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Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines

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The goal of subject lines is often misunderstood; its influence underestimated; and its relationship with preview text ignored.

But even when you understand that the goal of a subject line is to generate openers who are likely to convert, that subject lines can drive offline action, and that preview text is important, there’s no secret formula for subject line and preview text success. However, there is a list of ingredients that are easily remembered as the CUE-DIVE Method.

CUE-DIVE classifies subject line and preview text content as being Contextual, Urgent, Emotional, Detailed, Intriguing, Visual, or Earned. Find the mix your subscribers respond to.

The following outstanding email marketing examples demonstrate the concepts, tactics, and strategies around Subject Lines and the CUE-DIVE Method as discussed in the 3rd Edition of "Email Marketing Rules."

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Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines

  1. 1. OUTSTANDING Email Marketing Examples of SUBJECT LINES
  2. 2. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines The goal of subject lines is often misunderstood; its influence underestimated; and its relationship with preview text ignored.
  3. 3. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines But even when you understand that the goal of a subject line is to generate openers who are likely to convert, that subject lines can drive offline action, and that preview text is important…
  4. 4. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines There’s no secret formula for subject line and preview text success. However, there is a list of ingredients that are easily remembered as the CUE-DIVE Method.
  5. 5. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines CUE-DIVE classifies subject line and preview text content as being Contextual, Urgent, Emotional, Detailed, Intriguing, Visual, or Earned. Find the mix your subscribers respond to.
  6. 6. The following outstanding email marketing examples demonstrate the concepts, tactics, and strategies around Subject Lines and the CUE-DIVE Method as discussed in the 3rd Edition of Email Marketing Rules. Order from Amazon.com 
  7. 7. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Vhat vould Dracula vear? An engaging question, posed in Dracula’s trademark diction, sets up this email promoting Halloween costumes. RedEnvelope, 10/3/06 CUE-DIVE
  8. 8. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Get it on. Our warmest, softest fleece... Abercrombie.com The “get it on” pun is a perfect match with this retailer’s young, promiscuous brand image. Abercrombie & Fitch, 11/2/06 CUE-DIVE
  9. 9. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Shop now for Mother's Day or pay until 2008. RedEnvelope takes the familiar “pay nothing until…” language and spins it into a warning about the wrath of mothers who get bad gifts. RedEnvelope, 5/11/07 CUE-DIVE
  10. 10. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines What holiday tables are wearing...plus Free Shipping Using a little anthropomorphism, Crate & Barrel brings fashion anxiety to tableware. What will your guests think of your table décor? Crate & Barrel, 10/22/07 CUE-DIVE
  11. 11. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Save $10 on Stay-cation Shopping! Demonstrating that Toys “R” Us is tuned into consumer sentiment, this subject line is one of the first to use the neologism “staycation.” Toys “R” Us, 6/27/08 CUE-DIVE
  12. 12. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Birthday. Happy birthday. Celebrating a New James Bond Release Riffing on how James Bond introduces himself, this subject line helps promote a new Bond novel on what would have been Bond creator Ian Fleming’s 100th birthday. AbeBooks, 5/28/08 CUE-DIVE
  13. 13. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines You lost. Will 15% off make it better? Matter of fact, perhaps even shockingly, this subject line notifies sweepstakes entrants that they didn’t win. Consolation prize, anyone? Urban Outfitters, 12/11/08 CUE-DIVE
  14. 14. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Want Free Shipping? Use Promo Code 49SANTA At JCP.com! Focused on generating conversions rather than opens or clicks, this subject line tells subscriber exactly how to get free shipping. JCPenney, 11/8/09 CUE-DIVE
  15. 15. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines “Is it really wrong to love a doormat?” This testimonial subject line leverages Valentine’s Day and the double-meaning of “doormat” to promote this email about actual doormats. L.L. Bean, 2/3/09 CUE-DIVE
  16. 16. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Gift Tip: Separate these sets into multiple gifts With the Great Recession underway, this subject line tried to connect with consumers who were struggling to stretch their holiday gift budgets. Sephora, 11/17/09 CUE-DIVE
