Email Subject Lines: Winners or Snoozers?

A sampling of email subject lines from my inbox over the past 3 weeks include the following.

Note: XX refers to an artist's or gallery's name.
New Jewelry Designs
Happy Holidays from XX
XX Grand Gallery Opening
December Newsletter
XX December Events
Give the Gift of Art
(Town Name) Holiday Party Invitation
XX Studio Now Open
Holiday Celebrations from (Town Name)
Holiday Art Newsletter & Coupon
Hanukkah Greeting
Holiday Happenings from XX
2010 Art Sale
Attend XX, LLC. Event
art in (Town Name) [“art” wasn't capitalized]
Morning Coffee and Early Bird Class Specials
Claus It Santa
Free Shipping from XX Studio
Now that you've looked them over, I can tell you that they are all from artists or galleries. Most (if not all) of them were sent to me without my request to be added to a list, which means that I was unfamiliar with the name in the From line.
All of us are more likely to open email if we know the sender or if the subject line is compelling.
If you think one of these is yours, you might be right. But you might not be. A number of messages had the same or a very similar subject line.
So . . . are they winners or snoozers?

Did you see my article on subject lines in the December-January issue of Art Calendar? It's called “Less than 49 Characters: Mastering E-mail Subject Lines” and can be found on pages 18 and 19.

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14 thoughts on “Email Subject Lines: Winners or Snoozers?”

  1. I’m going with snoozers. Most are way too generic. (December Newsletter)
    and then others don’t even mention art or any reference to the artist ((Town Name) Holiday Party Invitation) Although “Claus it Santa” is sort of creative, I have no idea what that means, however that might could work for some as I would might read through the email to find out what they are talking about.
    I’m thinking there needs to be just the right amount of mystery (so that customers will be intrigued to actually read the email) combined with information (without being deadpan or boring) with a fresh, creative phrase.
    The words “coupon”, “newsletter” and “free” are overdone and frankly ones I tend to just delete right away. They are terms I think that should be left to the actual email as opposed to the subject line.
    We are artists. We are creative, so let’s get creative!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Will: I loved Claus It Santa. I opened it up right away.
      You’re right: something to pique the curiosity.
      “Holiday Greetings” are just rampant in inboxes this time of year. Gotta stand out.

  2. Well that certainly got me thinking because I they were so generic that I thought they were ok. I guess even in the email titles artist need to market and find ways to entice readers. But it makes sense because marketing for artists needs to be even more savvy than your ordinary business.
    Slightly off topic: How often do you feel artist should make contact with their subscribers? If you use other platforms such as facebook and twitter is it possible to turn people away with too much marketing?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Vanessa: Look at your inbox. What makes you want to open something?
      Contact them in multiple ways, varying your message for each. I’m all about “sharing” rather than “selling” (sales speak). Just be likable.

  3. I’m also going with Snoozers.
    Not knowing any of the names of who these emails are from I don’t even bother to open them. They go straight to the trash. Now that I am keeping my inbox to no more than 30-40…they are out of there.
    Your article on subject lines in the December-January issue of Art Calendar is very helpful. I loved the Museum “Live Human Beings” subject line.
    I like what Will says, “we are artists, we are creative”.
    So…Let’s create awesome subject lines. I am definitely working on it! My last mailing from mail chimp went to 706 people and only 193 opened. I’m thinking that a lot of it had to do with the subject line.
    Thanks Alyson!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Dora: Don’t look too closely at those stats! There are so many variables that make them false.
      What you can do is to look at the numbers over a long run: when do they go up and down.
      But what you saw doesn’t mean that only 193 people opened. It could have been many more.

  4. Including the typo was a good idea. That would be a certain trip to the trash from my in-box. Proof reading customer communications is so important yet often overlooked.
    The morning coffee subject is the one that piqued my interest the most.
    Thanks for starting this conversation.

    1. Lori: Do you mean the uncapitalized “art”? I don’t consider that a typo. Maybe I mistyped something somewhere.
      Yes, I think Morning Coffee stood out as well. I thought the last 3 were the best. Whether or not “Free” (as in “Free Shipping”) is overused, it still gets to the point of what is in the message when you open it.

  5. I’m going against the grain with you on this one. When I get a newsletter I like a clear subject line. There’s is nothing more annoying then trying to find that xx artist’s last newsletter amongst all the emails in my in box and not being able to find it because it had a clever and overly mysterious subject line. What if I saved their newsletter so that I had the info. on their latest show that I wanted to attend but couldn’t find it and missed the event because their email got buried in the heap of emails I receive? Clever and different is fun but I think clarity is important too.

    1. Kim: Don’t you think you can be clever AND clear? I think that’s the point. Those last 3 (which I think are the best) actually had content that related to the subject line.
      And I don’t even think “clever” is necessary. Creative, interesting might be better words.

    2. I don’t think this was a very good example from Kim. Seems to me that if she saved an email from an artist, whose show she wanted to attend, she would know the name of the artist and be able to sort her emails by Sender, thus finding the newsletter quite easily.

  6. Heh! You know what kills me?
    “Read my newsletter” or “Read my new blog post.” Really? Why?
    And for those who think that Twitter helps them become masters with the art of brevity haven’t considered that words are painting to the canvas. “New Blog Post” is neither insightful or inspiring -specially in the land of noise.
    I love “Claus It Santa” That could go one of two ways and I want to know! 😉

  7. Pingback: Stop! Don’t Send Your Email Message Before Reading This — Art Biz Blog

  8. Pingback: Mastering Subject Lines in 49 Characters or Less — Art Biz Blog

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