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Clowns, “The Shining,” and Subject Lines

Okay, at first glance, the title might not make sense to you. But there is a commonality. Clowns are terrifying to a lot of people – myself included. Due to the clown that’s been walking the streets at night in Northampton, I’ve scratched moving there off my bucket list. “The Shining” is a very scary movie, made more so by Shelley Duvall’s twitchy reactions to the horror. And subject lines? Well, they can be quite terrifying – sometimes in a good reaction-inducing way, and other times in a bad makes-me-want-to-grab-a-red-pen-and-change-it kind of way.

Over my years in tech marketing, I’ve learned that subject lines that include “scare” tactics perform quite well when used thoughtfully. This is not for shock value. Rather I use this approach when speaking to vulnerabilities, challenges, and threats that professionals face in their role. I’ve found that this works for the reader and works for driving engagement.

For example, I sent an email campaign to UBM Tech’s audience of IT professionals. The subject line I used was “5 Resume Mistakes to Avoid”. This mailing generated a 27% increase in clicks and a 61% increase in registrations over the average for this audience.

Time for a New Job?

With the job market recovering, more and more people are looking around to see what else is out there. They want to make sure that their resumes are noticed for all the right reasons, instead of all the wrong ones. So of course they’re going to click to learn what they can to avoid making a rookie resume mistake.

credproblemAn Unusual Image

In a past email to UBM Tech’s Education readership, I promoted a digital issue of InformationWeek (which contained an article about ways to keep top employees) and this image to the right was used:

I don’t know about you, but at first glance when I look at that image, it looks to me like the gentleman is raising his middle finger to the camera – like he’s quitting and making sure that he’s getting his message known about how unhappy he was. This visual impression adds a disturbing aspect to the subject line that also generates interest. (NOTE: He’s not raising his middle finger at all. The three bent knuckles to the left of the raised finger show that. But you don’t notice that when you first look at the image.)

Are You Scaring Your Readers?
If you’re not, think about ways that you can evoke emotion and sense of urgency around the important issues your audience cares about and are focused on. Please don’t include images of evil clowns or Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” but think of ways to get your message across that will make your readers think and want to read what you have to say.

content marketing, Email Marketing, marketing insights