  17. 17. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Fantasy No. 339... With a nod to erotica fiction, Victoria’s Secret sent several emails that December using the “Fantasy No. X” format. Who doesn’t want to know women’s fantasies? (That said, 300+ fantasies seems rather daunting.) Victoria’s Secret, 12/19/09 CUE-DIVE
  18. 18. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines We know when Tiger is coming back. Tapping into speculation around Tiger Woods’ return to golf after his sex scandal, this newsjacking subject line promotes the release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11. GameStop, 3/9/10 CUE-DIVE
  19. 19. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines We still have all this money to give away. Appealing to subscribers’ self-interest, Kohl’s uses this subject line to promote that Kohl’s Cares is giving away $10 million to schools and needs their customers to vote for deserving schools. Kohl’s, 8/11/10 CUE-DIVE
  20. 20. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines 90 Years in Seattle - We Know Rain! Eddie Bauer leverages their hometown’s rainy reputation in this subject line to promote rain coats, umbrellas, and other wet weather gear. Eddie Bauer, 2/8/10 CUE-DIVE
  21. 21. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Chad, 118 of your connections changed jobs in 2010. An early sign of personalization moving beyond first-name only, this subject line contained two personal data points and was a great lead into a highly personalized email about my connections. LinkedIn, 1/13/11 CUE-DIVE
  22. 22. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Add more fun to your walks with Suki Had this subject line said, “with your dog,” it wouldn’t have been nearly as compelling. FetchDog asks subscribers for the names of their dogs, and puts them to good use here. FetchDog, 8/9/11 CUE-DIVE
  23. 23. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Forget about daylight savings While others were reminding subscribers to set their clocks back, Brookstone stood out by advising the opposite in this subject line for an email promoting clocks that set themselves and auto-adjust to Daylight Savings. Brookstone, 10/25/11 CUE-DIVE
  24. 24. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines XOUO Inserting their brand’s initials into the common expression of affection “XOXO” for this Valentine’s Day email’s subject line is a testament to the power of brevity. Urban Outfitters, 1/31/11 CUE-DIVE
  25. 25. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Starfish: you named it. You bought every last pair. We made more. The subject line for this email—which tells the story of LE’s Starfish Pants, which got its name from customer requests—makes you feel like you missed a conversation, not just a product. Lands’ End, 6/8/11 CUE-DIVE
  26. 26. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines What bra sold 10,000 after being seen on the Today Show yesterday? Using consumer action and media attention for social validation amps up the intrigue of this question-based subject line. Frederick’s of Hollywood, 5/4/11 CUE-DIVE
  27. 27. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Dads: This Email is Not For You, Please Forward It To Your Family. The forwarding request in this subject line is a clever device to get dads to open the email to see if it’s worth forwarding. Saying it’s “not for you” just makes you want to open it more. Foot Locker, 6/8/11 CUE-DIVE
  28. 28. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Top 5 Gifts Selected by the Dads of Williams-Sonoma This subject line was at the forefront of the then-emerging trend of abandoning corporate- speak and putting a face on your marketing. Williams-Sonoma, 6/6/11 CUE-DIVE
  29. 29. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines They want to ██████ the Internet To support their rallying cry against internet censorship, this populist movement uses a series of special characters to create a black box as if the subject line were redacted. Avaaz.org, 12/10/12 CUE-DIVE
  30. 30. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Just Woke Up? Already Out? Swing By -- Stores Open at 5 a.m. Sent as the sun was coming up on Black Friday, this subject line acknowledged that subscribers might be reading this email on a mobile device in bed, in the car, or waiting outside a store. Lowe’s, 11/23/12 CUE-DIVE
  31. 31. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines You have 23 files waiting in Google Drive Google made this announcement about the transition from Google Docs to Google Drive relevant to users by telling them in the subject line how many of their files were affected. Google Drive Team, 9/13/12 CUE-DIVE
