The truth about using emojis in email subject lines

Got emoji? Maybe you should. Emojis quickly became popular additions to email campaigns, as you might have guessed from the messages coming into your own inbox. If you’ve never tried using emojis in your subject line, we have tips to get you started. If you’ve used them in the past without much success, check out our advice and better your chances to increase the return on your next email campaign. 

5 benefits of using emojis in email subject lines 

Emoji use is increasing by 775% annually, according to Jess Nelson of Email Marketing Daily. If that many marketers are jumping on the emoji bandwagon, it must be an effective tool–right? Maybe. A report by Experian found that 56 percent of brands using emojis in email subject lines had a higher open rate. So the odds are in your favor. 

1. Make a noticeable statement 

It can be challenging to make your subject lines stand out from the crowd. One option is to add an attention-getting emoji or two. Consider how these subject lines from Campaign Monitor use one or two emojis to call attention to their message: 

  • Lucky Brand: 👀 You up? It’s time to shop!

  • Journeys: 🎁 $10 off your next purchase! 🎁

  • Hungry Howie’s: 🏈+🍕= Sunday Funday

2. Say more in less space  

Most mobile devices only display 30 to 40 characters in a subject line, which makes this valuable retail space for email marketers. When you add an emoji, you can convey a mood or message while only taking up a single character. This allows you to say more for less space, which could improve your open rates.

3. Make an emotional connection 

Successful marketing is about engaging with your customers and producing an emotional response that leads to action. What better way to convey emotion than with an emoji? Whether you choose a heart to express love or raised hands to convey excitement and celebration, these simple symbols are an effective communication tool. 

Living Spaces - Email Marketing Campaign - Promotional Email

Source: Campaign Monitor

This email from Living Spaces is designed to inspire warmth at your family gatherings. This would be a good option for a subject line with an emoji that produces a similar response to prepare your audience for your content inside.

4. May increase read rates  

In addition to increasing your open rates, studies have found their use could improve your read rates as well. Business Insider reported in 2017 that subject lines with emojis did increase read rates. The study was limited to seasonal and holiday messages, and some emojis performed better than others. This may be a good tool for testing holiday emails to determine which emojis are most effective.

5. Make your email more mobile-friendly 

Because emojis effectively shorten your subject line, it can make your emails more mobile-friendly. Since 41.9 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices, optimizing your email could increase your open rates. 

Potential drawbacks of using emojis

Although emojis in subject lines provide numerous benefits, they can have some drawbacks as well. Some disadvantages might include: 

  • Not all browsers support emojis: Your emoji might look great on your device, but when you hit send it could go out in a different format. Be sure to test out subject lines with emojis before sending them to your entire subscriber list. 

  • You can overdo the emoji tactic: As much as we’d love to quote “Mean Girls,” the emoji limit does exist. When the emojis start to multiply, they can detract from your message rather than adding to it. One or two well-placed emojis are usually sufficient. 

  • Emojis may not work with your brand: For some brands, emojis can be a natural addition to zhoosh the business’s image. For other companies, they could have the opposite effect. Consider the brand below. Emojis may not be what the currency exchange industry is looking for.


Although there are numerous benefits of using emojis in email subject lines, there can be some drawbacks as well. Some of the disadvantages of using emojis might include:

Source: Really Good Emails 

7 tips for using emojis wisely

We have tips to help you reap the benefits of using emojis: 

1. Know your audience  

Any effective marketing strategy begins by knowing your audience. For example, retailers and restaurants might find emojis add a splash to their messages. Financial institutions and some non-profit organizations might determine them to be incompatible with their brand. It is unlikely the addition of an emoji would increase the open rate for the following email. 

Financial institutions and some non-profit organizations might determine them to be incompatible with their brand.

Source: Really Good Emails 

Demographics also play a role in determining whether emojis are appropriate. Millennials tend to respond positively because these images are more familiar to them. Emojis might work with an older demographic, but this customer base is more likely to look at their use negatively.

2. Remember less is more  

Be cautious when integrating emojis into your subject line. The best use is either at the beginning or end of your message so it remains intact. Stick with one or two to avoid cluttering your line. It can also be effective to anchor text you want to stand out between an emoji, such as this subject line: 

POP Fit Clothing: 😱 48 Hours Left 😱 Shop our Back 2 School Sale

3. Find emojis on popular websites

There are plenty of sources for emojis today, making it easy to find the perfect image for your email subject line. Free sites like Get Emoji and Emojipedia make cutting and pasting in your subject line a breeze. You can also add an emoji keyboard to Chrome to increase your choices further.

4. Stick with emojis that are familiar  

Emojis have a long history today, which means that many common ones are familiar with your customers. Smiley faces, laughing faces, hearts and thumbs up are all used frequently in personal messages and translate well to email subject lines as well. You can incorporate some of the lesser used emojis for added impact and the surprise factor, but make sure it is easy for your audience to identify the image. 

5. Use an emoji to boost your brand awareness

Some businesses have learned to use emojis to boost their brand awareness. For example, a running shoe company known for its cloud line of shoes finds ways to incorporate a cloud emoji into their email subject lines. By using the symbol consistently, customers easily identify emails from this company in their inboxes. 

6. Let your emoji convey urgency

This email is an example of how to use urgency to motivate customers to act. You can use the same principle by adding emojis in email subject lines. For example, you might use a red warning light or a clock to indicate that time is running out on your current special. 

Chandon newsletter

Source: Campaign Monitor

7. Test subject lines with emojis 

Testing is a good idea with any email subject line but becomes imperative when you begin adding emojis to the mix. In addition to determining which emojis perform best, testing ensures your emojis render for your different email customers. 

The importance of testing your emoji subject lines

You can use the same testing techniques for your emojis as you do the other variables in your email subject lines. A/B testing, also known as split testing, compares different versions of your email subject line before you send it.  

The process involves creating two subject lines that are alike except for one or two variables. Send the two emails to a select test group of your email subscriber list. By determining which email your recipients prefer, you can send the most effective version to the rest of your audience. This can be particularly helpful with emojis as you can compare two different images or a subject line that contains an emoji versus one that does not. 

Wrap up 

Emojis have been around for many years, but they have only recently been incorporated into email marketing campaigns. To use emojis in email subject lines effectively, follow the tips we have provided: 

  • Know your audience: Consider your industry and customer demographics to determine whether emojis will inspire a positive reaction. 

  • Remember less is more: Limit your emoji use to one or two images per subject line.

  • Find emojis: Many websites offer free emojis you can cut and paste into your subject line. 

  • Use familiar emojis: If you go with less popular images, make sure it is clear what they are.

  • Boost your brand awareness: You can boost your brand by using an emoji that conveys your company consistently.

  • Convey urgency: Emojis like clocks or red warning lights let your customers know time is running out.

  • Test subject lines: Make sure your emojis come through on different devices and are well-received by customers. 

Adding emojis is just a portion of the formula. Find out how to create email subject lines that convert and engage your customers.

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