Thursday, April 24th, 2014

63 Great Email Subject Lines from the SXSW Catalog

The amazing SXSW conference has kicked into full swing here in Austin. I haven’t been to a single session yet, and I’ve already learned something of great value I can share with you.

It came in the SXSW session catalog.

The session selection process is very competitive. Every summer, SXSW puts out a call for session and panel ideas. People vote on their sessions and then the crew at SXSW passes final judgment.

It’s very competitive. This year, some 2500 ideas were submitted.

If your session gets accepted you will find yourself competing for attendees with some of the most interesting, influential and innovative professionals. Your session title has to really grab attention in a sea of hundreds of choices.

It’s kind of like the competition for your inbox.

All of this competition has created perhaps the most creatively named agenda in conferencedome.

Your commercial email would enjoy significantly greater open rates if you used SXSW subject lines. No one’s going to click through from your email if they don’t open it and read it.

Subject Lines Must Wake Up the Mind at Any Cost

To use these techniques, you must believe that you can use almost any premise in your subject line to engage the reader and entice them to click.

To prove this point, I am going to take the most abstract title from the following list, use it as a subject line, and create an email that will get readers to click through to my site.

First, the list. Yes, these are actual SXSWinteractive 2011 session titles. I’ve grouped them by the strategies the presenters used in naming their sessions, strategies that you can incorporate into your email subject lines.

Sex and Relationships

  • The Sexual Survival Guide for Geeks: Healthy sex and relationships
  • Sausagefest: Getting More Women into New Media & Tech
  • Fun with the Lights Off: Interactivity Without Graphics
  • How Social Media Fu@k’d Up My Marriage (Learn how not to have your relationship ruined by the online world)
  • Subtle Sexuality: Adds Spice to Shows

Things that Don’t Fit Together (non sequiturs)

  • Block Party Capitalism: Where Analog and Digital Intersect
  • What Comic Books Can Teach Mobile Application Designers
  • Your Mom Has an iPad: Designing for Boomers
  • Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better
  • Why New Authors Should Think Like Indie Bands
  • Why my phone should turn off the Stove – Mobile monitoring of energy consumption
  • Building Fences in the Sky: Geo-fencing Has Arrived
  • I’m so productive, I never get anything done
  • Your Computer is the Next Wonder Drug (Improving interactions with the medical community)
  • What Digital Tribes Can Learn from Native Americans

Left Field

  • Help! A Giant Meteor is Headed Our Way! Cause Shift, Things that need to change
  • OMG – My Pancreas Just Texted

Pop Culture References

  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Babelfish: Automated Translation
  • U.S. Military’s Mad Science Revealed: DARPA Projects predict the future
  • Dear Miss Manners: the Social Web, WTF?
  • Social Media and the NBA
  • Zombies Must Eat: How Genre Communities Make Money
  • Minority Report: Social Media for Decreasing Health Disparities
  • My Prototype Beat Up Your Business Plan
  • Geppetto’s Army: Creating International Incidents with Twitter Bots
  • #FAIL: Infamous social Media PR Disasters


  • Stop Listening to Your Customers: Researching customer needs without asking them.
  • I’ve Never Met My Coworkers: Running International Teams
  • Who Are You and Why Should I Care? Personal branding
  • When Facebook Falls: Future-proofing Your Social Media Efforts
  • 27 (Fun!) Ways to Kill Your Online Community
  • HTML5? The Web’s Dead, Baby.
  • A World without SXSW
  • Fail big, Fail Often: How Fear Limits Creativity
  • Congratulations! Your Brand is About to Become Obsolete
  • The End of Reading in the USA

Science or Science Fiction References

  • The Next Rocket Scientist: You
  • Do Tablets Dream of Electric News?
  • How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

Pure Shock

  • Bordering Incest: Turning Your Company into a Family
  • Baby’s Gotta face For Radio: Web Based Radio?
  • Grow some balls: Build Business Relationships
  • Social Media and Comedy: F**k Yeah!
  • Kill Your Call Center! Bring Your Support Home
  • Bend Over? Surprise! Agencies Are Screwing You
  • How Blogs with Balls are Saving Sports Media
  • How to Personalize Without Being Creepy


  • Bloggers vs. Journalists: It’s a psychological Thing
  • Seven Reasons Your Employees Hate You
  • Influencer Throwdown: Proving Influence Once and For All

Invented Words

  • Radically Onymous: How Ending Privacy is Awesome!
  • Old Spice Resurrected: How Aging Icon Pwned Internet
  • The Future Enernet: a Conversion with Bob Metcalfe (Internet founder)
  • Technomadism: Becoming a Technology Enabled Nomad


  • Defining the Diaspora: Global Collaboration and Social Change
  • The Man in the Van needs Geo Location
  • Chatter Matters: Using Twitter to Predict Sales
  • People as Peripherals: The Future of Gesture Interface
  • Of Fanboys & Fidelity: Adopting Comics for Broad Audiences

Twisted Euphemisms

  • Cure for the Common Font – Secrets of selecting type
  • Influencers Will Inherit the Earth. Quick, Market to Them!

Any Subject Line Will Do

Even the most abstract subject line can be used to make a point. Here’s how I would tie one from the list to an offer for my business:

From: Brian Massey, The Conversion Scientist

Subject: OMG! My Pancreas Just Texted

OMG, my pancreas just texted.

My Liver just phoned.

My stomach just tweeted.

My brain is sending smoke signals.

Every cell of my body is dying to tell you about a new video I’ve just released.

Why am I (and all of my bodily parts) excited? Because online video marketing is rocking conversion rates.

Search engines love it.

Visitors love it.

Businesses like yours are getting more leads and sales from it.

And I think I’ve made it easy for anyone to understand how to use video on their Web site.

In just 11 minutes, I’m going to show you how to present a video on your site that will significantly increase the number of leads you’re getting from the traffic you already have.

Skeptical? Maybe I’m crazy.

I challenge you to take a look and see. If you don’t come away with a better understanding of how to increase conversion rates with video, I’ll get my spleen to cut down the chatter and leave you alone.

If you DO get it, I invite you to join a very special mailing list in which you’ll start to understand how to make all of your marketing convert visitors to leads and sales.

Watch Getting a Reaction from Online Video, and let me know what you think.

My heart will thank you for it.

Best regards,

Brian Massey

Who else would like this article?