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Email Subject Lines: Using FOMO to Your Advantage


FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out.

The term is usually used to describe people's response to social media posts. As in, "OMG, look how much fun they're all having ... and I'm missing out!" It's the bane of the middle schooler's existence and strikes a chord with us grownups whenever we see someone post about their latest promotion, prize, or publishing deal.

FOMO is no fun. But, FOMO can be your friend. When you use it to your advantage.

Whether we knew the acronym or not, direct marketers have leveraged FOMO for years. Think about the most familiar (and, let's face it, hokiest) DRTV offers, and they reek of FOMO ...

"Act now!"

"Don't miss this exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime offer!"

"An offer this good can't last forever!"

You get the general idea.

It turns out that FOMO, or creating a sense of urgency, is one of your most powerful strategies for email marketing as well. Especially when it comes to subject lines.

A recent study by Return Path tested multiple subject line strategies, including:

  • Benefit - focusing on benefits of the product or offer
  • Clickbait - sensationalizing the message
  • Command - telling the recipient what to do
  • Discount - promoting a special offer
  • How to - educating the recipient on "How to ..." do something
  • News - emphasizing the news value of the content
  • Personal - leveraging 1:1 "I" and "You" language
  • Reason why - alluding to what they'll learn
  • Price - spelling out savings or a "free" offer
  • Urgency - taking advantage of ... you guessed it ... FOMO

An the most effective? You guessed it again. "Urgency."

Here are the subject line keywords that best tested, and the open rates associated with each:

  1. Still time           33.73%
  2. Hurry                19.01%
  3. Last chance     16.71%
  4. Expire              16.69%
  5. Expiring           16.60%
  6. Now                 15.75%
  7. Limited time     14.93%

All of the other stratetgies may have value for your speciic audience, product, and offer. So, as always, we encourage you to test, test, test.

But, maybe, start by testing urgency. Or in FOMO words ...

"Don't miss out. Try urgency today!"

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