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Subject Line + Preheader = The Perfect Pairing

In a meeting with a client recently, I was asked whether preheaders were REALLY that important. My answer? Uh, yea, they are REALLY that important.

For subscribers checking email on mobile phones, the preheader continues the story set up in the subject line. Ignoring this precious piece of real estate is a big miss on the part of email marketers. Case in point: kate spade. Scrolling through my inbox on my iPhone, this is what I saw… last day! 25% off sale items. online…This message has no content.

The first line tells who sent the email, the second represents the subject line. And if you haven’t guessed already, the third line is the preheader. Makes you cringe a little, right? “This message has no content” is not exactly a call to action, let alone an invitation to open the email.

The weird thing is that when I opened the email, I noticed that there was copy in the preheader space in the top left corner that said: “last day! 25% off sale items. online only – click here.” Clearly, there is a coding issue. See for yourself.

Finding the perfect balance between the subject line and the preheader is not an easy task. While writers spend a lot of time crafting the most compelling subject line possible, a lot of times the preheader is treated as somewhat of a throwaway, not necessarily by the writer, but by the powers that be. In fact, some preheaders simply repeat the subject line verbatim.

Case in point: Tommy Bahama. Here’s how one of their latest emails looked in my inbox on my iPhone, using the same forumla as above: first line equals “from”, second line equals subject line, third line equals preheader.

Tommy Bahama

Our Favorite Jacquards: See Our Favorite Jacquards | Shop Women’s | Find a Store | Can’t see images…

While it looks a little odd to have the same wording sitting together like that in the inbox, this preheader actually looks a.o.k. in the email itself. See, that’s the tricky thing about preheaders. They have to sit with the subject line in the inbox AND on their own in the body of an email. Typically, the preheader calls the top left or top center portion of an email home. Check out the Tommy Bahama email as an example.


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