternative to a well-known holiday.

christmas email subject line
A Christmas subject line example from BlissWorld

AirBaltic took a childhood tradition and applied it in their subject line to announce that all of their subscribers “were good” this year offering them to play a game and win presents.

christmas email subject line
A Christmas subject line example from AirBaltic

To sum it up

You may choose any technique you like and use it in your email subject lines, but remember about testing. Each audience and each segment of the brand’s subscribers is different, and your goal is to find your way to reach them.

To test different subject lines, you need to follow two simple steps:

  1. Create two emails with the same content but different subject lines. Send one variation to 20% of your subscribers and the second one to the other 20%.
  2. Track analytics and use the most successful option for the rest 60% of your mailing list.

To watch a video on the best practices for email subject lines, welcome to the SendPulse YouTube channel.

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