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Brand voice in email subject lines and why it matters

Your brand voice matters.

Image credit: Viacom Media Networks


To question this fact is to question the whole concept of branding and disregard decades of the marketing industry’s collective knowledge and research.

That’s why you’ve spent years developing your brand, and countless hours building a positive public perception of it.

You’ve scrutinised every sentence on your website, combed through every piece of advertising, and put someone trustworthy in charge of running your brand’s social media accounts.

Anything not “on-brand” is unacceptable, and has been for some time.

Does this understanding inexplicably change when you (or someone in your company) sits down at a keyboard to write out a subject line for your company’s latest email marketing campaign?

Image credit: 20th Century Fox


It shouldn’t, and here’s why:

Brand voice in email subject lines and why it matters

Our burgeoning industry has a dark secret that we do not like to tell people. To even acknowledge the terrible truth of this secret is shameful and frightening for even the most seasoned email marketing veteran. We at Phrasee have decided to share it with you, dear reader, because we can’t keep it inside anymore.

Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures


Most marketing emails never get opened.

No matter how hard we try (and we try really, really hard) no email marketer has ever been able to figure out a way change this immutable law of commercial email correspondence.


We all feel a bit better now that we’ve said it out loud, and we hope that you do too.

Because telling the truth always makes you feel better, and so does hearing the truth. Because, once we know the truth and have all the information, everyone involved is in a better position to identify and plan for the best way forward.

But don’t scrap those email marketing plans you developed for your company just yet, because there are several other key factors to consider.

For instance; the terrible truth about email marketing also encompasses another immutable law of commercial email correspondence: In spite of its historically low open rates, the ROI for money invested in email marketing is WAY better that the ROI for money invested in social media marketing. Like way, way better.

But there’s more.

Every marketing email makes an impression, even the unopened ones.

Image credit: 20th Century Fox


For unopened emails this impression manifests in the form of the email subject line. That single line of text outlining what the email is about that appears beside the from name in every email.

And that impression, fleeting though it may be, is an impression nonetheless. And every impression can effect consumer perception of your brand, either positively or negatively.

This is really a central tenet of advertising as a business concept. It is why designer brands will cough up exorbitant amounts of money to advertise on billboards in crowded public areas, only to use that expensive space for something like this:

or this:

An image of a celebrity you probably like beside a photo of the product the company hopes you will buy one day.

What does one have to do with the other? Nothing!

But it doesn’t matter. The goal is a positive impression. Celebrities are hot, or funny, and these traits make most people react positively when they see their image. Couple a brand with something people like, and you’ve got marketing gold!

Image credit: Sony Pictures Television


Couple your brand with something people don’t like, and your brand loses a little bit of its luster.

And so it is with all things brand voice.

This concept is no less valid in an email subject line than it is on a billboard. A few thousand people per day will probably drive past your billboard, and a few thousand people per day will probably see your email in their inbox. In both cases, what they see will have an impact, however small it may be.

So, when your brand’s name appears beside a subject line, that subject line’s glow reflects on your brand.

Will that glow come in the form of a stunning, Brad Pitt type subject line, an amusing, Louis CK type, or a Rob Kardashian type?

Image credit: E!


The choice is yours.

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