What difference can a single word make to your email marketing campaign?

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A new large study by the popular email marketing platform MailChimp reveals some great findings on how to make your email marketing campaigns more effective by tweaking your subject lines. The company analysed 24 billion delivered emails with subject lines composed of approximately 22,000 distinct words. Some of the results are obvious, others might be surprising. Below is a summary of the most interesting findings.

Personalisation works

  • The use of both first and last names in a subject line isn’t that common, but has the largest positive impact on open rates
  • There are many industries where use of the first name has a large positive impact. First name personalisation, however, has a negative impact on open rates for the legal industry
  • Using “free” in a subject is positive for some industries
  • Use of the more informal word “freebie” resulted in a much larger increase in open rates

People respond to urgency or importance

  • Words like “urgent” and “important” resulted in open rates that were much higher than normal (of course misuse or overuse will result in a decline)

Making an announcement

  • Recipients are (naturally) curious about announcements and event invitations and more likely to respond to these than cancellations and reminders
  • Sometimes open rates can be deceptive – announcement emails sometimes tell you everything you need to know in the title e.g. if an event is cancelled what else do you need to know?
  • That said, if there is something you need people to know, such as a rescheduled date, that should probably be made clear in the subject too or people may never click to find out

Donation requests fall on deaf ears 

  • Words about charity or donations had a very negative effect on open rates
  • There are some ways to mitigate the impact – whilst “donation” had the most negative impact, “helping” had the best impact

Words that work together

  • Analysis of frequently used word pairs reveals interesting findings
  • People love to be thanked, this has a big impact on open rates
  • Emails about current events, like natural disasters and politics, have higher open rates
  • People definitely do not like to be asked to sign up for anything — or being told they’re missing their last chance to get something they’ve already been emailed about

Capitalisation can help (slightly)

  • The use of ALL CAPS in a subject line leads to slightly higher open rates than usual (not that we would encourage that!)
  • Oddly having at least one fully capitalised word was slightly negative


  • The biggest takeouts are that people are more likely to open your email if it’s personal, has a sense of urgency, or thanks the recipient

View the full report by MailChimp here.

If you are interested in creating or optimising an email marketing campaign we can help. Get in touch with us now.

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