  32. 32. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Time to use your flex spending account! Like a helpful year-end “use it or lose it” reminder you should get from your FSA manager but don’t, this subject line makes you grateful and receptive to Warby Parker. Warby Parker, 12/27/12 CUE-DIVE
  33. 33. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines ●|||||||● Your Jeep newsletter is here. Using special characters, Jeep creates a very good representation of their logo, adding great branding to this subject line. Jeep, 9/5/13 CUE-DIVE
  34. 34. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Your bio's been updated. View what's new. A twist on the typical update request, this subject line notifies you that Vizify has taken action on your behalf. Of course, subscribers will be curious to know how their bio changed. Vizify, 10/3/13 CUE-DIVE
  35. 35. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines ThinkGeek's roses are #FF0000, violets are #0000FF... Geeking up the staid “roses are red, violets are blue” rhyme, ThinkGeek uses the eye-catching (and possibly head-scratching) hexadecimal color codes for the two hues in this subject line. ThinkGeek, 1/23/13 CUE-DIVE
  36. 36. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines You have $37.90 in Moosejaw Rewards Points Waiting to be Spent You’re more likely to shop where you already have money on the table, and this rewards notification email’s subject line gives subscribers a compelling reason to back and shop. Moosejaw, 12/6/13 CUE-DIVE
  37. 37. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines FLOTUS-worthy frocks. In addition to capitalizing on Michelle Obama’s popularity, this subject line uses the FLOTUS abbreviation for First Lady of the United States, keeping the text short while also sparking the curiosity of those unfamiliar with the term. ModCloth, 8/29/13 CUE-DIVE
  38. 38. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines And our #1 wine is… The Wine.com 100 is here! More evidence that retailers are finding success with a content marketing approach, this subject line feels like it’s promoting a top 100 wines magazine article. Wine.com, 12/4/13 CUE-DIVE
  39. 39. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Three emojis, two symbols, and two abbreviations gives this subject line the interactivity of a pictogram. This level of visual storytelling also means the subject line is extremely compact. Democratic National Committee, 8/20/14 CUE-DIVE
  40. 40. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Your kid said something awesome This maker of interactive children’s games keeps parents engaged by emailing them video clips of their kids responding to their app. What parent can resist a subject line like this? ToyTalk, 3/2014 CUE-DIVE
  41. 41. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Mrs + Mrs / Mr + Mr / Mr + Mrs The triples, abbreviations, and punctuation in this subject line make it eye-catching. And arriving just 10 days after Supreme Court actions led to 30 of the 50 states legalizing gay marriage made the email timely. Blue Nile, 10/16/14 CUE-DIVE
  42. 42. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines The open rate for this subject line will be 28.72% This bold and audacious subject line was perfect for promoting the email marketing agency’s new subject line performance predicting tool, Touchstone. Alchemy Worx, 7/1/14 CUE-DIVE
  43. 43. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines Happy Fourth of July! ≡ Fireworks tonight? The retailer creates a minimalistic American flag using special characters in this subject line that promotes an Independence Day sale. Vera Bradley, 7/4/15 CUE-DIVE
  44. 44. Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines This email marketing agency is always experimenting in their Email Weekly newsletter. This subject line jokingly drives home the uneven subject line support for emojis. Action Rocket, 10/23/15 CUE-DIVE
  45. 45. Did you enjoy these examples? Please share them with your friends and colleagues. Click to tweet  Check out these Outstanding Email Marketing Examples of Subject Lines from @ChadSWhite >> EmailMarketingRules.com/Examples
  46. 46. About Email Marketing Rules Email marketing’s power is matched only by how incredibly misunderstood it is. Updated and greatly expanded, the 3rd Edition of Email Marketing Rules demystifies this vital channel. Chad S. White, the author of more than 3,000 posts and articles about email marketing, takes you step by step through 150 best practices, provides extensive tactical checklists, and gives you strategic frameworks for long-term success.
  47. 47. If you want to improve your email program by…  Setting the right program goals  Building high-performance lists  Ensuring your emails are delivered  Crafting relevant messaging  Automating your messaging  Developing solid workflows Order from Amazon.com  Get the updated and greatly expanded 3rd Edition of Email Marketing Rules now!

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