From lines are a critical part of your email marketing message; they help determine whether a recipient will open your message now, later or never. In most email clients it’s the ‘friendly from line’ — the one without the “@” — that recipients see in their inbox.

But many organizations aren’t fully leveraging this powerful element of their email programs. Case in point: my alma mater, Georgetown University.

I loved studying at Georgetown and I still live just a few blocks from campus. I have a strong and very favorable relationship with the brand. But when I get emails from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, the program that bestowed my degree, they look like this in my inbox:

gtown-from-line-1

Yep. No Georgetown brand, no McDonough brand, just Justine’s name in the from line.

This might be an effective strategy if every subject line started with a brand I know — but, as you can see, that’s not the case.

Yes, I’ve seen all the studies showing that having a person’s name in the from line boosts your open rate. And I’ve done some of that A/B split testing myself with positive results (more on that shortly).

I do, now that I’ve met her, connect Justine with Georgetown — so I know when I see her name in the from line that the email is from McDonough. I’ve spoken with a few others from my class and they do the same. But what about alumni who aren’t as involved with the university? Do they instantly recognize an email from Justine as an email from their alma mater?

Another question: what if Justine leaves the program and they hire someone else to take her place? How long will it take recipients like me to start associating Jane Bartholomew or Bill Hanrahan or whatever the new person’s name is with Georgetown University? How much will the open rate drop until they ‘train’ us all to associate a new person’s name with the McDonough School?

Not all email messages I receive from Georgetown omit the brand from the from line. Both the local alumni club and the athletics department do a good job of branding in the subject line, Here are some examples:

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So why not the McDonough School? I imagine that each group within the University handles their own email, so there’s no ‘standard’ of using the brand in the subject line being imposed.

Of course, these email messages lack the personal appeal of the emails from Justine. With my clients I strive to get the best of all worlds.

When I test personalizing the from line we use the a person’s name along with the brand. This way if the person leaves the organization and a new person comes in, the brand remains consistent. Simple right? But many organizations, like Georgetown University, aren’t doing this.

What from line is attached to the marketing emails you send? If it includes a person’s name but not your brand, test adding your brand. If it includes your brand but not a person’s name, see if adding one boosts your open and response rates.

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