Subject Lines that Grab My Attention

I first subscribed to AOL in the early 90s when getting an email was special. Today, email has been described as the world’s largest to-do list. If you’re like me, you spend exactly one second blasting through each subject line deciding what stays and what goes. Here’s a brief summary of recent marketing subject lines that made the cut:

“See clearly without annoying reading glasses” – I’m wearing annoying reading glasses as I write this. I’d love to get rid of them but not enough to try Lasik. The email came from the Health Science Institute, a source I trust. So I opened it and read about an eye exercise program they’ve developed. I didn’t buy it but I filed it away for future reference.

“What’s healthier: Almonds or Walnuts?” – Great question for those of us trying to eat healthy. The winner? Walnuts by a nose. Email courtesy of the folks at Prevention Magazine (which I get).

“Because we miss you” – I’m partial to old guy shirts from the Van Heusen company. This email originated from them because I haven’t bought a new shirt in a while. I figured it would contain an incentive and I was right: a 50% off one-day sale. I missed it but will be try to take advantage of the next one.

“The best place to hide your money” – Pocket change keeps disappearing from my piggy bank so this intrigued me. Sadly, the editors of Bottom Line Publications had bigger fish to fry (offshore accounts and the like). Meanwhile, I stuck my piggy in a drawer just in case.

“Did Hendrix cheat?” – Although I noodle around on the guitar from time to time, I could never play like Jimi in a thousand years. Still, if there’s a shortcut, I’d like to know about it. Here’s what Claude Johnson, the developer of a video blues course, has to say: “Learn slow blues as well as some techniques that Jimi Hendrix used, including the one thing he did that some people kinda think is cheating.” It’s a tease, and I’m not ready to sign up just yet, but I’m keeping the info.

So what have we learned? First, these offers are from companies I already know and trust. In some instances, I’ve opted in to get their information. Second, they target my particular interests. Back when I played fantasy football, I opened every single fantasy email in a frantic but futile attempt at dominance. Third, although I haven’t bought anything from the senders yet, I probably will. And last, the headlines are well-crafted and interesting (at least to me).

If you’re going to try your hand at email marketing, that’s what it takes to cut through all the clutter.

Brian Rouff serves as managing partner at Imagine Communications. He can be reached at

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