The Power of An Email Subject Line

Dive into the world of email marketing with us, as we demystify the science behind crafting irresistible subject lines that drive clicks and conversions. Discover the art of brevity, relevance, personalization, and emotional triggers, while unleashing the playful power of emojis and pop culture references to pique your audience's curiosity.

Robbie Fitzwater
Updated on

One of the most common topics that most marketers raise questions about is the importance of a subject line in an email. It is a common concept that a good subject line must be effective and flashy and be able to catch people’s attention.

However, there is only a little guidance for these marketers on achieving that goal.

Many factors and variables play a vital role in making a subject line the perfect fit for the content you’re sending or something that would get your audience to open your emails.

After all, that’s the main goal behind the subject lines; to drive action from people and to get your emails opened more often!

In this article, I will walk you through some general rules and in-depth secrets to achieving that goal.

  1. What Is the Purpose of the Email Subject Line?
  2. Best Practices for Writing An Email Subject Line
  3. How Can I Improve My Subject Lines?
  4. Takeaways
  5. Our Team’s Favorite Subject Lines

So let’s find out how to make the most out of the subject lines in your email marketing.

What Is the Purpose of the Email Subject Line?

Email subject lines are the small previews the email readers look at to understand the email content. It helps the audience decide whether they should open the email or not.

This could be understood using an analogy where email is considered a house, and the subject line is its front porch. Recipients see the front porch first before entering the house. How your front porch is designed will say a lot about what the house would be like.

So it’s vital that you make it inviting and captivating to make your audience want to see the house from the inside.

Utilizing the available resources, you should craft a subject line that motivates your audience to take that action and open your email. If you can do so, you will see very high open or click rates, which is very healthy for your email marketing statistics.

In today’s world, where most business communications are done mostly through email, an average office person gets over 120 emails daily.

You cannot expect them to open every email. There is a high chance that they will only open the emails that catch their attention. And that attention is caught through the subject lines mostly. That is the first thing they see in their inboxes while the email is lying there, unopened.

It is crucial to make them concise, catchy, and engaging so that it is impactful enough to drive some action from the audience and they don’t miss any of your important emails.

So these are the things you should think about when trying to make impactful subject lines.

Best Practices for Writing An Email Subject Line

Now that we know the importance of the subject line in the email and how it impacts our email marketing, let’s look into some suggested practices and areas we can work on to make subject lines attractive and impactful. 

Be concise

First of all, your email subject line should be concise. It should not have extra unnecessary words and must be short enough to be read from the inbox and not cut off.

example of being concise in email subject lines

As we always say that attention is hard to earn and even harder to maintain. You should ensure that the subject line is concise and understandable so your audience doesn’t consider it boring and not worth their time to open your email.

As discussed earlier, this will be crucial in opening those emails more often and engaging your audience. 

Be specific

One thing to be sure about while making your subject line is that it is specific and to the point. It should reflect the email’s content and give the recipients an idea of what they will get from it.

The subject line should reflect the value that certain content or promotional email will offer the recipients. This allows them to decide whether that email will be valuable for them or not. 

Use keywords

Understanding what keywords you can use that will directly apply to your audience is important.

Finding keywords that will serve their needs and make them feel like the emails are directed toward them. Only then will the individuals give them a chance to relate to your emails, and they will want to open them more actively. 

Personalize when possible

Personalization is an excellent means of creating a unique and special experience that directly speaks to the individuals. Incorporating personalization in email subject lines can be as simple as addressing recipients by their first name, adding a touch of individualization.

Additionally, if you have other relevant first-party data, it presents an excellent opportunity to enhance personalization efforts further. For instance, if your audience has specific coffee preferences, you can craft email content specifically catered to classic or decaf coffee drinkers.

This approach creates a sense of exclusivity and belonging within the audience. Establishing a connection based on their interests and preferences is a significant accomplishment.

Therefore, we should strive to maximize personalization by leveraging customer profiles and the first-party data collected throughout their customer journey, incorporating it thoughtfully and engagingly.

Behavioral & emotional triggers (urgency, exclusivity, and safety)

It is crucial to consider the role of behavioral and emotional triggers play in driving action from the audience. This approach is similar to scientific copywriting and advertising techniques, encompassing more traditional persuasive content-crafting methods.

By addressing any fundamental human needs, we can evoke powerful behavioral responses. Understanding how to trigger emotions such as urgency, exclusivity, or a sense of safety through a subject line is paramount.

When constructing subject lines, we aim to resonate and connect with our audience by stimulating specific emotional triggers. Achieving this generally leads to favorable outcomes, depending on the individual’s desires and motivations.

Urgency, for example, involves creating a sense of impending deadlines and potentially losing valuable opportunities with your brand. 

example of creating urgency in email subject lines

Urgency serves as a crucial driver of behavior. Conversely, exclusivity means making recipients feel privileged and part of an exclusive group by offering limited-time access or special benefits.

Such as, if you evoke feelings of being a VIP in them, you can significantly increase the anticipation and excitement surrounding the email.

Moreover, fostering a sense of safety and instilling confidence in their decision-making processes is equally vital. For example, you can use user-generated content or people’s testimonials as headlines.

This could be very beneficial for your brand as incorporating UGC in your content makes people feel safe and confident about their decision. By providing reassurance and addressing concerns, you enhance the effectiveness of your communications.

Avoid using all caps

Avoid using all caps while creating subject lines. It gives yelling expressions, and most audiences don’t like it. You can find better ways to write instead of writing with the Caps lock turned on! 

