Urban Outfitters Pumpkin Hero

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From: UrbanOutfitters.com
Date: 9/18/15
Subject Line: Click on the 🎃 to Shop Halloween →

Urban Oufitters

My first thought when I opened this email was, “What the— What’s going on?” The entire email is filled with pumpkins overlapping one another continuously in an animated gif. It didn’t take me long to find the instructions in the subject line: Click on the 🎃 to Shop Halloween →. Of course the pumpkins all say “Shop Halloween” as well, but they aren’t immediately apparent as clickable.

I liked the use of the pumpkin emoji in the subject line. The email is a unique idea and it definitely got my attention. However, I’m curious how successful the email campaign was. I have three immediate concerns: 1) lack of product imagery, 2) will the instructions in the subject line be overlooked? and 3) is this email too gimmicky? It brings me back to the days of flashing banners to get attention. Are we past that now or does this strategy still work? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Would you click on this email? Let us know what you think on our Code à la Mode Facebook page.

One other observation worth mentioning is that the pumpkins appear quite differently in various email platforms. Here are some screenshots to illustrate. If you’re planning on using a special character in your email or subject line, it might be worth checking out all the versions people will be seeing (email platforms and smart phones alike). You won’t be able to change how it looks, but it may influence your decision about using it all together. See more on special character rendering in subject lines from a previous post by Lyla here.

Gmail Pumpkin
Yahoo Pumpkin
Hotmail Pumpkin

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Don’t Cop-Out On Your Opt-Out

From: Old Navy
Date: 05/01/2015
Subject Line: We Can’t Buy Your Love

Old Navy Opt-Out Email

Let’s face it, opt-out emails are scary — you worked hard to get those subscribers. A bad list though, and it’s straight to the junk folder. I suggest your opt-out email remind them WHY they signed up in the first place. If it’s for your spectacular products, make them the focus. Your unique style? Show it with an amazing design. Maybe it was an added bonus they received by signing up, so throw in an offer they can’t refuse. For Old Navy, it’s their spunky attitude and great deals, so that’s what they put into their opt-out email. I love the wording they chose, both in the subject line and email — it’s right on target with their style and audience. The design, however, leaves something to be desired… but for the brand it still works.

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Best Practices for Special Characters in Email Subject Lines

One of the topics which the Code à la Mode team is most frequently asked is in regards to special characters in email subject lines. Mostly, our clients want to know how to insert them into their subject lines. Fortunately, this is the easy part! All you need to do is copy and paste from a page like Facebook symbols (or select from the Symbols and Special Character Numbers at the bottom of this blog post). Bear in mind, if you are using special characters in the content of your email, you will need to use the HTML character code, many of which can be found here.

While some email marketers rally against using special characters in subject lines on the principal that they believe them to be too gimmick-y and/or perhaps that there is an over saturation of use in the inbox, we believe that if you do your research and testing, they can be a valuable asset to your campaigns. Like with anything, the key is to test, test, test!

Check your email clients! The major ones (Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo) typically render special characters well, but you’ll want to ensure you are getting what your hoping for in your mobile devices as well, as over half of all email opens are now done from smart phones. Some special characters render prettier on smartphones than desktop. See below for recent subject lines viewed in gmail desktop vs. iPhone native mail app.

From: zulily events
Date: 10/05/2014
Subject Line: ☑ Wake up ☑ Check email ☐ Shop Youngland, Sweet Heart Rose, custom cards & more

From: Mappins
Date: 09/26/2014
Subject Line: C.L.E.A.R.A.N.C.E. Savings You’ll ♥

From: The Home Depot
Date: 09/25/2014
Subject Line: ☾ BOO! We Dare You to Open! ☾

From: Pottery Barn Kids
Date: 09/24/2014
Subject Line: ★ Gear Sale ★ Up to 40% off backpacks, lunch bags & more + free shipping

From: Ballard Designs
Date: 09/23/2014
Subject Line: ❸ Days Only… 15% OFF Our Most Popular Collections

Gmail desktop:

10.07.2014 special gmail


iPhone native mail app:

10.07.2014 special iphone


Finally, once you are pleased with the rendering of your special character, don’t forget to test your subject line. A/B subject line tests are a MUST, regardless of whether or not you are testing the potency of special character usage. We recommend that email marketers everywhere to be ever vigilant with testing different subject line options. If worried about losing potential sales due to a great disparity in performance between your 2 (or more) options, there is always the ability to deliver a small batch pre-send to a limited percent of your list, before deploying to the full file.


♥ ❤ ❥ ♡ ☮ ✌ ☏
✔ ☑ ☒ ✘ ♚ ♪ ♫
✈ ⌚ ✍ ✉ ✎ ✄
♛ © ® ™ ღ ツ
☼ ☁ ❅ ϟ ☃ ☂
✫ ★ ✡ ✯ ✪ ✿

Special Character Numbers:
⓵ ⓶ ⓷ ⓸ ⓹ ⓺ ⓻ ⓼ ⓽ ⓾
⒈ ⒉ ⒊ ⒋ ⒌ ⒍ ⒎ ⒏ ⒐ ⒑ ⒒ ⒓ ⒔ ⒕ ⒖ ⒗ ⒘ ⒙ ⒚ ⒛
⓪ ① ② ③ ④ ⑤ ⑥ ⑦ ⑧ ⑨ ⑩ ⑪ ⑫ ⑬ ⑭ ⑮ ⑯ ⑰ ⑱ ⑲ ⑳
➀ ➁ ➂ ➃ ➄ ➅ ➆ ➇ ➈ ➉
❶ ❷ ❸ ❹ ❺ ❻ ❼ ❽ ❾ ❿
➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓

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