Subject Line Experimentation: Special Characters – Genius or Garbage?

Macworld email marketing subject line experiment screenshot.
Macworld getting a little crazy with the subject line.

I subscribe to a LOT of email – I like to see what other email marketers are doing. Because of this, I get so much email that I’m in constant email overload mode (sounds familiar, I bet) and it takes something pretty spectacular – or really lame – to get my attention.

Taking a peek at my subscriptions inbox this morning, I saw an email from Macworld with a three character subject line: –>. That’s not me pointing at something, that’s the subject line. An arrow.

Ever the jaded online marketer, my first thought as I glanced through my emails was “Oops, someone screwed up personalization again.” Then I thought maybe some really crappy spam had snuck into my inbox somehow, until I saw the from: Macworld Gems.

I think overly gimmicky subject lines can be a bit of a risk, and tricks like this are usually one-shot deals. But, as we always say, “test, test, and test s’more!” So what were the email marketers at Macworld thinking on this one? Maybe in a vertical preview pane, the “look over here” arrow mechanism works. Maybe they just thought it’d be eye-catching.

For me, it just looked weird, like a mistake. But… I noticed it. What would a “normal person” (non-email marketer) think of this?

3 Replies to “Subject Line Experimentation: Special Characters – Genius or Garbage?”

  1. As a “normal person” it just looks more spammy if anything to me. Like you said, it does standout, but I’m not sure it’s for the right reason. The odd character arrow looks more like a mistake and seems meaningless. Although, I have to admit, I’m not on that email list and I don’t know anything about Mac World Gems, so maybe I’m missing something.

    So… What was in the email? Anything amazing that would make you glad you opened it?

    1. Well… I don’t remember. Obviously the email content wasn’t as memorable as the subject line!

      The truth is, I started thinking about the subject line and didn’t really even look at the email. So I dug it up and it was just a bunch of Mac apps that I didn’t find particularly interesting. Nothing to set the world on fire.

      If I was going to play my hand with a one-shot, gimmicky subject line, I’d want to be damn sure that the content of the email warranted getting extra eyes on it through iffy means. I don’t think that was the case here.

Leave a Reply