Email Marketing Trends for July 2012 – Are Special Characters Declining?

Jim Davidson

July is a busy month for email marketers.  Independence Day, Back to School and Christmas in July promotions compete for attention in the inbox.  Look for more on those promotions in the upcoming Mid-Month Email Menagerie.  Meanwhile, let’s look more closely at July’s sending trends.

Email Volume by Day

The most actively mailed day of the month was Monday, July 30th which saw 44% of brands sending at least one email.  That’s down 1% from June’s busiest mailing days though overall volume for July was higher. No particular promotion or event was featured on the busiest day of July.

Oddly enough, July’s slowest day was the Saturday after Independence Day – July 7th. The slowest day was used by many brands to remind subscribers about July 4th related sales ending soon.

July 2012 - Email Volume Index - Small

(click to enlarge)

(The number of brands I monitor increases each month. To provide more consistent data month-over-month, “Email Volume” is presented as the percentage of brands sending that particular day rather than quantity of emails received.)

Email Volume by Day of Week


The Mondays before and after Independence Day helped Monday win the most popular day to mail in July.  Pre- and Post- Independence Day Sundays also led to Sunday’s month-over-month increase. After a spike in June for Father’s Day related promotions, Friday was returned to the neighborhood of 15% of the total month’s volume.  Email traffic on Thursdays continues to decline.

July 2012 Email Volume by Day of Week

Emails Sent per Brand

July’s most frequent sender sent 71 messages.  Slightly up from June’s 68.

July 2012 - Emails Sent by Brand

13% of brands sent only one email in July and 30% sent 4 during the month

Subject Line Trends

Subject line data has been consistent each month so it will no longer be presented here unless there is a significant shift away from lengths of ~200 max and ~50 average.  The shortest subject lines of the month will always be included in the “Tiny Dozen.”


Last month I decided to exclude Gilt and Rue La La from the longest subject line contest… if you want to consider it a contest.  I’m adding a few more this month.  I’ll term them “list subject lines.” While this approach may work for particular brands, I find it more interesting to see how brands are using long subject lines in ways other than comma-separating every offer in the email.

One of those brands is  In July, 18 of the 20 longest subject lines belonged to  I’m a fan (and customer) of the brand.  This isn’t a critique of their subject lines, I just find it more compelling to exclude these list subject lines. Just for fun, here is’s longest subject line in July coming in at 240 characters strong! “Keith Haring Cleaning Tools. Industrial Chic Lamps. Eclectic Contemporary Pillows & Rugs. Warhol Skate Decks & Tech Cases. African Beat Accessories. Abstract Aerial Photos. Ethically Made Furniture. Starchitect Prints. Diverse Design Books.”

And now… July’s longest (non-list) subject lines:

SmartBargains: “Sunglasses Blowout: Brand Name Shades From $7.20 Plus Free Shipping! Chloe, Fendi, Nina Ricci, Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Coach, Ray-Ban, Guess, Juicy Couture & More

SmartBargains: “Sunglasses Blowout: Brand Name Shades From $8.00 Plus Free Shipping! Chloe, Fendi, Nina Ricci, Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Coach, Ray-Ban, Guess, Juicy Couture & More

SmartBargains: “✭Midday Sale✭: 4 Hours of Extreme Price Drops – Hurry! – Guess, Chloe, Fendi, Michael Kors, Invicta, D&G, Coach & More – On Sale Now

Wayfair: “Weekly Open House: 5 Must-have Trends, Berry Crisp Parfaits, A Bright Idea, Wayfair Builds with Habitat for Humanity and more.

eBags Alerts: “Steal of the Day – Kenneth Cole Reaction “Not Half Bag” Canvas iPad Day Bag – eBags Exclusive now $59.99! Only 13 available


Technically, the shortest subject line I received during the month was:

Barack Obama:So

Although that email wasn’t part my data set, I thought it was worth mentioning.

Of those that I monitor for these reports, the shortest was:

Spiegel: “WIP

Though I believe “WIP” stands for “Work In Progress,” I couldn’t immediately tie that subject line to the “Start your week in style” content.

The Tiny Dozen” features subject lines that are 12 characters or fewer to give you ideas to keep it short and sweet!


The Tiny Dozen
Brand Subject Line Count
Spiegel WIP 3 Alerts Wow 3
J.Crew XOXO 4
Journeys Alerts For You 7
Sephora Why wait? 9
OshKosh B’gosh Oh, Baby! 9
J.Crew 3am style 9 Oh Shirt! 9
jcpenney Jeanious! 9
Sephora Just added 10
Origins Online Sneek Peek 10
NASTY GAL Crush Hard 10
Brooks Brothers Fall Color 10 Fire It Up! 11
adidas Basketball Light It Up 11 Turn Heads! 11 Tomboy Cool 11
Sally Beauty 2 For Sale! 11
Sephora What’s new? 11
Bluefly The Quickie 11
UncommonGoods As You Wish 11
Buckle Rock Steady 11
NASTY GAL Bring It On 11
Sephora Love value? 11
Old Pueblo Traders Layer it on 11
Sephora Free for all 12
carter’s Oh So Super! 12
Rainbow Chic Sheers. 12
Express Well Suited! 12 Fall Preview 12
J.Crew Eye candy… 12
UncommonGoods This Just In 12
NASTY GAL Need A Lift? 12
Brooks Brothers Layering 101 12

July Subject Line Word Cloud:

July 2012 Email subject Line Word Cloud - Large

(click to enlarge)

Special Characters

It looks like the novelty of using special characters in subject lines is starting to wear off.  For the first month since special characters really started peppering inboxes with hearts and stars, special character usage declined.  Read more about the downward trend in my article: Special Characters: A Trend or Just Trendy?

July 2012 - Emails with Special Characters


Most Frequently Used Characters

Fewer special characters were used in July though, not surprisingly, July 4th promotions led to consumers seeing more stars than previous months.

July 2012 Email Subject Line Special Characters

(Click to view the full list of special characters.)

Only 3 mailings used 3 characters or more in July:

Brand Subject Line
Hartstrings 60% ★ +25% ★ 60% ★ +25% ★ 60% ★ +25%
Grandin Road ★★ 100% Free Shipping AND 20% off – Our advice? Buy NOW ★★
Things Remembered Waterford®, Bulova®, Gund® & More: Now Personalized with Your Words!

Please let me know if there are other trends that you would like to see in the monthly Email Marketing Trend reports.

Email Marketing Trends – June 2012

Email Marketing Trends – May 2012

Email Marketing Trends – April 2012

Email Marketing Trends – March 2012

Jim Davidson
Manager of Marketing Research