Subject line remix

August 4, 2016 McKenzie Gregory


If you haven’t noticed yet, we LOVE (think watching-videos-of-corgi-puppies levels of love) talking about subject lines.

The unhealthy obsession stems from a couple of different things: First of all, your subject line is the gatekeeper to your email. If it doesn’t do the trick with your audience, nothing within the body of your email matters, because no one will ever see it. Secondly, watching brands come up with creative new ways to capture attention in the inbox is our favorite spectator sport – especially if they do something we’ve never seen before.

Here are six subject lines that defy conventional wisdom but made us open anyway. You’ll never know what works best for your brand until you try it out on your audience, so learn from these guys and go big and bold. Just remember to A/B test everything for minimal damage to your open rates!



Subject line #1 – 404: Huckberry Not Found

The mailing content: A 15% off promo code as apology for the Huckberry team being away on a retreat

Why it stood out to me: A 404 message is something I always pay attention to, since it signals something’s gone wrong. So it’s not surprising it also made me pay attention in the inbox. This was a smart way to capitalize on my natural instincts without coming across as too disingenuous.




Subject line #2 – *Command + C*

• The mailing content: A style guide of fashionable ways to wear a JackThreads blazer

• Why it stood out to me: This subject line was short, simple, and vague – but it was also familiar. Copying and pasting on my keyboard is something I do all the time, so it rang true as something I recognized without giving away the full story. Naturally, I wanted to find out what they were talking about, so I opened the email.





Subject line #3 – McKenzie, you do you!

• The mailing content: A sale on personalized wedding stationary

• Why it stood out to me: I’m not usually a big fan of first names in subject lines since it often gets overdone (or done incorrectly – nothing makes me shudder more than spotting a "Hi {first-name}!" in my inbox). But this one stood out from the pack. Something about the brevity and the call to arms hit the right note: Why yes, Fanciful Ink, I will do me!




Subject line #4 – Holy Ship! Everything Ships Free!

• The mailing content: A seasonal, “because it’s Friday” free shipping offer from Lulu's

• Why it stood out to me: This has to make you giggle just a little bit, right? Or maybe your sense of humor is a little more mature than mine. Regardless, free shipping + a nice pun in an email subject line equals an instant win in my book.




Subject line #5 – LAST DAMN CHANCE

• The mailing content: A “last chance” notification about a flash sale 

• Why it stood out to me: Using ALL CAPS is considered a cardinal sin by many in the email marketing world because it screams spammy-ness, but I couldn’t ignore this subject line. Something about the boldness stood out against a sea of generic “Check out our sale!” messages. 

(Note: After searching my inbox to get a screenshot of this email, I realized JackThreads has used this subject line TWICE in the past few months. Clearly, something about it must be working.)




Subject line #6 – This Just In: A Llama In Your Shower

• The mailing content: New arrivals to the Uncommon Goods online store

• Why it stood out to me: I love how they played with “this just in” as a way to share breaking news and indicate they were talking about new arrivals. Plus, the element of the absurd (why is there a llama in my shower?) almost always does it for me.




Seen anything notable in your own inbox recently? Let’s hear the recent subject lines that grabbed your attention!


About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a content writer on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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