A study by email provider Mailjet has set out to find whether a little subversive curiosity can give email marketers an edge in the generation of their subject lines.
Most people enjoy a little bit of gossip every now and then. But can our inherent human curiosity actually be the key to a marketing breakthrough? Research from email service provider Mailjet has revealed that tapping into consumer inquisitiveness can reveal a correlation between tantalising email subject lines and engagement. Across EMEA, we are as much as 48 per cent more likely to engage with email where the subject lines pique our sense of curiosity.
Mailjet employed a variety of ambiguously vague subject lines, all of which suggested that the content was not for the intended recipient, and monitored results across several countries. The concept of a “leaked” marketing campaign, however, is not without precedent. Josie Scotchmer, UK Marketing Manager, Mailjet, comments; “Over the years there have been some fantastic cases of using ‘leaked’ information to drive engagement. Krispy Kreme’s launch campaign for a new Nutella doughnut involved the mass distribution of a ‘confidential internal memo’ for store managers. The fake leak had the brand trending on Twitter within an hour as people speculated about the supposed mishap and began congratulating the brand on a successful launch.”
So what did the study show? Apparently the Spanish are the most inherently curious when it comes to opening unexpected emails. Correspondence marked with the title “For your eyes only, please do not share…” saw a 48 per cent uplift in Spanish engagement, followed by 29 per cent in France. The British test subjects, however, showed a far lower rate of engagement, at 18 per cent. This is perhaps indicative of the greater awareness and caution around potential phishing emails than their European counterparts. Brits did, however, did have a little more difficulty resisting emails with the subject line: “Management team: Details from Thursday 19th Jan”, and were 28 per cent more likely to open these.
So what can email marketers take away from these results? It’s probably not a good idea to disguise your next reactivation campaign as miss-sent meeting minutes, but it does reinforce the lesson that testing is the key for the success of any campaign. “As we move further away from the days of demographic targeting and look more towards behavioural insights, testing is a chief learning mechanism for brand marketers.” Says Scotchmer. “You might think you know how your audience behaves, but until you’ve tried new approaches you might well be in the dark. And of course, consumer behaviours are always in flux, trends come and go, and constant testing must therefore become a core behaviour among digital marketers.” In order to remain agile, testing must be an integral part of a brand’s strategy, and the more frequently marketers do so, the more accurate their targeting will be.
Mailjet’s slightly more extreme example demonstrates a pointed inquisitiveness on the part of the consumer, but there’s no need for marketers to feel like such a deliberate distortion is necessary. After all, alienating the customer will not do your brand any favours. But there is potential for an email subject line to play on the consumer’s subconscious. “Make subtle changes to begin with, if they perform well you can be bolder.” Says Scotchmer. “For instance, you might try something designed to look quite exclusive to the respondent, such as “FYEO; an note before tomorrow…” There’s no risk of endangering the brand here but you’re painting the picture that the email is expected, as if the respondent is already engaged in whatever you’re offering. That’s crucial to capturing interest.”
But of course, a key priority for brands is to keep their communication authentic. But that doesn’t mean that the subject lines of your email campaign can’t be a little bit subversive in order to catch the eye of your target customer. While “click baiting” is viewed as a fairly tacky form of lead generation, it’s possible for brands to pique consumer interest without risking their brand reputation. “Brands should always stay to true to their brand voice… but it doesn’t mean you can’t be creative.” Says Scotchmer. “Where a click baiting approach might not work for your audience, there are other ways to tempt readers’ curiosity. Perhaps by adding an element of ambiguity; “For tomorrow; are you ready?” you can win interest without straying from core messaging. The most important thing you can do is take the steps to warm your brand to these tests and experimentations. This way you can work the data to unlock the style that’s really going to ignite your audience.”
While this study proves that marketers shouldn’t be afraid to challenge their normal practices in order to boost engagement, it also speaks up for the importance of the human touch in marketing. “The reverse psychology of unintentionally sharing a genuine opportunity with the consumer is a welcome reminder that it still takes human emotion to market effectively to audiences. This is why automation solutions are at their best when they are paired with great creative inspiration.” By maintaining the consumer-centric focus, marketers can ensure that they not only remain relevant, engaging and fun, but also maintain the relationship which solidifies consumer loyalty and retention.
What tests have you run on your email subject lines? Continue the conversation on twitter at @Figaro_Digital.