Subject Line Sunday: July 6

I know I keep going back and forth between Subject Line Saturday and Subject Line Sunday, but it’s honestly just going to be whenever I have time to write. I’ll get on a real schedule someday. But you’ll be happy to know I’ve reviewed every email in my promotions tab, and have a spreadsheet filled with things to write about. But first, some subject lines that caught my attention for all the wrong reasons, one that was really good, and one that is flawless.


1. NORDSTROM RACK – 7/3/14

Subject line:  It's On! CLEAR THE RACK is Here

Whoops. Don’t forget to send yourself a test email. And if you’re a retailer, you might want to double-check and make sure your subject line looks right in Gmail.

Speaking of weird characters…

2. MICHAEL KORS – 6/27/14

Subject line: Don’t Miss Out祐hop Our Summer SALE! 

Okay, I’m sure we can all figure out what happened here. According to Google Translate, the character between “Out” and “hop” means “Help.” The subject line was actually a secret cry for help targeted toward MK’s Japanese-speaking subscribers. It’s pretty obvious their subject line writer, who is likely Japanese, was kidnapped by Michael Kors to write subject lines, and this person is trying to escape.

3. GAP – 7/1/14

Subject line: What are you waiting for, ?

Personalization can be extremely effective for open rates. We all know that. But when the personalization doesn’t quite work, well… not so much. I don’t know if this was a mistake for everyone or just me. When I registered for emails using this address, I made my first name “ES,” so I’d at least expect to see that here. I didn’t get this email in my personal email account (and Gap should DEFINITELY know my name there), so I don’t know.  The lesson: If you’re going to personalize a subject line, spot check, scrub your list, and have a default name to use if it makes sense. Another option would be to pull a segment of subscribers who don’t have a first name filled in, and send them a different subject line altogether.


4. DILLARD’S – 6/28/14

Subject line: Add’I 30% off clearance today, 6/28/14

I’m just curious why they abbreviated “Add’l” here. The subject line wasn’t terribly long, and a few extra characters wouldn’t make or break anything. Or perhaps they just read this article about the ideal length for any piece of content on the internet according to SCIENCE. (Subject line ideal length: 28 – 39 characters. Dillard’s, you could have left out the date and spelled out “Additional.”)


5. STAPLES – 6/27/2014

Subject line: Dollar. Days! Dollar. Days!

I don’t even know what this was. My best guess is that they were trying to make it sound like some kind of chant, possibly tying it in with World Cup excitement. It was just really oddly punctuated. It got my attention though, so there’s that.



Subject line: Oops! We shrunk our satchel…

I liked this one. It’s a nice subtle reference to some great 90s kids movies, and it makes it pretty clear what they’re promoting – a smaller version of their satchel bag. And the “Oops!” at the beginning grabbed attention because everyone loves to see someone fail (and if you don’t, why are you reading this blog?), and made people want to see if they had made some mistake. Nice subject line!

And finally…


7. BANANA REPUBLIC – 6/29/2014

Subject line: You woke up like this. 





Subject Line Sunday: June 1

Here are the most noteworthy subject lines I received last week. Several brands referenced the long weekend for Memorial Day, and others seemed to be very cognizant that people weren’t very focused on work during the week. Here we go…


Over the course of several days, they sent out a few emails that kind of felt like work emails. Subject lines referenced “High Priority,” “Deadline,” and “Check your calendar.” Of course, they were all about a sale. But they sent them starting on a Thursday before a holiday weekend, and continued them throughout the weekend. I like to keep my work and shopping separate, J. Crew. The actual email designs looked like they had memos in them and used a courier font. (You know, because most people still use typewriters to send memos at work these days.)

5/22/2014 – High priority: shopping for summer weekends


5/24/2014 – Sale deadline approaching…


5/24/2014 – Check your calendar…


5/26/2014 – OK, seriously, check your calendar!!

I will say, this last one was a nice way to follow up to the other “Check your calendar” email. I hadn’t engaged with the first one. Many email marketers struggle with how to give certain promotions an extra push when they don’t have extra content to send, I thought this was a fun way to bring urgency to the email.



This next subject line from Walmart caught my eye for a few reasons. $10.42 is kind of a weird number. I know there are data out there that says specific dollar amounts and percentages that don’t end in 5 or 0 grab more attention, so maybe that was their angle. But $10.42 seems kind of low for a graduation gift…

Walmart – 5/23/2014
Subject: From $10.42! Get gifts grads love.

These next few were about Memorial Day weekend without actually talking about Memorial Day, which I kind of liked. There seemed to be a common theme with these (and the J.Crew series above): We would all rather shop and focus on getting our summers started than be at work.

Express – 5/26/2014
Subject: Day off? It’s time to shop!

Banana Republic – 5/26/2014
Subject: Going back to work tomorrow? – 40% off should make it easier.

New York & Company – 5/27/2014
Subject: We just couldn’t let go of the long weekend…
Pre-header: Extra day to shop the Shorts & Crops Sale, NY Deals and more! Shop NOW

Then we all went back to work on Tuesday, and Kohl’s sent this gem of a subject line (at 5:30 AM. I would have like to see it arrive around 11 given the subject line, since it referenced lunch.) The hamburger ingredients appeared on the sandwich one at a time as a gif. I just loved how silly and fun the subject line and email were. They threw in a Father’s day module at the bottom of the email, because everyone knows that in the marketing world, as soon as one holiday is over, you’re already behind in promoting the next holiday.

Kohl’s – 5/27/2014
Subject: What’s for Lunch? How ‘Bout Extra 20% Off with Cheese




Subject line Sunday: Mad Men edition

I’m excited that Mad Men is back tonight, even if it means I’ll be up pretty late since it’s on at the same time as Game of Thrones (and I can’t just save one for tomorrow. I’ve waited too long for both of these shows.) I think a lot of marketers and advertisers love the show because it makes our jobs seem really cool (and we understand why the stress of their jobs leads them to drink all day long).

Lots of brands have tried to use everyone’s love of excellent television to their own advantage (not unlike I’m doing right now by posting this hours before the show is on…). But this subject line on today’s email from Jack Threads that my co-worker forwarded to me is pretty bold.

Subject: Don’t Dress Like a Dick (…Whitman). Suit Up Like a Boss in Mad Men-Inspired Style.

Kind of risky, right? Not everyone watches Mad Men, and I’m sure they had subscribers who had no idea what that first sentence meant. I’m sure some people were offended and unsubscribed over it.

But did they open the email? Probably.

jack threads mad men 1a

jack theads madmen2

jack threads madmen3

I would add the rest of the email, but it went on forever like this and I need to mentally prepare for the amazing television I’m about to watch. But you get the idea. Enjoy Mad Men tonight!