Waiting in my inbox a few days ago was my latest email from Firebox.com. This one had a particularly startling subject line:
“SEX CEREAL: Fuel your fire – Firebox UK Exclusive”
Now, my followers will know that Firebox is one of my favourite brands, and I have written about them before (see Figaro Digital and NetImperative). For those unfamiliar with this brand, they are an online gadget shop, and their emails have a fine tradition of risqué humour and tongue-in-cheek innuendo.
However, this example was a bit OTT even by their standards! And as far as subject lines go, it subverts pretty much every best practice known to the email universe – block capitals, references to sex, spam triggers words like “exclusive” – they’re all there!
So naturally, I started wondering how this particular campaign performed (so to speak!). I loaded up the sender into Return Path’s Inbox Insight competitor intelligence solution and the results were intriguing:
Measured against Firebox’s 30-day benchmark, we can see that Read Rates for this email were actually slightly better than normal. The fact that “Deleted Unread” rates were almost 1/6 higher suggests that it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the “ISP Spam” rate was around 1/5 less, suggesting overall subscriber engagement was positive. This is reinforced by the fact that not a single spam complaint was generated from the subscriber panel.
But what about the risk posed by message filtering? Solutions such as Spam Assassin have rules such as “SUBJECT_SEXUAL” and “SUBJ_ALL_CAPS” so aren’t these factors likely to be problematic? To answer this question, I submitted a copy of the Firebox email creative to Return Path’s Inbox Preview rendering & content assessment module. Intriguingly, this email scored a 100% pass rate – green lights across the board, even for some of the more notorious filters that we test (like Postini!).
So this would appear to prove what we’ve known all along – email content is definitely not the deliverability influencer that it once was. However, the converse is that approaches like this one should not be over-used, or they start to lose effectiveness. Firebox provides a good illustration of this – following a website revamp in mid-March, emails are now sent on a roughly weekly basis with subject lines that start with “NEW STUFF”:
Comparing the effectiveness of this approach during the first 45 day period versus the subsequent 45 days, it can be seen that average Read Rates for these emails have reduced while average ISP Spam Rates have increased by 1/3 – subscriber engagement has clearly declined as the novelty value has worn off.
What are the key take-outs from this exercise?
So get testing, and give your email program a lift. Breakfast will never be the same again!