Your subject lines have the power to make or break your email campaigns, so they’re not to be taken lightly. Nearly 50% of email recipients open an email based solely off the subject line, so it’s unwise to think that you can get away with a boring subject line just because the actual content of your email is important.
With inboxes busier than ever, your subject lines need to command the reader’s attention, invoke their curiosity, make them laugh, or inspire them to to take action. Below, we’ve rounded up 5 of our favourite email subject lines and explain why they’re so effective at building a relationship with the reader while inspiring them to take action.
Avaaz: "48 Hours To Save The Bees”
Why It’s Effective: Avaaz’s subject line gives a clear, quantifiable deadline which compels inspired readers to take action now instead of mentally bookmarking the task for "later.” Plus, it places the dismal fate of the bees in the readers’ hands — how they choose to respond (or not) will make a very real impact on the billions of bees dying from poisonous pesticides.
UNICEF: "How Many Children Will You Save Today?”
Why It’s Effective: This subject line gets straight to the point. UNICEF already works under the assumption that their email subscribers have a heart for children’s welfare, so that’s not the point in question here — how many children the reader is willing to save is. Remember, if someone voluntarily signed up for your mailing list, then they already care about supporting your cause! So don’t just use questions in your subject line that ask them to get involved… ask how much they would like to contribute.
So instead of:
- "Will you help these animals in shelters across Toronto today?”
- "Can you give the gift of breakfast to the homeless this month?”
- "How many shelter dogs will you help recover from malnutrition?”
- "How many meals will you help serve to the homeless this month?”
Warby Parker: "Uh Oh, Your Prescription Is Expiring”
Why It’s Effective: Warby Parker is an eyewear brand known for giving the gift of sight to impoverished communities through its Buy A Pair, Give A Pair initiative. Psychologically, we humans find it difficult to resist the fear of missing out (infamously known as FOMO), and Warby Parker harnesses this fear to motivate readers to action.
Keywords that imply limited availability (scarcity) or limited time (urgency):
- "Today Only”
- "We Need You!”
Brandywine Red Clay Alliance: "It’s A Trashy Party, And You’re Invited!”
Why It’s Effective: Wait, hear us out! Before you think we're out of our minds here, context matters here. The Red Clay Alliance promotes environmental restoration, conservation and education — with this subject line, they’re making a quirky play on words for their environmental community event to clean up the garbage littering the Red Clay Watershed.
This funny line paid off during A/B testing with an open rate of 35% (versus the safer, more traditional alternative, "Join us at the Red Valley Clean Up!” at 28%). If and when appropriate, consider injecting a bit of humour into your subject line to momentarily throw your readers off and put a smile on their faces.
Charity: Water: "You Did It! Here’s Where We Used Your Donations…”
Why It’s Effective: Of course, every interaction with your supporters should not just be your organization asking for more, more, more. You’ll eventually run your readers into the ground from donor fatigue! So take a note from the Charity: Water’s subject line above that congratulates the reader for their efforts so far, along with proof of how their giving is making a real difference in the world.
Sharing this virtual "high-five” periodically with your donors is a fun, important way to show appreciation, build loyalty, and nurture a positive relationship with your supporters. By getting progress updates on your organization’s initiatives, you earn your readers’ trust and get them excited about how much more good they can do by continuing to give.