The Power of Emojis: Making the Most Out of Simple Symbols

Tami Urban, Marketing Strategist

Author Bio

Tami brings years of hands-on experience driving revenue for her clients as an email marketing strategist. This experience includes working with hundreds of B2B and B2C clients in a range of industries. She guides her clients to see success in their email and social marketing efforts as well as working with her clients on split testing, creative optimization, segmentation, engagement and overall best practices. For fun, you can find Tami cooking, enjoying a good bottle of wine, or checking out a show at the local theater.

Using emojis and other symbols within a subject line isn’t a new idea, but the technology has drastically improved since they first gained popularity. These days, there’s much better support for them across email clients and devices. But before jumping in and adding an emoji to your next message, let’s revisit some of the best reasons to use them.

The primary strategy behind using symbols is to allow the eye to pause when scanning through hundreds of subject lines in the inbox. And that pause can encourage highly coveted engagement.

Take a quick look and see if any of these subject lines catch your eye.

Emojis Example

Additionally, emojis allow marketers to convey a particular mood or piece of information in a single character, which can help save valuable space in the subject line. Only the first 30-40 characters of a subject line will display for most mobile users, so space is at a premium.

You can see the value that emojis bring to your email marketing. But as with all strategies, be mindful of the best way to use them and consider the following best practices:

Know Your Audience

Brands are constantly working to make an emotional connection with their customers. Of course, with some industries, the use of emojis may be deemed inappropriate. For example, some financial institutions may not feel comfortable using such a playful or casual tone with their customers. But for most retailers, it’s very appropriate to experiment with relevant symbols.

Avoid Overkill

The frequent use of emojis may very well annoy your subscribers and could encourage them to delete your message without evening opening it, particularly if the symbols aren’t relevant to your campaign. Simply adding a bunch of smiley faces or hearts to your subject line with no purpose won’t likely give you the results you were hoping for. The example below includes a flame, which has nothing to do with the promotion, and the red exclamation points are more distracting than helpful. I might also mention I found this message in my spam folder. Try to keep your emojis short and sweet to grab your subscribers’ attention without being irrelevant or over the top.

Emoji example

Look Out for Rendering Issues

There’s no point using emojis if they’re not supported and don’t display correctly, so testing is a must. Create a test list that includes email accounts from all of the major ISPs so you can see how your symbols appear across email clients and mobile devices. Even if they’re supported, the symbol may look quite different depending on the email provider or device. For examples of just how varied the emojis can be, try searching the database at Emojipedia. Also, be sure to use the symbol within the first 20 characters of your subject line to ensure recipients see it, whether viewing their email on a mobile device or desktop. If you don’t, it will render as a blank square (☐) instead.

Don’t Trigger the Spam Filter

Although emojis are becoming more commonly accepted by most email clients, there’s still a small chance that they will trigger a spam filter, which means your compelling message or great deal will never be seen. Lately, I’ve noticed that animated emoji and symbols are even more at risk. In fact, Gmail actually replaces them with a default yellow flashing star. I’ve also noticed that all animated emojis I’ve seen in my own Gmail account have ended up in the junk folder. This begs the question, do animated symbols actually trigger spam filters? We’ll have to keep an eye on this.

Try a Split Test

You’ve created your subject line with a fun emoji. Now see if it works! Before you send your message, duplicate it and use the same subject line minus the emoji to test its effectiveness. I recommend a minimum of 3-5 tests to draw a real conclusion. As you could be running a variety of campaigns with different offers, you’ll want to be able to determine whether the emoji, rather than the offer, influenced your open rate. And test your engaged subscribers separately from your unengaged to see how the emojis affect each group.

Build A Library

Develop a database of symbols and emojis for offers and holidays that make sense for your brand. Test them and keep them handy for easy grab-and-go email campaigns. Remember to think outside the box. Everyone adds a little heart to their subject lines over Valentine’s Day, so be creative and come up with something a little different. You don’t need to wait for a holiday to try a symbol in your subject line. You could also split test emojis with your lifecycle campaigns, such as a welcome, birthday, post-purchase or abandoned cart series. The same principles apply for any campaign.

Ready to give it a try? Here are a few sites where you may find some fun, new emojis that could work for your brand:

If you want to stand out in the inbox, give emojis a try. Something as simple as a cute football for a Super Bowl promotion or an hourglass as your annual inventory sale winds down might be just enough to significantly increase your open rates and bring in a slew of sales.