The Curse of the Mummified Subject Line (in cinemas this Friday) - Trial and Eureka

The Curse of the Mummified Subject Line (in cinemas this Friday)

By Alp | Email Marketing

​Something wicked this way comes…

For I was going to do a “hall of fame” email today.

Possibly on subject lines.

But something in my newsfeed caught my eye and I decided to do a “hall of shame” email instead.

Much more fun anyway.

Grab your popcorn, put your colleagues on mute, and lean in for Gossip Friday…

So what *was* it that popped up in my newsfeed and hijacked this very email from under my typing fingers?

All shall be revealed in the fullness of time, my loyal subscriber.

But first, a thought:

You know how they say the subject line can make or break your emails? Just like headlines can make or break blog posts?

Well, it’s kinda true.

It’s ok. You can admit it. Subject lines are hard.

And since we’re doing Subscribers Day Out (which is like a reverse Girls Night In), you can step into the confessional, tell me all your embarrassing memories, and I’ll share them… anonymously, for our mutual edutainment.

In fact, let’s turn the confessional into a competition so as to tickle your ambitious entrepreneurial spirit:

What’s your worst memory around email marketing - especially subject lines? What makes it “the worst”?

The “sinner” with the most embarrassing anecdote will get a subject line make-over on an email of his or her choosing from Yours Truly.

But first, the rules of entry:

Your confession must pass the Threshold of Sufficient Mortification (we only want the juiciest stuff befitting our unofficial Subscribers Day Out).

What’s the Threshold, you ask?

Subscriber H., who shall remain anonymous, stepped into the confessional earlier this week:


“I sent a non-buyer survey email and after I sent it I was devastated that I had used a sloppy subject line. Unsubscribes started pouring in and I thought I’d lose hundreds of subscribers.

I avoided going into ConvertKit for a few days because I didn’t want to see the crazy high unsubscribe number.

Finally, I HAD to go in because I needed to pause a scheduled email with yet another bad headline. It turned out I only had 7 unsubs.

I still didn’t fix that last email and I’m afraid to go back to working on it because I think I’ll be really hard on myself. I hate it when I don’t master what I want to master.”


Such is the gold standard of embarrassment, the benchmark of plenteous chagrin, which y’all must now endeavour (and possibly cheat or catfight amongst yourselves) to pass.

Ok, enough suspense!

So THAT was your benchmark and THIS is what I saw in my newsfeed:



And oh boy, did the Good People of Facebook flood towards that marketing mishap like a school of hungry piranhas…

… tearing the misfortunate-subject-line-soon-to-be-revealed to bloody pieces, and leaving behind a sobbing guru who has vowed never to dip their toes into anyone’s inbox every again.

(Okay, that last part I made up. But it would totally have been a thing in a world of divine - or at the very least: poetic - justice, no?)

Btw, the guru in question was called everything ranging from “clueless”:

To a “horrible disaster”:

And you know what the real tragedy is?

It was actually a *good* email:

Alas, the subject line irritated people so much that they didn’t even bother to open it:

The subject line in question?

“You might be cursed”

Which, of course, Yours Truly dutifully stole and repurposed into today’s subject line, after sprinkling a touch of Classical Reference and a whiff of Pop Culture on it.

So yes, an inappropriate subject line can ruin an otherwise great email.

Heck, it might even annoy people so much that nobody even opens the email you laboured over.

But the reverse is also true.

As evinced by this response from my loyal subscriber Tiffany…


“HA! I haven’t even read this email and I already love it!”


… which reply, it has to be said, was unacceptably delayed, for it came a whole 3 seconds after I hit “send”...

Ah, the declining standards of today’s youth and typing speed!

Now some scrumptious, “popcorn sized” education:

That particular subject line - “Littlefinger’s Big Marketing Secret” - combines two time-honoured techniques:

Technique #1: Contrast

… between ”Littlefinger” and “big” secret

(the human brain loves contrasting ideas)

Technique #2: Alluding to a popular TV show

… to commandeer the conversation that’s already going on inside your subscribers’ heads and around their watercoolers.

But those are just 2 of the 57 irresistible subject line techniques I will be teaching my Email Prodigies

… along with the “secret sauce” that gets your emails opened (even if you have a bad subject line)...

… and the answers to dozens of practical questions everyone has, but no guru dares to answer, such as:

“Do you come up with a witty or funny subject line first and then write an email around it? Or do you write an email and then come up with the subject?”

Alas… life isn’t all good news and ponies, even on a Subscribers Day Out.

First, the bad news:

The August run of Email Prodigy is already sold out.

And so are 3 of the 5 seats in the next run.

The good news?

There are still 2 seats left in the September run.

So clean the popcorn off your keyboard and party train your way over to this address before the music stops:​