17% off all orders!

DJ Waldow

Old school

Dewey Defeats TrumanYou sit down for a fresh cup of coffee, open up your daily fishwrap, and scan the dozens of headlines. One is so powerful it’s as if it’s talking directly at you. You are so drawn to the 3-word teaser that you’re compelled to continue reading the article on page A2…

New school

Gmail Inbox Subject LinesAs you are slurping down your 2nd cup of Starbucks coffee, you fire up your email and are met with a flurry of subject lines. You don’t have much time, so you scan for subject lines that are compelling…those that “speak” to you. One nearly jumps off of your monitor. You open the email and start to read…

The power of a subject line.

We’ve blogged about subject lines plenty in the past (most recently with “Data: Jump on it!“). You know the drill – include a call to action, create sense of urgency, keep it (relatively) short, be different, etc. etc.

However, today I’d like to offer up the following subject line example from Spreadshirt, one that doesn’t necessarily follow all of the “best practices” yet was effective.

As you can see highlighted above (yellow box), the subject line read,

“17% off all orders!”

Some noteworthy points, in no particular order:

  • It’s consistent with Chris Brogan’s Blogging Secret #1 where he proposes that, “…posts with numbers seem to work. Especially weird or odd numbers.”
  • It accomplished Part I and II of the “email conversion funnel” – I opened and read the email.
  • It clearly stood out in my inbox (see image above).
  • The call to action in the body of the message “Find your perfect St. Patrick’s Day party shirts at 17% off” was not only consistent with the subject line, it was also a bit “catchy, quirky, and fun.” (see screenshot of email).

What do you think? What other aspects of this subject line/email stood out to you? Also, I’d love to read about other killer examples. Please post below in the comments or email them to me – dj@bronto.com. Be sure to include the word “dude” in the subject line if you want to catch my attention.

DJ Waldow
Director of Best Practices and Deliverability at Bronto

  • 18% off all orders – now THAT’s a subject line!

  • 19%. N-n-n-n-nineteen% (younger people won’t get that)

    Seriously, looking at the image of your Gmail inbox, it’s interesting that nearly all the snippet text displayed by Gmail is mundane “If you can’t see the images” stuff.

    Lots of room for pre-header optimization.

  • It’s a very strong subject line, and it definitely stands out when scanning through your inbox… but wouldn’t you consider this a spammy subject line? I always thought that special characters like % and using exclamation marks equated to your email landing in the spam / junk folder.

  • Dylan Boyd

    I think that you have some good points DJ. But I would wager that the choice of 17% off is more due to the 17th being St Pats day (any good irishman would know that).

    What stood out to me, even though I am not a fan of the use of first name at times (from a quick scan of your inbox above was Tweetbeep using your First (er) name.

    So which shirt did you buy?

    And welcome back to the world. As soon as I started reading this post and saw the word “fishwrap” I knew your were back.

  • I do believe that qualifying the special with “all” is a good idea. I think we tend to develop a bit of ‘inbox skepticism’ after being hit over the head with deals that have a catch (ie. great savings on shoes, as long as you wear size 16+). So letting the customer know it applies to all orders should help alleviate this a bit.

    Of course, pending an A/B split test, it’s all speculation =)

    By the way, this reminds me of an email I sent out a few years ago with the subject line: Save 12% – No Joke!

    Here is the design, which we keep around as an in house joke of how silly my email design was compared to that of the real designers which we now have.


    I couldn’t agree more with the idea of sending odd savings (we typically offered 10% or 15%, so 12% was odd).

  • @Alex – Duly noted. (Where’s your Gravatar? – http://en.gravatar.com/)

    @Dylan – You are correct with the 17% being tied to St. Patty’s Day. I meant to highlight that and somehow forgot. Either way, the number still caught my attention. As far as first name personalization (Tweetbeep), I’m not a fan of it either. Personally, it adds not value to me. (Where’s your Gravatar? – http://en.gravatar.com/)

    @Mark – I must be young as I didn’t understand your 19 reference. Oops. As far as the snippet text displayed in Gmail being mundane. I actually blogged about this a while back – http://idek.net/4fK . Agree with you. TONS of preheader optimization opportunities. (Where’s your Gravatar? – http://en.gravatar.com/)

    @Bryan – The rules and “best practices” of email marketing have and are continuing to change. Not too long ago, it used to be that special characters would decrease the likelihood of an email getting delivered to the inbox. This was also true for the word “free” as well as ALL CAPS. This is not necessarily true in 2009. Sign up for Overstock.com emails. You’ll notice that almost every single one of their subject lines are ALL CAPS. They even use “BEDDING BLOWOUT!” as a common subject line. As it turns out (I spoke with the email guy at Overstock), they’ve done significant A|B testing and the ALL CAPS emails outperform the others by far. So much for “best practices” huh?

    See you in Miami! (Where’s your Gravatar? – http://en.gravatar.com/)

    @Chris – Great point about including “all.” However, I’m not certain that the average consumer reads subject lines with that much attention to detail. That being said, I agree with you…test. test. test.

    I like that you offered the 12%. Agree that the email design is a bit…well…simple? but how did it perform? I mean, at the end of the day, that is ultimately what matters, right? (Thanks for being the only one to use a Gravatar!)


    DJ Waldow
    Director of Best Practices & Deliverability
    Bronto Software, Inc
    djwaldow: twitter, AIM, MSN, Gtalk…

  • Using the person’s name (or brand, for b2b) can be a powerful force when used appropriately. I know I’ve talked about this extensively, but OurStage saw a huge boost in artist open rates when we started including artist (band) name in the subject line of messaging. “The Shapes’ Artist Update for March 11th” is much more powerful than “OurStage Artist Update for March 11th.” I can’t see THE SHAPES ARTIST UPDATE FOR MARCH 11TH being popular though.

    My #1 unbreakable rule in e-marketing is that if it annoys me when someone does it to me, I’m not going to subject my users to it either.

    Preheader is crucial too. In DJ’s screenshot above, there’s no way I’d want to open a message that has “Subject Line – Spreadshirt Logo If this message does not display…”

    The preheader on our most recent fan communication causes it to read:
    “[OurStage] Your Charts for March 13th, 2009 Q&A With Ilan Rubin of Nine Inch Nails”

    If you like OurStage, artist interviews, Lostprophets, or Nine Inch Nails, I will bet beets and bullets that you’ll click on that subject line to learn more!