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April 14, 2015

Using Emojis in Subject Lines: Yay or Nay

Are you an Apple lover? If so, the release of the updated emoji keyboard in early April was hard to miss. People, businesses, and celebrities raved about the new images. Some brands were in hot water for doing so. Regardless of whether you were one of the millions raving about the new emojis, or whether you sat back and let the world do all the cheering, one thing is certain: people love these tiny images.

Because there’s such an overwhelming fan-base for emojis, email marketers are now starting to wonder if there’s something to this new trend.

64% of people open an email because of the subject line, according to research by Chadwick Martin Bailey. Email marketers are always looking for new ways to get emails opened. So it begs the question: Should you use emojis in your email subject lines?

When It Works

As an email marketer, you know how hard it is get your audience to open your emails. Today’s consumers are bombarded by messages from businesses every day. As your reader skims through her long list of promotional emails and messages, she’s looking for something to jump off the screen and catch her interest. Emojis can serve as that something extra she needs to start reading your sales message.

Analyze your buyer persona. Is this something she would react to? Or is it something that would make her turn her nose up at your business? If she’s the type of person who uses emojis in her regular communications, she might feel like your email is a little more personal through the use of emojis.

Science backs up that claim. A recent study by Alchemy Works found that there was a significant boost in using emojis in subject lines. However, like words, not all emojis trigger the same level of excitement.

The study saw the highest increase in open rates with a friendly snowman emoji. With this emoji in the subject line, the open rate shot 65.72% higher than the average open rate. A black sun saw a 20.95% increase and a black star saw a 10.65% increase.

When It Doesn’t

Using imagery in subject lines isn’t a new phenomenon. For years, businesses have used the classic emoticons, such as 🙂 and ;-). Now that more mobile devices and email carriers are able to read the updated version of these emoticons, also known as emojis, more businesses are opting for the more modern imagery.

This can be problematic at times.

Although most email clients can support emojis being displayed in the subject line, there are still some older versions of email systems that cannot. Outlook 2003 is one of those that fails to display emoji symbols. Instead of seeing your sleek, sexy symbol, your reader will see an empty box, which can cause more confusion than excitement.

Our Recommendation

Before sprinkling emojis in every email subject line, consider your audience. Would an emoji boost interest among your readers? Or would it cause confusion?

Look closely at your analytics. If the majority of your email subscribers open your email on a mobile device or web-based application, chances are your images will be properly displayed. If most use Outlook, you might want to rethink using images.

Ultimately, you should treat emojis like you would any other subject line and test, test, test. If using emojis enhances your brand image, give it a try. Run an A/B test to see if adding imagery boosts your open rates. Test which images your audience responds to the best. Let your reader be the judge.