Subject lines and craft beer—these two don’t really seem to go together, huh?
The interesting thing about this awkward juxtaposition is that subject lines and beer actually share many similarities. From the creation process to the marketing impact, both are designed with a goal in mind—to get the brand and product exposed.
Whether you are a trendy IPA enthusiast or an introverted stout purist, there’s most certainly a beer for your taste these days. Over the past 5 years the number of operating craft breweries in the U.S. has more than doubled from 2,898 in 2013 to 6,266 in 2017—and is still continuing to grow this year. All you have to do is walk into your local grocer and you’ll see a multitude of craft beers filling the beer aisle. They are saturating the market—but in a good way. Just like our inboxes are saturated every day by hundreds of emails…in a bad way. Craft beer and subject lines, coincidently, have a similar creative process that can make your unique brand stand out. So whether you’re trying to get people into your new Double-Barrel Aged Dragon Fruit–Infused Quadruple IPA or you’re trying to make your subject line stand out in a sea of digital information overload, the execution is in the craft.
Step 1: Milling the Grain to Feel Out Your Audience
Just like different types of malt are crushed together to extract fermentable sugars to produce “grist,” you need to sift through your audience and extract. Choose one specific target and determine what type of messaging is appropriate. Most emails fall into two categories: marketing-based or customer-based messaging. This sets up the correct tone of your subject line.
Step 2: Mash Conversion = Word Vomit
After you’ve extracted your “grist” (target audience), it is transferred into a larger container to be mixed with heated water to break the malt down to sugars.
This process is called Mash Conversion, or in subject-line land I like to call this portion “word vomit.” Mix what you’ve extracted from your audience with all your first-to-mind ideas. Anything is game, get it all out. This is to clear your mind for the really good lines that will come next.
Step 3: Lautering & Boiling for Second-Level Filtering
This “mash” that we’ve just produced is further filtered by separating a sweet liquid (known as wort) from grain husks.
Here is where you really get into the crucial components of subject-line crafting. Start by curating through all your options. Toss out the bland, cliché, nonactionable, and unclear subject lines in favor of lines that stand out. Make sure you have options with keywords too!
Lautering: A process in brewing beer in which the mash is separated into the clear liquid wort and the residual grain
Step 4: The Boil & Cool Help Power-Up Subject Lines
The “wort” is then collected in a vessel, called a kettle, where it is brought to a controlled boil before the hops are added. After the “wort” is separated to remove malt or hop particles, a liquid remains that is ready to be cooled and fermented.
Now this is where you add some firepower to your subject line. The extra hops and flavor infusions are your creative flair. Do you want an educational subject line (e.g., learn more) or maybe something that is more personal and prodding (e.g., are you missing out)? However you want to reach your audience, make sure it is clear, strong, brief, and properly informs about what the email entails. After you’ve juiced up your subject line options, it’s time to take a step back and let your mind cool down.
Step 5: Fermentation & Maturation Create Room for Improvement
After the cooling, yeast is added to the vessel to ferment the liquid. Yeast converts the sugary “wort” into beer and starts the maturation process to allow a full development of flavors and a smooth finish.
By this point, you’ve written a lot. It’s easy to get complacent with your options and share them with your client (if applicable). But the truth is, this is where your mind can create some of the most original work you are capable of. Let your thoughts “ferment” and “mature.” Take your time at this stage and really dig for those engaging words. For me, this step of the process is pivotal in getting my subject lines to the upper echelon. Thoroughly read over all your options with a keen eye; this will help ensure your subject lines are smooth and enticing.
Step 6: Filtering & Carbonating for a Different Perspective
This is it! After maturing to its full potential, the beer is filtered, carbonated, and transferred to a separate tank where the 3–4 week cellaring process occurs. This marks the end of brewing the beer before it is packaged.
Now before you think you’re done with your process, there’s one more step: an outsider’s perspective. This is oh so important to get a different perspective on your work and how any of the options can be improved. After you’ve collected feedback and adjusted (while still staying true to your writing), you can give yourself a nice lil’ pat on the back.
Craft beer and subject lines are the most unlikely of couples. But it’s hard to ignore their parallels in development and the sweet fulfillment of that final product. As craft beer continues to dominate the alcoholic beverage scene, don’t be afraid to be adventurous and try something new. Whether it’s finding a different approach to creating subject lines or diving into Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale, there’s a crafty side waiting to be awoken in all of us.
Now go have a beer! You deserve it.
A good recipe for subject lines
Some of the best craft breweries in the United States