An Email Subject Line is Not a Fine Wine

April 15, 2008

I’m reading mailchimp’s study of best and worst subject lines. Most of the high open rate lines are straightforward and give a clear idea of what’s inside. Low open rate lines tend to be less clear about the content. The lesson: email marketing is not dead. It’s just becoming more honest.

My guess is the results would have been different five years ago. The move towards transparency of intent is driven by increasing savviness. Most of us now understand when you’re trying to trick us into opening something. A study over time would probably reveal changes in what we find compelling enough to open. Unlike a fine wine, an email subject line does not age well. Whatever practices work for you now should be examined and updated regularly.

I wonder how the tagline on this famous National Lampoon cover would fare as an email subject line. Mailchimp’s study makes me think it would be less effective today than it was in the past. (But it’s still my favorite magazine cover ever).

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