Email Marketing make-em-laugh

Published on March 15th, 2016 | by Lisa Furgison

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25 Comical Subject Lines + Tips for Funny Writing

Want a sure-fire way to engage your subscribers and get them to open your emails? Make ‘em laugh. A humorous subject line is a great motivator.

So, how do you write funny subject lines? Since hiring Amy Schumer or John Oliver is probably out of the question, you’ll have to channel your own inner comedian. Don’t worry; we’ll help you find your funny bone. We have four tips to help you create chuckle-worthy subject lines. Before we start, here are some funny subject lines to use as inspiration:

  • OpenTable:  Licking your phone never tasted so good
  • Move Loot:  Seat Your Heart Out
  • Travelocity:  Need a day at the beach? Just scratch n’ sniff your way to paradise…
  • Uber:  Since we can’t all win the lottery…
  • Overstock:  Seriously. We’d like to thank you.
  • Grubhub:  Last Day To See What This Mystery Email Is All About
  • Refinery29:  10 bizarre money habits making Millennials richer
  • Groupon: Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)
  • Eater Boston: Where to Drink Beer Right Now (Sent at 6:45am on a Wednesday)
  • Fabletics: Your Butt Will Look Great in These Workout Pants
  • Edgevale: Get In Our Pants
  • UrbanDaddy: You’ve Changed
  • Influitive: So I’ll pick you up at 7?
  • BloomThat: Better than a pumpkin spice latte!
  • Gap: Mondays are suddenly AWESOME
  • The Bold Italic: Just Pho You: Where to Eat SF’s Best Pho
  • Pop Physique: Get Ready. Keep the Pie Off Your Thighs Returns.
  • The Muse: We Like Being Used
  • BuzzFeed: Yes, We’re Still Talking About Kim Kardashian’s Butt
  • Groupon: There are no deals in this email
  • Warby Parker: Pairs nicely with spreadsheets
  • Sublime Stitching: Bummed you missed out? Console yourself…
  • NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences: Show Us Yours and We’ll Show You Ours
  • Baby Bump: Yes, I’m Pregnant. You Can Stop Staring At My Belly Now.
  • Benefit Cosmetics: Do you like to watch?

Tips for writing amusing subject lines:

1. Connect things that don’t go together

To get subscribers to crack a smile and click open on your email, try combining two things that may not necessarily fit together. The “Pairs nicely with spreadsheets,” subject line is a good example. Try to combine your product or service with something out of the ordinary. For example, an online retailer could connect hip trends to the older generation. A subject line like, “Ten Trendy Styles Even Your Grandmother Thinks Are On Fleek,” could get a smile from your readers and encourage customers of all generations to open your email.

2. Use movies and song titles

Draw inspiration from movie quotes, song titles, and infamous TV or internet moments. Because it’s true, we are still talking about Kim Kardashian’s derrière. Think of movies that relate to your business, or famous quotes that you could incorporate into your subject line. For example, a dating service could incoporate the movie title, Finders Keepers, into a subject line. A spa or salon could weave in the movie title, Inside Out. A landscaping business could reference Angry Birds. A local pub could use Seinfeld‘s Kramer quote, “Boy, these pretzels are makin’ me thirsty.”

3. Keep an eye on celebrity happenings

If you’re not into celebrity gossip, we won’t force you to read tabloids, but celebrities are always good for a faux pas here and there. From fashion fails on the red carpet to odd occurrences like Charlie Sheen’s “Winning” rant, Hollywood can provide material for a subject line or two.

4. Be blunt 

Sometimes stating the obvious is funny. People tend to skirt some issues and sugarcoat others to avoid hurt feelings, but it’s okay to be brutally honest on occasion as long is it’s appropriate for your biz. The subject line from WorkLife, “Everyone Hates The Boss. Learn How to Smile Through It,” is a good example.

Try something similar with your business. For example, a restaurant could say, “We promise not to ask how it tastes when your mouth is full.” Accountants can play up how awful paying taxes is by referencing the famous Ben Franklin quote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” An auto repair service can talk about running on empty. Tell your audience the brutal truth and explain how your business can help.

A few words of caution

Humorous subject lines have a lot of benefits, but there are a few rules you’ll want to stick to.

  • Don’t be offensive

If you take a joke too far, you can offend your audience. If you think your subject line is borderline offensive, don’t send it. Since humor is subjective, it’s always a good idea to run your subject line by another colleague to make sure you’re not crossing the line. Also, politics are risky and divisive. Political humor may alienate a segment of your audience so use extreme caution here.

  • Don’t stray from your company’s voice

You’ve worked hard to create a voice and tone for your brand. That voice can certainly have a dash of humor, but don’t stray too far. Keep your voice true to your brand.

  • Humor is just another tool

As always, you want your email content and subject lines to be diverse. In other words, you don’t have to make your contacts laugh with every email. It’s just another tactic to have in your marketing toolbox. 

Ready to get started with your clever subject lines?

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Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in March 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.

© 2016, Lisa Furgison. All rights reserved.

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Lisa Furgison

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