Digital Insights: Is the email pre-header the new subject line?


A recent survey by Econsultancy reported that 77% of marketers struggle to make their email campaigns stand out. Email is still a really important communication channel to reach members, but how can you entice them to click? I think pre-headers can help.


What is pre-header text?


Pre-headers generally display when you view your new emails on your mobile device and on your laptop/computer if you use a preview function in your email programme. There is generally a line or two below your subject line, which can be tailored for each email to encourage click-throughs.


Why should I use it?


Pre-header text acts as a teaser for the content inside, enticing your subscribers to open the email (or not, if the pre-header text hasn’t been considered as part of your integrated email marketing campaign).

Not all organisations use this to their best advantage, but it is another useful tactic that can help to increase your email open rate and encourage your subscribers to take action on your campaigns, and so deserves proper consideration in your email marketing campaign.

It helps to think of pre-header text as a screening filter that your subscribers will use to determine whether or not to open your email.


Four characteristics of effective pre-header text:


  1. It’s short: This means short enough to give it the best chance of displaying properly on different devices, operating systems and email clients, e.g. iOS, Android, Windows, Outlook mail, and browser window widths. A good rule of thumb is 40–50 characters which, while short, is enough to entice and instruct your subscribers on the next step.
  2. It works with, not against, your subject line: Don’t introduce a different message to your subject line in your pre-header – this will dilute both messages and confuse your potential reader. Use your pre-header to add to and strengthen your subject line and in turn your email campaign’s key message – and your chances of your email being opened.

See this example:

  1. It doesn’t just repeat the subject line: it is a wasted opportunity if you just repeat the subject line.
  2. It displays well across all devices – always test it across different devices including computers and laptops to it displays well.


Most email tools have a specific area for pre-header text which can be easily amended. Remember to update it each time, though, rather than leaving the message from last month.

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