Dear 

Howdy. 

Chances are, the email you received from me last week had the subject line: To fee or not to fee, that is the question. (Clever, eh? 😉) But a small subset of subscribers saw this instead: You down with OPC? Yeah, you know me. (Ya gotta love that one, too!)

I was A/B testing the subject line and "To fee" was the winner by a small margin. 

Now that I'm giving it more thought, though, I'm realizing that pitting two punny subject lines against each other wasn't really an effective way to test. Other than giving me the chance to use both of my corny ideas, the test wasn't really a test at all. Just about as many people opened the emails as would have opened it anyway. And, the difference in open rate between the two subjects was only a few percentage points. 

What could I have done instead? 

A better use of the testing feature - and possibly resulting in a larger variance between the choices - would have been to test a punny subject line against one that is much more literal. After all, I'm not trying to find out which jokes land better. I want to know what type of writing leads to more reading. 

Since the email actually had two main ideas (repurposing other people's content & passing credit card fees on to donors) I tested them against each other with clever headings. But perhaps something like this would have been better: Should you ask donors to pay credit card fees? Plus, how to instantly create more content for your org. 

It's pretty clear what you'll find inside that message. 

One thing I've had to learn over the years as a marketer is that clever isn't always better and, usually, clarity wins. That can be a bummer for a brain that's perpetually searching for a play on words or the next great one liner. Unfortunately, creativity and effectiveness aren't always simpatico.

So, what's your take? Do you prefer literal or laughable? Perhaps a good balance between the two? How do you decide what subject lines to use? And are you A/B testing, too? I'd love to hear about it!

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