Yesterday I received an email from someone called Rachael Ware. Its subject line was ‘Found a set of keys’. I was at an event so initially saw the email on my BlackBerry. It caught my eye because my husband had just mislaid his car keys, but I was slightly baffled as a) I didn’t know someone called Rachael Ware and b) how would someone who’d found my husband’s car keys get in touch we me?! So clearly, it captured my attention and I opened it.
It was a marketing email from a telemarketing agency. What’s more, it didn’t even have any mention of keys within the body of the email (an anecdote or apology would have softened my irked-ness if they’d at least had the gumption to acknowledge their audacity!)
Immediately I was miffed that they’d tricked me into opening it. But then, as marketers, aren’t we all constantly striving to get people to open our email addresses with clever subject lines? And at the end of the day, I had actually opened this email. The ‘from’ address was from a real person rather than a company name, and the subject line was one which would spurn most people to open it up, panicking vaguely that perhaps they’d lost their keys so I would expect their open rate would have been pretty impressive for this campaign. The subsequent results? Not so much!
I had another similar email a few months back (can’t remember the company but it was a small retailer) and the email was – again – from a person rather than the brand and the subject line was something like “I have some bad news for you”. Then – because I clearly opened the message – it went on to say “I’m afraid that if you don’t take advantage of this wonderful offer, you are going to be all the poorer for it” (Or something)… Grr.
So is this clever marketing? Or dishonest marketing?
Yes, click rates can be doubled by using the right subject line and therefore you should definitely get creative and experiment . There are countless best practice articles, advice and so on out there on email subject lines but I’m pretty sure none of them would advocate outright trickery. For one, if you irritate a subscriber with a deceptive subject line, the number of people who report the email as spam, or unsubscribe is going to increase considerably.
Of course I might be overreacting a bit about this and perhaps I’ve lost my sense of humour. Yes, it succeeded on one level as I opened it – but the end result was that this mail irritated me and resulted in me swiftly unsubscribing from their message: basically the exact opposite result that the organisation was aiming for.
So to sum up my little rant, my view is that you can – and should! – get clever with your subject lines, but at the very least be honest otherwise you risk alienating the very people you’re trying to get to buy from you. At least honesty won’t result in your unsubscription rates going through the roof.
What do you think? Have you had similar experiences and did they amuse or annoy you? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…