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Community Contest: Subject line and Preview Text Winning Combos


As email marketers, we like to think that our subject line and preview text are like the windows to your email content—a glimpse for the subscriber of what’s in store for them if they decide to open. Create a winning combination and you’re one step closer to getting that all-important conversion.

In last month’s Community Contest, we asked Community members what their winning subject line and preview text combos were, the strategy they used to come up with them, and how this affected the success of the campaign.

Picking a winner was incredibly hard with so many interesting entries. Here are some of our favorites from the contest that we just had to share:

Winning with Humor

  • Subject line: Cowabunga Dude!
  • Preview text: Eat like the world’s most fearsome fighting Team

It could be our age, but after reading the words “Cowabunga Dude!”, we already had an image in our heads of what the email content could potentially be, which was confirmed by the preview text.

Camille Palu’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-themed subject line and preview text worked perfectly in context with the content of the email, and served as a fun and engaging way to stand out in the inbox. Here’s how she came to choose this combination:

Our favorite subject line/preheader combo comes from a Pizza email we sent out. We’ve recently become very cognizant about the way we’re presenting, building, and combining the phrasing around our emails. Our goal at table tr td is to bring fun, innovative, creative email pieces to life. This combo hit all those notes and hopefully brought people a smile.

We don’t know about you, but this subject line certainly brought a smile to our faces!

Using positive emotion is a wonderful tactic to get people to open your email. Our inboxes can be chock full of emails all wanting to sell us something. Delivering an email that promises nothing but a bit of fun can be a strong motivator for an open.

Getting Social

Brad Guy used cross-channel marketing to promote an Instagram campaign via email. Integrating email marketing with social media gives your subscribers a more rounded view of your brand, and is a powerful tool in bringing awareness to your social media campaigns.

  • Subject line: Hey Instagrammers !
  • Preview text: Say hello to your new classmates !

For this September’s intake we ran a cross channel email and social campaign encouraging new students to send travel selfies on their way to their new colleges with the corresponding hashtag #Sayhello on Instagram. This provided the chance for students to connect with each other before arriving while providing us with some great student generated content for promotion across our other social channels!

This email garnered a 64.27% open rate and 50.51% click-to-open ratio, as well as 50 photos posted on Instagram in conjunction with this campaign. A huge success for Brad and his team—I’m sure there are a few email marketers a little jealous of these numbers!

And The Winner Is…

The entries for the contest were all fantastic, each of them being unique in how and why they were crafted, and what constituted them as winners.

We chose (drumroll please) Faith Alber’s subject line and preview text combination as the winner:

  • Subject line: ⚡ FLASH SALE ⚡
  • Preview text: Get an extra 25% off already reduced flash sale items > FREE SHIPPING on orders $75+

Here’s how she decided on the subject line and preview text:

We’ve tested with emojis in the past and always seen a lift in open rates when we use them. Using Litmus, we’ve identified over 60% of openers are using iPhones/iPads, so we are confident our strategic emojis as “bookends” will help the email to stand out in the inbox. We don’t use all caps frequently, but haven’t seen our delivery suffer because of the potential “spaminess.”

Our strategy here was to create a short SL that stands out in the inbox with straightforward preheader text that gives up-front details about the sale (plus the added incentive reminder about free shipping).

Using an emoji in your subject line is a great way to stand out in the inbox. But that’s not why we picked this combo as a winner. Faith deserves the prize because she used data, not guess work, to craft the perfect subject line. Emojis aren’t supported in all email clients, but Faith looked at her company’s audience to make sure it would work for the majority of their subscribers. Plus, they’ve seen emojis create a lift in opens in past email campaigns—using this information, Faith was able to build on past successes.

The preview text acts as an extension of the subject line, giving the subscriber more information on what’s inside the email, the perfect use of the preview text.

It’s the combination of using data, analysis, historic knowledge, and having clear and straight-forward copy that sets subscriber expectations that makes this pairing the winner.

Key Takeaways

The contest has reminded us about these important takeaways when crafting subject lines and preview texts for your email:

  • Identify your audience and use data to help your decision-making process for your subject line.
  • Don’t solely rely on general benchmarks or best practices for your subject lines. Use tests to continually optimize your subject lines and preview text for your audience.
  • Treat the preview text as an extension of the subject line to give the subscriber a better view on what’s in the email.
  • Bring positive emotions to your subject line and preview text with well crafted copy.

Care to share?

Although the Community Contest has ended, we’d love to read about your winning subject line and preview text combos. Learning from your peers in the industry is a powerful tool, so share your own winning combos, and read fellow Community members’ winners. And stay tuned for the next Community Contest.


Optimize your from name, preview text, and subject line with Subject Line Checker, available in Litmus Builder.

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