Thought Leadership

Emotive Subject Lines for Mother's Day: What Makes Subscribers Open Emails

Mother’s Day is also about emotions – gratitude, love, affection, and even encouragement.

Mother’s Day is one of the most versatile holidays of the year as it can be particularly relevant to a variety of industries – hospitality, travel, retail, consumer services, and more – and, as the number of holiday-themed campaigns continues to increase year-over-year, it’s sure to get a lot of traction with both brands and consumers.

Mother’s Day is also about emotions – gratitude, love, affection, and even encouragement. As such, brands need to incorporate the emotions of the holiday into their marketing efforts in order to be relevant and purposeful with their campaigns.

To help marketers find the right voice for their Mother’s Day-themed emails and identify the most effective subject lines, Yes Lifecycle Marketing, in partnership with Persado, analyzed over 118K emails sent within two weeks of Mother’s Day over 2014 and 2015.


The subject line, while it may appear to be the simplest component of an email campaign, can be rather complicated. There are different subject line elements that can play a significant role in engagement, ranging from the offer description and positioning of the key word (in this case, ‘Mother’s Day,’) to the type of emotions a subject line elicits. 


  • Overall:
    The data demonstrated that, as a whole, campaigns incorporating Mother’s Day references at the beginning of their subject lines are more effective. They generate an open rate of 11.2% compared to 9.65% for emails that contain a Mother’s Day reference at the tail-end of their subject lines. That’s a 16.1% differential in open rates that can easily translate into clicks and, eventually, conversions.


  • By Platform:
    Positioning of key words within the subject line is particularly important when it comes to the platform where an email is received and viewed – whether a desktop or a mobile device. Our data showed that the positioning of the Mother’s Day reference within the subject line did not significantly impact open rates for DESKTOPS.
    However, with the limited space allotted by the smaller screen of tablets and smartphones, it is easier for the message to get cut off in a mobile environment. This means that positioning can impact engagement significantly. In fact, mobile open rates for Mother’s Day emails increase by almost 38% if the Mother’s Day reference is at the beginning of the subject line.

Descriptive Language

Many brands use descriptive language in their subject lines to entice subscribers to open. Things like “50% Off,” “Free Shipping,” or “$10 off your order” can get consumers’ attention and encourage them to buy. Almost two-thirds of Mother’s Day-themed emails included a description of the promoted offer in their subject lines. However, for this particular holiday, its presence didn’t seem to affect subscribers’ open rates.

Emotional Language

Emotions in subject lines can range from encouragement and gratification to anxiety and urgency. Using the right emotion in the right context is imperative; not all brands or campaigns can boast them effectively.
Mother’s Day is among the holidays that tug most on consumers’ heart strings, so appealing to them with a subject line that conveys the right emotion can lead to a great response. Between 2014 and 2015, almost two-thirds of all Mother’s Day-themed emails had subject lines that boasted at least one emotion. The average open rate for those emails was 21.5% higher than that of campaigns without emotion in the subject lines (10.33% and 8.50%, respectively.)

Top 3 emotions

Emotional language that communicated Encouragement and Curiosity generated the highest open rates for Mother’s Day-themed emails for both 2014 and 2015.

Top Three in 2014:

  1. Encouragement
    • e.g. “Give mum the gift she really wants this Mum's Day!”
  2. Curiosity
    • e.g. “Mother's Day is this Sunday - shall we save you a table?”
  3. Gratification (note that this is not the same as the emotion Gratitude; gratification entails sentiment over savings or sales)
    • e.g. “Buy more save more - Get up to 20% off for Mother's Day gifts!”

Top Three in 2015:

  1. Encouragement
  2. Curiosity
  3. Anxiety
    • e.g. “Don't Forget Mom - Up to 30% Off Mother's Day Gifts!”

Bottom 3 emotions

Based on our data of the lowest-performing emotional language of Mother’s Day campaigns, many marketers may have learned their lesson from 2014 to 2015. Emotional language that communicated Safety was the only bottom-performer that persevered year-over-year.

Bottom 2014:

  1. Safety
    • e.g. “Guaranteed Mother's Day Delivery"
  2. Excitement
    • e.g. “She'll Love Luxe Fragrances”
  3. Urgency
    • e.g. “Post Mother's Day Offers Now...Time is Running Out!”

Bottom 2015:

  1. Safety
    • e.g. “Guaranteed Mother's Day Delivery"
  2. Fascination
    • e.g. “Gifts For A Mother Like No Other!”
  3. Achievements
    • e.g. “Up to 40% OFF?! You Just Hit the Mother Lode!”


While the bottom-performing emotional language for Mother’s Day subject lines did not have as much of an overlap year-over-year, the highest-performing one did. In order to ensure they have a successful Mother’s Day marketing effort, marketers can craft a few subject lines that speak to a variety of different emotions, starting with Encouragement and Curiosity and test their performance in order to identify the most effective one. Every year, brands can add a new emotion to test in order to ensure they continue to deploy the campaign that speaks best to their customers and garners the highest conversions. 

Similarly, marketers can play with positioning of both the emotional language component as well as the key word within their subject line variations. This will help them optimize subscriber response and capitalize on the opportunity that topical campaigns like Mother’s Day bring about.


04/26/2015 - 05/11/2015
04/27/2014 - 05/12/2014

Yes Lifecycle Marketing and Persado analyzed more than 118,000 emails with over 12,000 unique subject lines, spanning 12 industries, sent during the timeframes specified above from Yes Lifecycle Marketing's cross-channel marketing platform, Yesmail360i.

Author Bio

Ivy Shtereva

As a VP of marketing at Yes Marketing, Ivy is responsible for multichannel strategy and implementation across the email, database, web, and direct marketing channels. She is dedicated to improving the quantity and quality of incoming leads through a combination of engaging content, effective communication strategy, and timely follow-up. Ivy is committed to making Yes Marketing the undisputed thought leader in the industry when it comes to executable digital recommendations and has made significant strides to achieving this goal by authoring Yes Marketing's one-of-a-kind quarterly benchmark reports. In her free time, Ivy loves to travel to obscure US destinations to capture the true ‘local taste’ of every state (as long as meat is not involved). She’s an avid Chicago Bears fan and consistently exhibits Bears bias in setting her fantasy football lineups.