The Undeniable Power of Emojis in Email Subject Lines (with a Warning)

Discover whether emojis can improve the performance of your email subject lines and learn best practices for using them effectively.

By Will Blunt ・4 min read
Best Practices
Email Marketing

Do emojis improve the performance of your email subject lines? 🤔Good question!After digging deep into the stats on this topic and trudging through hundreds of examples in my inbox, I’ve come to the conclusion that, yes, they do. However, there is a caveat…

Should you use emojis in your email subject lines?

Naturally, a colorful emoji is going to catch a user’s eye first in their inbox when most other emails are plain text. On average, subject lines with emojis have a higher open rate than those without.In a study conducted by Return Path, the average open rate for New Year’s promotional emails was 18%. However, when an email included a confetti ball (🎊) or Champagne bottle (🍾), the open rate jumped to 22%. These incremental improvements can be significant for a business.But the topic of emojis in email subject lines is far more complex than that. It’s not all about email open rates.While an eye-catching emoji can grab someone’s attention and extend the meaning of a subject line, there are also studies that suggest emojis come with negative sentiment in some instances. The same study found that emails without emojis were seen as more valuable.The punchline? Emojis can help you stand out in the inbox and portray greater meaning, but they can also result in negative brand sentiment and your emails getting an increase in spam complaints.I’ve come to the conclusion that the use of emojis in email subject lines is contextual. If it’s on-brand for you to do so, then it’s worth exploring the many benefits of this email marketing tactic. As long as you do so in moderation.But if you don’t think emojis are a good fit for your brand and could diminish its trust with customers, then don’t take the risk.

Best Practices for Using Emojis in Email Subject Lines

If you’re still game to dive into the world of email emojis, here are some best practices to follow.

Keep it relevant

Don’t use emojis just for the sake of it. This is when it can have a detrimental effect on your brand.Aggressive emojis such as over-the-top exclamation marks or off-topic characters that are purely clickbait won’t aid your email marketing efforts. Sure, you may get some opens, but you’ll end up frustrating a whole lot of people too.That’s not how you want them to feel about your brand.This email subject line uses two emojis that have very little (if any) meaning! It’s a clear attempt to grab someone’s attention, but in my opinion, it only detracts from the message of the email.[caption id="attachment_49554" align="alignnone" width="600"]


Emojis with no relevancy[/caption]Here’s another example from a hotel rewards program where they have used two of the same emojis to partner a subject line that they don’t appear to match.[caption id="attachment_49553" align="alignnone" width="600"]


More emojis with no relevancy[/caption]If you’re going to use emojis in your subject lines, make sure they are relevant and add value to the content of the email.

Don’t overdo it

One emoji is more than enough to grab someone’s attention. The right emoji can maximize the available space of an email subject line by adding meaning and feeling to the message.For example, this email from Uber Eats mentions the “big game” and then includes an emoji of an NFL ball. Without mentioning the Superbowl the emoji has done the work for them and utilized the space available.[caption id="attachment_49556" align="alignnone" width="600"]


Relevant emoji[/caption]In contrast, this pet brand has used nine emojis in its Valentine’s Day email subject and secondary subject lines. That’s right, NINE! That is complete overkill and could leave a sour taste in your customer’s mouth.[caption id="attachment_49552" align="alignnone" width="600"]


Subject line with too many emojis[/caption]In moderation, emojis provide many benefits to brands when it comes to email marketing. But if you overdo it, you’ll ruin any goodwill you have grown and may see unsubscribes or complaints rise quickly.

Consider your audience and brand

Put simply, emojis don’t suit some brands and audiences.Is your customer base predominantly old or young? Male or female? Businesses or individuals?These, and many more demographic questions, will give you a better idea of whether or not emojis are appropriate.For example, if you are a tax accountant sending an invoice to a business, is it appropriate to use emojis?Probably not. Yes, that’s an extreme example, but you need to take a moment to think about the receiver of your emails. Do your research, ask your audience what they prefer, and determine whether it’s appropriate for your business to use emojis.Once you decide a path forward, include it in your brand guidelines so that you maintain a consistent look and feel across the board.While there are no hard and fast rules for who should (or shouldn’t) use emojis in subject lines, it is far more common for consumer-facing brands to make the most of this trend. For example, here are two examples of subject lines from eCommerce brand Temple & Webster that work well:


[caption id="attachment_49555" align="alignnone" width="600"]


On-brand use of emojis[/caption]They are both subtle but meaningful in their delivery. In both instances, the emoji conveys emotion and entices the user to open the email.

Don’t take my word for it… test instead

Of course, nothing beats testing! I’ve provided some best practices for using emojis in email subject lines, but there is no need to take my word for it.The best way to figure out whether they will resonate with your audience is to give it a go. Split test a subject line with and without an emoji and compare the open rate, engagement, and unsubscribes.This is the only way you will know 100% if emojis are the right choice for your business.

How to add an emoji to an email subject line

Ready to give emojis a whirl? Want to run some tests?Adding emojis to your emails is actually really easy to do. All you need to do is visit Emojipedia - a library full of fun and recognizable emojis - search for the icon you want, copy it, paste it into your next email campaign, and you’re on your way!Just remember that emojis render differently depending on the email client or computer your receiver is using. Apple, Google, and Microsoft email clients, for example, display the below emojis slightly differently:[caption id="attachment_49551" align="alignnone" width="600"]


Emoji style based on email client[/caption]All this means is that you should test and view your emails on multiple devices prior to sending them. It’s a best practice you should build into your workflow anyway so that all your prospects are reading the message as it was intended.Other than that, have some fun and good luck!

About the author

By Will Blunt ・4 min read

Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.

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