Using Emojis In Email Subject Lines

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When your email lands in the recipient’s inbox, three elements of your campaign are visible:  The subject line, the preview text and the from name.  Using emojis in email subject lines is an increasingly popular tactic that marketers are using to stand out in the inbox. Whether you’re a fan of the new ‘Ed Sheeran’ emoji or not, there’s little doubt that emojis are becoming more and more popular.

In this blog post we mull over the idea of using emojis in email campaigns.  Are they a good or bad idea?  We don’t know for sure but we hope to give you some guidance for your next email campaign.

What Are Emojis?

Emojis are ideograms that give a graphic representation of an emotion or action.  Technical jargon aside, they are cute little images that you can embed in your text.  Just like that 😉 .

Emojis give marketers greater ability to express their emotions and leverage those of their recipients.  In short, you can show people how you feel.

Receiving an email with a smile in the subject like is bound to give your recipient a warm glow inside.  A recent email from SMW New York used the following emoji to feign shock at the number of passes remaining to their event.

Standing Out In A Crowded Inbox

The average person receives 121 emails daily.  Too many, no?  

The total number of emails sent on a daily basis continues to increase year-on-year with the Radicati Group reporting that 269 billion emails were sent in total in 2017.  The problem for marketers is making sure that the emails they send are opened and prioritised by recipients.

You want your email to be the first that your recipient opens, even if it is the only email they open all day!

Including emojis in subject lines is one technique marketers can use to encourage opens.  These visual elements can make an email stand out and can indicate the intent of the email.  A picture tells a thousand words, right?

emojis in email subject lines

You can use a wide range of different emojis in your subject lines

More and more, marketers are using emojis in their subject lines.  It’s becoming a bit mainstream.

Although this seems positive at first glance, it means that the effectiveness of emojis is likely to decrease as people become more used to seeing them.  Part of the reason why they are so effective is that not many marketers used them.  It is therefore advisable to use emojis only when they are the most appropriate as overuse may see the initial spike in open rates fall away over time.

That bring us to the first action step:  Only use emojis when they are going to contribute something to your email send.  Use too many emojis too often and your recipient will switch off!

How do emojis impact email performance?

In an awesome and very comprehensive analysis, Experian considered data from a holiday email campaign.  The inclusion of emojis was stated as one possible factor that positively influenced email open rates.  However, due to the ‘quagmire of entaglements’ present when analysing subject line performance, it proved almost impossible to determine which factor actually caused an increase or decrease in email opens.

The use of emojis contributed to a 15% year-on-year increase in open rates according to an article from Media Post.

Whether you like them or loathe them, there is little denying that emojis make emails stand out.  In a crowded inbox thick with text, a face or picture makes your email send seem different from the rest.  They show that you are prepared to take a chance, that you are there to entertain and that you are on trend.  What’s not to love?  If only WordPress allowed us to embed an emoji to show you 😉 !

impact of emojis in email subject lines

Emails containing emojis have a big impact on email open rates

Are emojis right for my business?

Now it’s time to answer the difficult question:  Should your business bother with emojis?

Firstly, using emojis in an email is down to personal choice.  There is no right or wrong answer that you can find in a textbook.  It all comes down to whether they work for you.  We’ll discuss the considerations nonetheless and let you come to your own conclusion:

The question of whether emojis are appropriate is a divisive one.  Some businesses love them whilst others believe they should be confined to personal communications.  For more serious email subjects, the inclusion of an emoji may make the email seem insincere.  How would you feel if you received a corporate email which winked at you in the inbox 😉 ?

They give new creative possibilities for marketers looking to innovate.  One of the main benefits of emojis is that you don’t need any extra coding or technical knowledge to include them.  You simply have to write content that you can embed an emoji into then open the touch keypad to get started.

The best way to test whether emojis work for you is to split test your email send with one variant including the emoji and one excluding it.  You may also wish to test that your emoji renders correctly in email inboxes before you send it out, failure to do this results in a series of symbols appearing in the inbox, that’s useful to nobody!

Now for our second action step:  Carefully think about the impression you are trying to make with your customers.  Nobody can do this on your behalf.  You have to decide whether using emojis fits with your brand and the tone you want to use.

3 Ways You Can Use Emojis in Email Subject Lines

Now you know how awesome emojis can be you are bound to want to use them in your next email send.  Here are some practical uses of emojis that we have seen in our own inboxes to get you started:

how to use emojis in email subject lines

Emojis make emails stand out in the inbox

  • Supplement Your Words

The problem with the written word is that you don’t know the intent of the writer.  Writing lacks clear markers of how the writer is feeling such as facial expression and tone of voice.  Including an emoji in your writing clears up any confusion that you might cause with an ambiguous sentence.

  • Replace Words Entirely

Of course, you can do away with some words entirely if you wish.  The power of an emoji might be 💪 enough in some cases to remove the need for extra 📝.

  • Shock Your Recipients Into Action

Including a 💩 emoji in the subject line is bound to get a reaction.  This will cause a shock to your recipient hopefully causing intrigue.

This could be risky, the recipient of an email may not take kindly to seeing a ‘poo’ appear in their inbox but it is more likely to make them 🤣 than make them 😡.  Maybe including a poo emoji is a bit extreme but it is a demonstration of what is possible.

Why not take a look at the full Emojipedia to see what you can do.

Action Point Three:  Copy your desired emoji from Emojipedia or use a keyboard shortcut to include it in your email subject line.

But Are They Supported?

So you want to use emojis in your emails but you don’t want to look like a ☐!  Receiving an email with one of those pesky boxes is most certainly not going to drive opens (but it might get you a trip to the spam folder).

The appearance of emojis isn’t universal!  Dependent on the system that you are using a simple 🙂 or 🙁 can look slightly different.  Make sure that you are confident in how your emojis will appear and the message this will send to the reader.

Nor are they universally supported!  Although it seems like emojis have been around forever to the millennial generation, that’s simply not the case.  Unfortunately, old email clients including Ourlook 2003 don’t support the use of emojis.  This means that your exciting and fresh subject line will fall flat.

Time for our last action point:  Consider whether emojis are supported in the email clients that your recipients use.  Make sure that you test any emojis before you send them to your whole contact list!


Emojis are becoming increasingly popular in email subject lines.  They have been shown to improve email open rates in large case studies; usage has increased year-on-year indicating that they are here to stay.  Whilst including emojis in every email you send may become repetitive, using them occasionally may yield significant benefits for your email marketing efforts.

Don’t fear if you are short on inspiration for your next email subject line.  Download our Subject Line Swipe File and you’ll never struggle again.

Oh, and about that Ed Sheeran emoji

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