If you’ve ever worked with Look Listen on an email campaign, you’ve noticed a line of copy in our documents titled “PHT” or “preheader text.” Maybe you know what function it serves. Maybe you even know some of its history. But after this, you’ll know it all. Because we went on a fact-finding spiral about this mysterious preheader text, and would like to share it with you.
We’ll start with an introduction. Please meet preheader text (as seen in Gmail’s desktop view), also known as pre-hero text, automatic preview text, super text, top text, and, formerly, a Johnson Box.
Johnson Box is named after the man who popularized its use, marketer Frank Johnson. For even more trivia: He used it to increase response rates to the offers he sent for American Heritage Magazine, a history publication. At the time, it referred to the text at the top of direct mail pieces, containing the key message the rest of the letter conveys. It’s present in sales pieces, and is there to draw the reader in on something they might glance at and ignore. These days, the Johnson Box is used as a callout box, to hold a pull quote, or other important information in need of emphasis in an email.
But you can see how our modern day preheader text began: as a way to capture the reader’s attention, and to add context to something that might only get so much as a glance.
Rather than just give email users the sender information and email subject line, email clients pull in the first line of the whole email up into the inbox view for extra context, and a peek into what this email might be about.
But the first line of text in your email might be account information, or a view-in-browser link, or something else that would do very little to allure a reader. That’s why you should create a snappy line to add to the HTML of your email. Depending on their browser and client, your customer might not see all of it (or any of it), but why ignore such an opportunity?
- Different platforms will show different PHT lengths. Your best bet is to be succinct with your message: Shoot for 40-50 characters (which always include spaces).
- The message should support your subject line. It can include your CTA, or be a teaser to further entice an email open. The best tone and message for your brand will be revealed by testing several strategies.
- Your PHT can be visible at the very top of your email, or you can hide it. These days, we’re seeing more and more senders visually hide the PHT so that it doesn’t appear at the top of the open email, but will appear correctly in the inbox view. With clean email design, we recommend hiding it.
Perhaps you’re wondering, “Can I just remove the PHT?”
Nope. Email clients will pull whatever information is available, and a lack of concise, crafted information can look like a mistake. There’s no good reason not to have it.
You might also want to ask: “Do I really need to make unique preheader text?”
In one word: Yes. If your customers are going to see it, you need to control the message and user experience. You never want to leave the way someone might experience your brand up to chance.
Questions about preheader text or any other obscure marketing topic? Give us a shout.