Email Strategy

Are Your Subject Lines a Snooze Fest—or Worse?

Follow these five pointers from top performers to get your emails noticed.

It’s the marketer’s curse: You spend so much time crafting the perfect video or wading through white paper drafts that when it finally comes time to distribute, the last thing you have energy for is coming up with just the right subject line.

But what’s the point of great content if no one ever sees it?

5 Ways to Make Your Messages Open-Worthy

To keep your next emails from being ignored, PMMI Media Group shares the following takeaways from some of the past year’s high-performing subject lines.

Appeal to Curiosity

One of the most common mistakes marketers make is giving everything away in the subject line. By leaving the reader wanting a little more information, you’ll increase the likelihood of opening. (Just be sure that what’s inside delivers—duping the reader with “click bait” won’t leave a positive impression of your brand.)


  • FAQ – How to Bypass the UL Certification Maze (Automation World)
  • Clever Invention Is the Easiest Way to Cut Belt Maintenance (OEM Magazine)
  • The Secret to Applying Challenging Coatings (ProFood World)
  • How Can You Achieve 20-30% Cost Savings? (ProFood World)
  • Case Packing Just Got Easier (ProFood World)
  • Clean Without Harsh Chemicals? Here’s How. (ProFood World)

Don't Tell Them About the Snakes on the Plane

What?! If that just gave you a jolt, you’ve just experienced the second big takeaway: Fear is always an attention-grabber.

Use of fear in your subject lines—whether it’s the end user’s fear of making the wrong decision or fear of missing out on features—can help your message stand out and aid recall. Focusing around worst-case scenarios or desire not to “blow it” can be very powerful—often, more powerful than even discussing potential benefits. There’s even a term for this phenomenon: In psychology, “loss aversion” refers to how people prefer to avoid losing something rather than gaining something of equal value. (For example, would you rather face the chance of losing five dollars or gaining five dollars? Studies show the first proposition invoking loss will be more likely to grab folks’ attention.)

A couple of things to note with this approach: Though powerful, fear-based marketing can be tricky. Don’t rely solely on this technique—it can get too gimmicky when overused or unintentionally create a negative association with your brand. Also, making a potential customer or user feel bad about themselves should never be the goal.


  • Is Your Food Processing Facility Prepared to Weather the Swarm? (ProFood World)
  • Documentation Can Make or Break Your Audit (ProFood World)
  • Growing Your Beer Production? Don’t Forget These 5 Things (ProFood World)
  • Stop Using Actual Weight to Calculate Freight Costs (Packaging World)
  • Upgrading Pneumatic Systems Lowers Your Risk of Food Recalls (ProFood World)
  • Don’t Let Ants Come Marching In (Healthcare Packaging)
  • Protecting Product from Ink Leachability (Healthcare Packaging)

Get Your Company and Product Name Outta There

Top-performers tend to create messaging around “fixes” to users’ challenges, as opposed to focusing on what the supplier is selling. Readers want practical information to address their needs, whether that’s strategies to increase output, cut costs, support safety or protect the environment. The more educational—as opposed to promotional— your content appears, the more likely end users will be to want to engage. When you lead with solving their pain point, and only then describe your product’s role in addressing this pain, you’ll be most successful.


  • White Paper: Selecting the Best Camera for Your Application (Automation World)
  • eBook: A Comprehensive Look at Calibration Essentials (Automation World)
  • A Practical Guide to Preventing Compressed Air System Leaks (ProFood World)
  • Easily Comply with Machine Safety Standards (OEM Magazine)
  • Preventing Dairy Products from Losing Key Nutrients (Packaging World)
  • Tips for Onboarding a Hygienic Food Production System (ProFood World)
  • How to Simplify Conveyor Motion Control (OEM Magazine)
  • Shelf Impact of Plastic Folding Cartons vs. Paperboard (Packaging World)

Share Your Unique Bird’s Eye View

Everyone loves to know how they compare with peers. (You’re reading this article, right?) Marketers often garner high engagement by showcasing success strategies either with case studies or self-assessments and then highlighting this content angle in their subject lines.


  • Snack Manufacturer Switches Case Coder, Reduces Downtime (Packaging World)
  • Take Our Industry 5.0 Readiness Assessment (OEM Magazine)
  • Candy Company Overcomes Fragile Product Packaging Obstacles (ProFood World)
  • Brewer Relies on Scalable Printer for Reliable Coding (OEM Magazine)
  • Honey Brand Uses Pouch Packaging to Best Meet Consumer Needs (Packaging World)
  • Potato Processor Achieves Zero Liquid Discharge from Plant (ProFood World)
  • Food Processing Freeze Time Calculator – Try It Now (ProFood World)

(Pro tip: If you have a customer willing to be identified in a case study, be sure to lead with that user company’s name. The customer’s cachet will only add to the level of interest among peers!)

Load Up on Tech and Innovation

Keeping up with trends is part of every end user’s job.  As such, advances in technology or processes are inherently interesting. Marketers that focus their subject lines around changing industry dynamics can best stand out from the crowd.


  • High-Speed Robotic Packaging for Challenging Applications (ProFood World)
  • Understanding Medical Device Packaging in the Digital Age (Healthcare Packaging)
  • Redefine Your Blade Expectations (ProFood World)
  • 7 Trends Shaping the Future of Package Printing (Packaging World)
  • Machine Shop Uses Robots to Rapidly Boost Production (Automation World)
Are Your Subject Lines a Snooze Fest—or Worse?

Written by

Sarah Loeffler