Welcome to the Retail Email Blog’s fifth annual inductions into the Subject Line Hall of Fame, which honors retailers whose subject lines stand out in the inbox because of their creativity and originality. A great subject line can mean the difference between an opened email and a deleted one. While mentioning a fantastic deal in a subject line can generate great open rates, you may not always have killer deals to tout. Creativity in 60 characters or less can give your emails the edge. After reading nearly 16,000 retail emails during 2010, here are my picks for the most outstanding subject lines:
GameStop, 3/9 — We know when Tiger is coming back.
Tapping into a major news topic and the endless speculation on when Tiger Woods would return to playing golf in the wake of his sex scandal, this subject line from GameStop grabs subscribers’ attention to promote the June release of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 video game.
J&R, 12/17 — Free Shipping DAY? People Puhleeze, We Have Free Shipping All Holiday Season!
Mocking any retailer that dared make a big deal out of Free Shipping Day, J&R used the occasion to trumpet that they’ve been offering free shipping all holiday season. It was a great branding moment—with a little New York City sass to boot.
Victoria’s Secret, 3/29 — Get Naked: Tomorrow at Victoria's Secret.
Is Victoria’s Secret holding a nudist in-store event tomorrow? While the truth—that they were introducing The Nakeds by Victoria’s Secret line—was less exciting, the wordplay likely boosted opens and garnered more…um, exposure for the launch.
Kohl’s, 8/11 — We still have all this money to give away.
Appealing to subscribers’ self-interest, Kohl’s uses this subject line to promote that their Kohl’s Cares charity is giving away $10 million to schools and needs their customers to vote for deserving schools.
Disney Store, 3/17 — Spell Your Name & Save Up to 30% on Tees!
Hey, I know how to spell my name! Gimme that discount. Well, it turns out that you didn’t even have to know how to spell your name to get the discount on personalized tees offered in this email.
The Company Store, 6/7 — Get Fresh...in bed
To promote the idea of buying fresh bed linens, the Company Store uses the “…in bed” fortune cookie joke in their subject line. It’s tongue in cheek in a way that they aren’t usually, so it really caught stood out.
Eddie Bauer, 2/8 — 90 Years in Seattle - We Know Rain!
Eddie Bauer flexes their heritage with a sense of humor in this subject line to promote rain coats, umbrellas and other wet weather gear.
Disney Store, 2/10 — Alice is Here! Open Me!
While subject lines regularly implore subscribers to “open” an email or look for “details inside,” this Disney email promoting their Alice in Wonderland collection does a nice job of making that request fresh by punning off the famous “Eat Me” cake and “Drink Me” bottle from the movie.
GameStop, 2/9 — Aliens, Predators & Humans play lethal Rock, Paper, Scissors
Triples, symmetry and humor—what more could you ask for in a subject line promoting the Aliens vs. Predator video game?
Barnes & Noble, 6/3 — Book your summer getaway here. Save 10% on first class reading.
Figurative language bookended by two double-meanings makes for a nice subject line that taps into subscribers travel plans and the need for travel reading.
Subject Line Hall of Shame
While 2010 gave us some inspired subject lines, it also gave us some poorly thought out and poorly executed stinkers. Here are the worst:
eBags, 7/14 — 10023439, eBags Friends & Family Back to School Event Starts Now
Personalized greetings are supposed to indicate that a marketer knows you on some level—if only your name. In this eBags email, the first name personalization breaks, inserting numbers where the name should be. Ouch! I’ve been reduced to a number.
Lillian Vernon, 9/14 — The Weather Getting Cool & so is this Double Offer!
A missing word didn’t help this already grammatically challenged subject line. Presumably Lillian Vernon meant to write that the weather IS getting cool. But even so, is the double offer also getting cool?
Avon, 12/11 — Rock'in Around the Holiday's
For this email about “Smooth Mineral Makeup,” Avon goes to great lengths to inject a pun into the subject line. The “rock” pun is pretty forced and the awkward punctuation looks even more like an error because of the errant apostrophe in “Holidays.”
Hanna Andersson, 8/19 — New Hannas + Early Savings In Time For BTS!
It’s possible that this subject line intrigued folks by using the cryptic BTS acronym. It apparently stands for “back to school,” but that was news to me. No other retailer used that shorthand and the top results when googling “BTS” included the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and Back to Sleep, a set of recommendations for reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
>>Want more subject line inspiration? Check out the 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006 inductees into the Subject Line Hall of Fame, as well as the Outstanding Subject Lines section of every Season Finale and the Subjectivity Scanner at the end of every AM Inbox.
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