Avoid Misleading Email Marketing Subject Lines

Email marketing is alive and well. Surely, you’ve noticed since billions of messages are sent annually. The challenge for senders is to get recipients to open them.

That’s why short, attention-grabbing subject lines relevant to the targeted recipients are so important. And let me add to this piece of advice: write accurate subject lines. You’re off on the wrong foot from the beginning if you write misleading or confusing subject lines. Recipients won’t trust you and will be quick to trash your emails or block them altogether.

I receive emails from companies with enticing offers in the subject lines. However, I soon find out, either in the email message or on the company’s website, that the subject lines are misleading. That does not make me happy.

Intentionally misleading subject lines, in my opinion, is akin to the decades-old practices of false advertising or bait and switch.

As an example… I recently received an email from the pet supply giant, PetsMart, with a “BOGO offer” in the subject line. However, when I looked at the message, there was no Buy One, Get One offered. There was a Buy 2, Get 1 offer and worse, a Buy 30, Get 2 offer! BOGO is the acronym for Buy One, Get One (free), folks. Use the term correctly!

I also had been receiving marketing emails from Alibris, the online marketplace for books and more, which I considered to be misleading. I finally had enough when I received one with the subject line “Celebrate our new site with $15 off!” While that’s not really misleading, it caught me on a bad day, I guess, because I was annoyed when I quickly found it was $15 off if I spent $100 or more. I fired off an email to the company telling them they should be honest by saying “$15 off a $100+ purchase” in the subject line.

I doubt my email made an impression, if it was even seen. However, lately the emails from Alibris have been truthful. For instance, the one I received today has in the subject line “Save up to $10 on your next purchase” with “up to” being the key words here because one has to spend $65 or more to receive $10 off. Lower levels of spending receive lower discounts. Thank you, Alibris!

Until the FTC catches up with misleading and unethical online advertising whether by email or other means, if ever they do, it’s up to email recipients and other online users to not only be vigilant, but to take the lead in curbing the practice of companies trying to trick us into buying. We need to take an active role in policing what is presented to us.

As a public relations professional, I do not condone misleading practices and would not recommend any business do it.

As a consumer, I will not buy the items being marketed in this way. Further, I’m not shy about writing to the presidents of companies when I experience unprofessional practices or mistreatment as a consumer. I encourage other individuals to do the same. I find a mailed letter is best for getting attention and be able to say all you want to say. Emails are more easily ignored or trashed, or may end up in a junk mail folder and never be seen.

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