Do you ❤︎ emoji? It seems an increasing number of brands do. All kinds of businesses are jumping on the emoji bandwagon. Even Facebook recently announced Reactions, which enables users to add emoji alongside the usual thumbs-up icon.

Have you looked at your inbox lately? Emoji are showing up more and more frequently, specifically in email subject lines.

Whether you’re thinking about adding emoji to your email subject lines or already have, in this post we’ll cover the benefits of emoji, what you should consider before using them, and give you tips to help you engage your subscribers and get them opening your email campaigns.

The benefits of emoji in subject lines

Why is everyone so keen on emojis? It’s not just because they’re cute, emojis can actually have some big benefits including:

Increased open rates

Brands using emojis in their subject lines saw a 45% increase in their unique open rates, according to a report by Experian.

We noticed that Growth Hackers has recently begun using only emojis (and no text) in their subject lines (a pretty bold move!) and pairing that with text via their preheader. We reached out to Anuj Adhiya, Director of Engagement and Analytics, to see how this new tactic is working and Adhiya said that though the tactic is new, they are seeing more recipients opening the emails (and they have a couple of theories on why). This, in turn, is translating to more clicks on email content. He noted they are still trying to understand other impacts but are encouraged enough to keep using emoji for the time being.

Save space

Space is at a premium with subject lines, especially considering the increased number of email opens on mobile devices. If you want your entire subject line to fit on a mobile device, you have about 30-40 characters to use max. And emoji can save space. You can say a lot with an emoji, and it only takes up one character.

Convey emotion

Brands are constantly working to make an emotional connection with their customers. Words can’t always convey emotion, but emoji sure can.

Stand out in a crowded inbox

Inboxes are increasingly full, making it an ongoing effort for your emails to stand out. Take a look at the two subject lines below. The first one, without emoji, is from Ticketmaster. The second one, with three emojsi, is from Minibar. Which one catches your eye? The one with the emoji, of course.

emoji in email subject lines


emoji in email subject lines

Things to consider before using emoji

There’s a lot of ? for emoji these days, but it’s not all good. Emojis aren’t for everyone. Before you add them to your subject lines, you should consider the following:


Will emoji fit your tone? If you have a serious brand, say one that handles financial data, emoji might seem unprofessional to your customers. Ask yourself if quirky symbols or smiley faces fit your brand and make sure you test on small segments of your audience to measure how your larger subscriber base will react.

Audience demographics

If you market to millennials, emoji may hit the mark because they’ve become part of their daily life. That’s not to say that older customers won’t embrace them, but if you market to an older population who may not find them engaging, be sure to test before you go full-force.

Potential rendering issues

From 😀 to ☃, there are hundreds of emoji to choose from, but not all of them show up properly on different mobile devices and email clients. If this happens, subscribers may see this ▢ or just the word ‘emoji’ instead of your intended icon. That’s not cool. How do you know which email clients are particularly problematic for emoji? We have a handy chart that breaks down which email clients display emoji properly.

emojis in email subject lines

All of the email clients with the green check mark display emoji correctly. Most of the big email clients like Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail don’t have any issues with emoji. and iPhone/iPad sometimes convert symbols into the word ‘emoji.’ Outlook 2003 doesn’t support emoji at all. That’s when this ▢ will show up. This shouldn’t stop you from trying emoji; it just means you should test them first to make sure everything looks good.

Tips to use emoji well

Now that you’re pumped and ready to dive into the emoji craze, let’s talk about a few best practices. Here are some tips to make sure you use emoji in a way that engages your audience:

Use online sites to find emoji

Aren’t sure where to find emoji? You can ?that off your list by turning to sites like, or Fsymbols. Here’s a list of places to find icons too. Simply copy the emoji that you want and paste it into your subject line.

Use popular options

The folks at Econsultancy revealed the top and bottom three emoji that can affect your email open rates. Who knew the snowman was so compelling?

emojis in email subject lines

Make it relevant

With so many emoji, you can usually find one that will complement your message. You don’t have to rely on the most popular emoji every time. For example, Tynker, a business that offers programming courses for kids, uses a school bus in a recent email subject line to promote a back-to-school campaign.

emoji in email subject lines

Be creative

Emoji give you creative freedom. Embrace it. Pottery Barn, for example, used a watch in a recent subject line to signify the limited time left on a sale.

emoji in email subject lines

BevMo sets its subject line apart by personalizing the subject line and adding stars at each end.

emoji in email subject lines


Test to make sure your audience responds well

We mentioned testing emoji, but it’s worth repeating. Before using emoji, run split tests to see how your customers react to them. In a split test, you’ll send one group of customers an email with an emoji in the subject line, and send another group the same email minus the emoji. You can use the difference in open rate to decide whether emoji are a good fit for your audience.

Test to make sure emoji display properly

Before you send your email out to a large group, you’ll want to see how emoji render in different email clients. For Campaign Monitor customers, you can use our Inbox Preview feature to see previews of your email in over 25 different email clients before sending your campaign to ensure your email looks. It’s better to catch the problem early and troubleshoot before you send the email to your subscribers.

Don’t go overboard

While you might be on the emoji bandwagon, these fun little images aren’t something you want in every subject line or you’ll risk emoji-burnout. Basically, don’t go overboard.

Wrap up

Emoji can add visual flair to your email subject lines and engage your subscribers compelling them to open your email. Use them wisely and you can reap the rewards.

  • Email-Ninja

    You should put an asterisks around Gmail. I recently sent an email with an emoji in the subject line and Gmail had inconsistent rendering. On initial send, Gmail App and Desktop client did not render the emoji but when you opened up the email, the emoji would render.

  • Jaina

    I’ve noticed that happening too but what I found was that the emoji in the email listings view just hadn’t loaded. And Gmail sometimes uses different emoji from one view to another, for the same emoji. So I guess it’s just load times of the different images.

  • Jaina

    Slowly getting on the emoji bandwagon. They’re a great touch to add to subject lines – totally agree! Got to do something to stand out in the inbox. Currently in the throws of doing some SL testing around emoji in subject lines. However it’s tricky testing, as you have to make sure that the emoji is the only variable that changes, to make the test accurate.

    Really like using this site – – for my emoji and characters. Bonus for the unicode too as you can use that in the text versions!

  • Lana Topham

    I’m not going to lie, emails with emojis pop for me in my inbox. I think they add personality and a fun-factor that text-only subject lines have a hard time conveying. I wonder how long this will last though? Especially if everyone reads this article and executes on these ideas. :)

  • Kim

    Hi Lana! Thanks for reading. I’m definitely noticing an uptick of emoji in subject lines especially from many retailers as we head into the holiday season. Let us know if you try them out for your business!

  • Lana Topham

    We actually don’t use emojis often in our subject lines when we’re sending emails to customers (excluding party invites) …which is strange as we’re in the business of sending emails! :) However, by association, we’re still cool as our customers have the option to add emojis into the subject lines of their email newsletters.

  • Toby Foord

    Fascinating, 45%? time for a split test huh! just in time for Xmas too ⛄️????????????????

  • Kim

    We like your style there Toby! Happy testing – we’d love to hear the results.


  • April Edwards

    Love them! They have helped my clients and sometimes have not moved the needed at all. Regardless they keep your communications a little more memorable.

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