Similar to the concept of ‘banner blindness,’ where website viewers unconsciously or otherwise ignore online advertising banners, ‘inbox blindness’ is when recipients stop noticing certain emails in their inbox. Usually, the average officegoer receives 121 emails per day. It makes sense to ignore certain emails. 

However, this is no gospel for brands, particularly during the holiday season when people are generally highly motivated to make purchases. Naturally, you want to draw their attention to your emails. Psychologically speaking, you want to ‘re-sensitize’ your audience to marketing stimuli. In this post, we will learn how to do that. 

We will try and understand the psychology behind how users view email subject lines during this time. Accordingly, we will give you actionable tips on how to craft unmissable subject lines and round off email marketing this holiday season. Let’s get crafty!

Cognitive Load

Too many emails during the peak season increase the cognitive load on recipients. Now, when you see the latest messages on Gmail, you look at the subject lines and process them very quickly. The ease with which you process the information affects your perception. You will gravitate toward subject lines that are short and direct. 

The point is: subject lines that are easy to understand are more likely to be clicked. The same goes for holiday subject lines. Embrace simplicity, clarity, and brevity. 

Emotional Triggers

There are two types of emotional triggers: positive and negative. Positive emotions include joy, excitement, and anticipation. Whereas negative emotions comprise urgency and anxiety. You want to make use of both while crafting your subject lines. 

Of course, any email marketer worth their salt is well aware of what type of subject line constitutes these triggers. But you need to be genuine. Trigger for trigger’s sake does not work. It might induce emotional fatigue, if not upset your brand’s reliability altogether. Which is the worst gift you could ask for during the holidays. 


According to the principle of reciprocity, an individual tends to respond positively when they perceive value in what they are receiving. Now, brands have a lot of value to offer during the holiday season. The question is: how can you make your audience ‘perceive,’ ‘realize,’ and ‘accept’ the value you offer? 

The simple answer is: use benefit-oriented language in your subject line. For instance, ‘Find out how you can make your Christmas merrier!’ is a subject line that is benefit-oriented and expressly asks the recipient to do something. The formula is: do this in order to get that. This immediately puts the recipient in the driver’s seat, motivating them to act desirably. 

Social Proof

“I think one trend that people sleep on way too much is incorporating social proof into your marketing emails,” contends Dave Gerhadt, Chief Brand Officer at Drift. 

You see, no man is an island. Humans are social animals. We are always looking to others for cues on how we should act. Including social proof in your subject line will ease your audience into opening your email. A subject line like ‘Top-rated gifts loved by thousands’ is a nice way to go about it. 

Besides, consumers tend to follow each other more during the holiday season, thanks to a heightened sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). Leverage it in your subject lines. 

Information Gap

The information gap theory states that people are motivated by their desire to fill gaps in their existing knowledge in order to overcome the discomfort of having realized that there is a disparity between what they want to know and what they need to know. 

Curiosity is a strong motivator. Subject lines that create an information or knowledge gap in order to pique subscriber curiosity can be highly effective during the holidays. So for instance, a subject line like ‘A surprise gift awaits you inside!’ nails it with a vengeance. 

Visual Imagery

No, we’re not talking about adding a battalion of emoticons to your holiday subject lines. Instead, we’re suggesting using text to visually motivate your subscribers to open your email.

A subject line that prompts the subscriber to visualize a particular (and relevant) scenario invites them to engage with your email more deeply, even before they have opened your email. Suppose it’s Christmas Eve. How about a subject line like this: ‘Imagine yourself by the fireplace?’

The point is: use the subject line to set the mood, not sell in the face. While others will try to ‘entice’ subscribers with numbers, exclamation points, and emojis, your email will tap into the emotions associated with winter holidays, family gatherings, etc. All this within seconds of viewing the subject line.


The holiday season can be quite stressful for some people, with the manic holiday rush, gift shopping, social obligations, and financial pressures. In this context, brands can leverage escapism as a psychological trigger in their email subject lines. 

A subject line like ‘Take a holiday from this holiday season’ can work wonders. If you are a travel agency, you can incorporate words like ‘relaxing,’ ‘getaway,’ ‘escape,’ etc., instead of ‘50% off on your next tour!’ and such cliches. 

The formula is: offer value, don’t sell it. The selling point derives its impact from the context in which it is placed. People know you are selling something. That’s why you sent them a timely email in the first place. There’s no need for a reminder. 


Our last tip may be viewed as a continuation of the previous one. Holiday self-care is a thing. Crafting subject lines that play up self-indulgence and relaxation may be effective. 

For instance, a subject line like ‘Treat yourself this Cyber Weekend’ can work like a charm. Using the right words in the right order with the right attitude is critical. During the holidays, people would be more receptive to words like ‘unwind,’ ‘nourish,’ ‘recharge,’ ‘restore,’ ‘treat,’ ‘pamper,’ etc. Feel free to incorporate these into your subject lines. 

Wrapping Up!

As we said at the outset, the goal during the holiday season is to ‘re-sensitize.’ You need to break the chain of overused, predictable subject lines in order to overcome inbox blindness.  

The way to do this is not to get creative overnight. No amount of creativity will work if you’re simply shooting into the air. Rather, as we saw, you need to recognize, partly by research, partly by intuition, the underlying motivation of your subscribers during the holidays. Check out our infographic for more tips!

11 Experts Tips on Holiday Email Marketing for 2023

Source: 11 Experts Tips on Holiday Email Marketing for 2023