The email marketer is challenged with finding a way to stand out in a sea of competing forces daily. Over the past year, the fad of using special characters within the inbox has begun to grow. This post will talk about the pros and cons of using special characters and provide tips for writing subject lines when setting up your campaign within Responsys Interact.
Pros of Special Characters:
– Surprise and delight within the inbox
– Witty plays on words using special characters such as hearts (♥), stars (★), skull & crossbones
(☠) and others
– Potential to increase unique open rates
Cons of Special Characters:
– When the size of the special character decreases to fit in the subject line, the character (such as skull & crossbones) could be harder to make out than the more simple characters of hearts or stars.
– Depending how your users are viewing your emails (high concentration of BlackBerry) they might not see the witty play on words and will most likely see a “?” or shaded square instead.
– Overall performance increase is yet to be proven out with the use of special characters.
– As the fad continues to catch on, your company isn’t the only one trying to stand out in the inbox and now you are competing against a new sea of special characters.
– Overuse can begin to feel spammy and will be ignored similar to exclamation points or ALL CAPS
Considerations for Deliverability:
For those special characters Responsys has launched and tested, we have not seen any deliverability problems with the major ISPs. However, for those users on corporate accounts using Postini, the campaign did move into their SPAM / BULK folders. Responsys strongly encourages testing internally as well as using a third party (Ex: Return Path) to confirm there are no deliverability complications and to confirm a safe SpamAssassin Score. If a high viewership of users is using mobile devices, do test across each of the mobile devices as well as ISPs to ensure the special character is rendering correctly. BlackBerry, Android and iPhone users will see the special character differently from each other.
When do you use a special character?
The use of special characters should partner with a promotional campaign instead of a transactional. The promotional campaign could play off of an upcoming holiday or new product, service, or team that is being launched. The special characters can add surprise and delight when delivering positive news or rewards for the user.
Examples of holiday related promotions leveraging special characters:
– Shutterfly, 2/2: Steal their ♥. Steal our savings. Get an extra 20% off Valentine’s Sale
– Lancome, 2/8: Why We ♥ Fashion Week
– Build-A-Bear Workshop, 2/10: We ♥ savings! Up to $10 off through Valentine’s Day.
– See’s, 2/12: LAST DAY! Send your ♥ with See’s.
Examples of new product, service or team being launched:
– Free People, 7/5/2011: Rock ★
– Sephora, 1/30/2012: A little ♥ for you
– Baby Gap, 2/17/2012: DVF ♥ GapKids Exclusive Collection
Keep in mind when using the special character that it needs to be easily read by the user. The user needs to still understand who the email is coming from, what actions they need to take, and why this campaign is important.
– Include the special character within the first 20 characters to ensure it is being seen whether viewed on a desktop or mobile device.
– Allow the character to be an obvious replacement of a word (star, heart, love vs. starring, loving, raining, danger).
– The special character can be used as a design element to start and finish the subject line.
– Avoid using the special character in place of punctuation.
I look forward to seeing which special characters you might begin to leverage within your upcoming campaigns. Perhaps details on Talk Like a Pirate Day (☠), St. Patrick’s Day (♣) or the new release of rain apparel (☂) might be arriving in my inbox in the near future.