Psst! Want to Know How to Write Irresistible Subject Lines?

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by Alan Harris Did the headline grab your attention? You’ve probably come across similar headlines or subject lines in your inbox – t...

by Alan Harris


Did the headline grab your attention? You’ve probably come across similar headlines or subject lines in your inbox – they’re emotionally responsive. And while you might be more familiar with the straightforward, value-driven email subject lines such as, “get 10% off,” sticking to a cut-and-dry approach may wear out your readers.

Appealing to your readers’ practical side is a proven strategy. But for the sake of variety, mixing things up and connecting with your subscribers on an emotional, rather than just an intellectual level can leave a lasting impression. Here’s how to appeal to your readers’ emotions:

There are two basic types of emotionally responsive subject lines: negative and positive. While the former is used more often, both types can be used to resonate with customers on an emotional level:

Negative Responses
There are a variety of ways in which negative emotional responses can be used, but these effective ones convince your subscribers that they shouldn’t ignore your email:
  • Fear of losing money – Let’s say you’re running a promo for a $20 discount. Rather than using a ho-hum “get $20 off” in your subject line, try something like “Ignoring this email is like throwing $20 away.” Which subject line would entice you open?
  • Fear of missing out – The fear of missing out on something is perhaps even more powerful than the fear of wasting money. The fear has even earned its own pop culture acronym: FOMO. Whether it’s an opportunity, invitation, or information, most people don’t want to be left out. The title of this blog post is an example of FOMO.
Positive Responses
Nobody likes a downer, so don’t rely too heavily on negative emotionally responsive subject lines.

Sometimes, it’s more appropriate to focus on the positives:
  • Use positive imagery – Paint a rosy picture in your subject line with wording that evokes warm, positive feelings. For example, a retail store promoting their new fall/winter clothing line might say, “Stay cozy this fall – soft cardigans and fuzzy sweaters are here!”
  • Appeal to their altruistic side – Some of the most successful positive emotionally responsive subject lines are used by non-profits and charitable organizations. Think about the local SPCA using a subject line that reads, “Would you give 5 minutes to save an animal’s life?”
Insider Tip
Make sure the content of your emails, blog posts and landing pages back up your emotionally responsive subject lines. Not only is maintaining consistent messaging from subject line to content required by the CAN-SPAM act here in the U.S., but failing to do so may lead your subscribers to feel misled, which will result in an increased unsubscribe rate.

If you’re new to writing emotionally responsive subject lines, try an split test to measure engagement. Send an email with an emotionally responsive subject line to half your list, and a regular subject line to the rest. You may be surprised by the results!

Have you come across some successful emotionally responsive subject lines in your own inbox? Share ’em with us!


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#DIGITAL: Psst! Want to Know How to Write Irresistible Subject Lines?
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