Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Hazards of a 'Bad News' Email Subject Line

The Hazards of a 'Bad News' Email Subject Line

There's a good chance you've gotten email with the phrase "bad news" in the subject line. "It has been used by a number of Internet marketers to increase response rates, notably during product launches, often achieving particularly high response rates," writes Danny Iny at the AWeber blog.  

Why does a "bad news" subject line work? According to Iny, it hits Sean D'Souza's headline trifecta by:
  • Prompting a question, rather than giving an answer
  • Highlighting a problem, rather than outlining a solution
  • Evoking curiosity

Beyond that, subscribers experience loss aversion. "People read the email because they want to make sure they aren't going to be negatively affected," he notes.  In theory, this may seem like a smart strategy. In practice, however, a "bad news" subject line can be treacherous. Here's why:

Your subscriber might not care about your bad news. If someone you actually know? whether a relative, a business partner or a lawyer? says she has bad news, you're going to pay attention. But the average subscriber has little inherent interest in bad news from a random email marketer.

You might lose the trust of hard-won subscribers. When a click reveals that your "bad news" isn't actually bad news, your message might feel manipulative? or worse, deceitful. "If your audience ends up feeling like you were employing cheap tactics to get them to buy from you," says Iny, "then it will likely backfire."

Conclusion: Watch out. Use a "bad news" subject line with care? or else the upside of increased open rates might bring the downside of increased unsubscribes.

The Customer Is Always Right? Except When He Isn't.

The Customer Is Always Right? Except When He Isn't.
We say the customer is always right. But what happens when bad customers co-opt the adage to justify their bad behavior? At least one company "fires" them—to the delight of its good customers. 
"Two years ago," notes Jackie Huba at the Church of the Customer Blog, "we wrote about the best theatre chain in the country: Austin, Texas' Alamo Drafthouse and how it clearly warns customers to not talk or text during a movie or 'we'll kick your ass out.'  (Their actual words.)" 

One of the chain's humorous PSAs starred the late Ann Richards—a tough-talking former Texas governor—who forcefully ejected a rowdy audience member onto the sidewalk.  Huba uses her post to highlight Alamo's latest PSA. It's built around an irate voicemail from an actual customer who was given the heave-ho for texting during a movie, and features an expletive-laden tirade that illustrates why the policy is necessary and desirable.

"I was not AWARE that I couldn't text in your theater," says the customer. "All right?  I've texted in ALL the other theaters in Austin, and no one ever gave a [expletive] about what me, I  was doing on my [expletive] phone."

When she finally announces she will never be back, the company doesn't disguise its pleasure—the PSA replies with this kiss-off: "Thanks for not coming back to the Alamo, texter!"

Conclusion: If you stop accommodating bad customers, you'll attract good customers who don't want to put up with their misbehavior.

If you would like to discuss your marketing plan and share ideas,  please give me a call at 440-519-1500 or e-mail me at

X2 Media can help you target your content and get your message to the audience in a way that it is not only seen and heard, but remembered.

Until next month….remember, “you don’t get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression”. Always make it a good one!  From X2Media I would like to thank you for your time.

John E. Hornyak
X2Media, LLC