Posted February 28, 2014 3:52 pm by with 3 comments

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Chart 2 - Name in Subject LineBill. Susan. Listen to this. A new study by Retention Science shows a 2.6% increase in marketing email open rates when the person’s first name is in the subject line.

I think that’s both logical and weird. It’s logical because we’re drawn to our own name. It catches our eye when it’s included in a block of text. It’s weird because I think calling someone you don’t know by their first name is smarmy. Like when I’m at the bank and they end the transaction saying, “is there anything else I can do for you, Cynthia?” Am I the only one turned off by this?

After seeing this stat, I went to my email and found only three marketing messages where my first name was in the subject line. One was from LinkedIn, one from Netflix and one from Panera Bread. I didn’t open any of them, which is proof again that I’m not the norm.

Here’s one you can definitely use. Retention Science says the ultimate subject line is 6 to 10 words.

Chart 1 - Subject Line Length

Five or less came in with the second highest open rate and everything starts sinking after 10. Bad news is that most of the emails (52%) they studied had subject likes in the 11-15 range.

This is one I can really get behind because I read most of my email through Outlook with the preview window on the right. That means I only see the first four or five words on the subject on an incoming message before clicking on it. I get a lot of emails from marketers who do it right. They include a two words signifier at the start like “new video” or “$10 off.”

Here’s what doesn’t work – The Happy, Happy, Happy Joy Joy Newsletter for Feb 28.

That tells me nothing but still I subscribe to several newsletters with subject lines just like that.

Also, remember that 35% of emails are opened on mobile devices which is another reason to keep the subject line short and punchy.

Wait a Minute Mr. Postman

This is my favorite stat from the entire report: subject lines referencing movies or songs were opened 26% of the time, while emails with more traditional subject lines were opened 16% of the time. Isn’t that a hoot?

Chart 3 - Movie or Song in Subject Line

Unless you’re in the movie or music biz, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time crafting emails with clever music or movie references, but it might be fun now and then.

Blazing Saddles! All cowboy boots are 20% off.

3 Days to Kill-er Savings!

Okay, it’s hokey, but it just might work.

Do you have a subject line pet peeve. Let us know in the comments below so we can wipe out bad marketing messages one line at a time.






  • Hi Cynthia, This is really an informative piece, I used to receive a good number of mail with my name mentioned in the subject line or in the addressing line, as you said it surely catch our attention.
    Good Idea, I never thought of it.
    Thanks for sharing Cynthia 🙂

  • Inti Mansour

    very interesting thank you!

  • Hi Cythia, that’s quite some interesting information. I like the idea of using a movie title or song lyrics in the subject line even more as it almost doubled the open rates.
    Thanks for the share.