Test & optimize

You might have seen me saying this in dozens of my previous blogs, too, that digital marketing is like your petri dish, which allows you to test and optimize different ideas.

It won’t be the same process for every email and every audience. You will have to keep testing what works best for which audience.

For instance, you experiment with your email automation to test what subject lines and preview text brings about the behavior you want to see in the audience. With this experimenting and testing, you collect better insights into what will work best. And then, you incorporate that into your emails to get desired outcomes. 

How Can I Improve My Subject Lines?

You can follow many tips and tricks to improve your email subject lines. 

A/B testing

It can be beneficial to use A/B testing in terms of subject lines. You can test different variables or sets of combinations for your subject lines. This will help you get great insight into how these subject lines can cause real effects.

You can also use that to incorporate into your campaigns. The best testing generally is done through automations because it’s a one-to-one response that triggers a certain behavior in the audience. 

Use personalization

Personalization can be a very powerful approach to improving your email subject lines. It makes the emailing experience very valuable for the recipients.

Because when they get personalized emails with personalized subject lines, they feel seen and heard, hence valued by the brand.  

Use numbers or statistics

Using numbers and statistics to illustrate your points is a practical approach to creating impactful headlines. Such as quoting something like “20% of people make this mistake” and catching the audience’s attention.

In this way, you can also get some compelling insights or information that can help them to see real-world examples of people engaging with your product and gives them a reason to click through.

Keep it short & simple

Keeping your subject lines short and simple is crucial, as making them too wordy will rob the subject line of its essence. So the fewer words, the better.

You won’t always be able to create something using two or three words only. However, make sure it is easy to understand and translatable.

Make it unique & relevant to your audience

Making it relevant for your audience is something that you should focus on. It would be best to consistently strive to deliver unique content tailored to their needs. This approach closely aligns with the concept of personalization.

By recognizing that different audience segments have different use cases, needs, and preferences, you should understand the importance of catering to their needs.

For example, if you make it known that your clothing line is particularly well-suited for toddlers, it will resonate more with parents of toddlers than parents of infants.

By segmenting your messaging accordingly, you can deliver the same content within the email but frame it differently to address each audience segment’s concerns and interests.

This approach aims to increase open rates among the respective segments. By leveraging your data, such as user and purchase data and the first-party data, you accumulate over time. You can ensure that your communications are relevant to each audience segment.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to align your content to the customer journey, check out this podcast: 

>>>Aligning Content to the Customer Journey<<<

Use emojis

Every brand has different attitudes towards emojis in their content or subject lines, but emojis are an effective way of expressing emotions more than words.

Digital marketing is seeing some real creativity with using emojis in digital content. There are some unique ways emojis are being used to grab attention fast in a world where many other things are fighting for attention. 

example of using emojis in email subject lines

So this is one of the ways to stand unique from that pack. 

Borrow ideas from pop culture

Sometimes it is advantageous to take inspiration from popular culture. If a certain idea or trend is relevant and aligns with our audience’s interests, you can easily leverage it.

This strategy is particularly effective when we have an engaged audience that strongly likes pop culture. By capitalizing on ongoing trends or significant events that capture their attention, we can enhance the resonance of our messaging.

For instance, as a cycling brand, we can reference the Tour de France if it is currently taking place, knowing that our audience will likely follow the event closely.

Understanding what content our audience is consuming allows us to incorporate relevant references that will strongly resonate with them. By doing so, we can leverage these powerful approaches to increase the likelihood of email opens.

Ask questions

Asking questions in your email subject line also leaves a great impact and catches the audience’s attention. So you can try and experiment with it with your audience and try to end your subject line with a question mark. It works out well. 

Pour salt on a wound

Not to sound mean, but pouring salt on the wound can benefit your brand!

Most people have a pain point that can be hit right on, which can trigger an action. Collecting enough insights and data to hit that point is a real win.

Addressing that weak point can make them feel seen and heard. You will be the kind of brand that solves their community’s problems by serving them a product relevant to their need.

So you pour salt in that wound to draw attention and hopefully boost the open rate.

Let automations be your digital Petri dish

So again, as I mentioned above, automation is your digital Petri dish in which you can experiment and test with new things now and then. 

Have fun

Now the last and the most important thing to remember! Have fun while doing this. Keep the important things in mind but play around a little while trying to craft something creative. 

Glossier email

Think outside the box or get creative with the recent AI services that can help you explore the parts of marketing you might not experience otherwise.

Experiment with everything, such as finding creative ways to use emojis and framing things in a short, concise format.

Moreover, you can borrow ideas from other parts of your marketing department.

For instance, if your social team has a successful reputation with their language and verbiage, you can borrow that and re-frame and contextualize it according to your need and your audience.

So these are the effective and fun ways to incorporate different factors and approaches to ensure that you continuously iterate on these factors, staying within the boundaries of the brand’s voice and doing some good stuff with available resources.


So to sum it up, we now know that subject lines are like a front porch of the house, i.e., your email. To reach the house, people would have to cross the front porch. So make the front porch inviting and well organized so people are motivated to come in the house.

Hopefully, this article was helpful, and it answered all your questions regarding the importance of the subject line and how to improve it. If you have any further queries feel free to ask us in the comments below!

Our Team’s Favorite Subject Lines

As you all already may know, we’re big email geeks, so here’re some of our team’s favorite subject lines. Enjoy!

Robbie (Psst 🤫, I’m a big Glossier fun)

example of email subject lines
example of email subject lines
example of email subject lines




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