CAN-SPAM act compliance and email subject lines

5826077_sDuring the holidays and at the end of the year, it’s common for companies to send more email and make more special offers.  But be careful with those subject lines!  You want to be sure they are in compliance with the law (the CAN-SPAM Act).  You also risk annoying your recipients.

As an example, I received an email solicitation from an area publication to which I subscribe.  And from which I have bought advertising.

The subject line said “Thank you and a gift.”

I figured, okay, a little appreciation.  Nice.  I open the email.  There is no gift offer.  There is an offer of a discount, which is not that great actually, to subscribe for another year.

Was I annoyed?  You bet.  Where was my “gift?”

Does this sound innocent to you?  Calling a discount a gift, well, why not?  Just marketing speak, right?  Well, sure.  You can be cute with words in marketing for the holidays in a lot of advertising contexts, as long as you aren’t outright deceptive.

But when it comes to commercial email subject lines, the law is really clear about truth in advertising.  Everyone who works in commercial email knows this now, but I’m sharing this with you, so you don’t make the same mistake.

Your subject line has to deal with the content of your message.  Sure, it has to tempt the recipient to open it.  BUT you have to deliver on what you promise in a subject line.  For example, you cannot say in a subject line: Free cheeseburger coupon inside!  and then when the reader opens it, the body of the email mentions the caveat: with the purchase of a drink and fries.  Free offers — and all offers — mentioned in emai subject lines have to come with no strings attached.

A discount is not a “gift.”  A gift is something that is offered for free, with no expectation of return.  The subject line would have been in compliance if they had said “Special Holiday Discount for Subscription Renewals,” for example.

What is working for your holiday email marketing efforts?


About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince ( Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on December 5, 2012, in Email Marketing Tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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