Using Emoji and Symbols in Your Email Subject Lines

When was the last time an email subject line made you smile? Thanks to emoji, email subject lines are getting a lot more expressive with everything from 😍, to 🍕 and even 💩 making appearances in our inboxes.

In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know to use emoji in your emails like a total 😎.

Chapter 1

Why are marketers using emoji in email?

Like big cities, inboxes are crowded places that have limited real estate to work with. Marketers are increasingly embracing emoji as a quick, easy, and expressive way to stand out in their subscribers’ inboxes. There’s even an entire day dedicated to the love of emoji with World Emoji Day.

By using emoji in place of words, or to complement words, marketers have unlocked a new way to engage and connect with their subscribers. And engagement is the name of the game when it comes to email marketing.

The effect that emoji have on engagement and the resulting benefit is undeniable.

Fifty-six percent of brands using emoji in their email subject lines had a higher unique open rate, according to a report by Experian.


Chapter 2

Cool examples of emoji in emails

As email marketers ourselves, we tend to get a lot of emails. The benefit of this is that we get to see all the fun and innovative things marketers like you are doing. And boy, are marketers doing some fun things with emoji in their emails.

Emoji are popping up all over. In fact, Jess Nelson of Email Marketing Daily reports that “the use of emojis in mobile and email marketing messages has increased 775% year-over-year” and “triggered email messages containing emojis have jumped more than 7,000% in recent months and emoji use in marketing messages has shown a steady 20% increase month-to-month in 2016.”

Some brands use a single emoji to set off their subject line like the example below from On.

On is a premium running shoe company and is known for their Cloud line of shoes. They include a ☁️ in all their email subject lines as a natural extension of their branding. And it makes their emails easy to spot in the inbox.

Take a look:

Here’s the subject line in preview pane of Gmail:

And in the opened email:

Note: You may notice in Gmail when you use emoji in the subject line the icon will look different in the inbox view and after the email has been opened. This is due to the inbox view using the Android version of the emoji, meanwhile, the opened email view uses Google’s own emoji style.

Other brands, use multiple emoji to complement their message like this example from Alto:

And this one from Doughbies, a San Francisco-based company that delivers cookies on demand:

Now let’s take a look at how to put these engaging characters into your emails.

Chapter 3

How to use emoji in your email subject lines

Using emoji in your email subject lines is as simple as copying the symbol or emoji from a website/document like Facebook Symbols, or Emojipedia, and pasting it into the subject line field of your email.

Let’s look at how to add an emoji to your subject line using Campaign Monitor

Create a new campaign and add the emoji in the subject line field.

Send a test to see how your emoji looks in over 30 email clients.

Send your email and see it in the inbox.

Chapter 4

Things to keep in mind when using emoji in email subject lines

From 😘 to the open-inducing ⛄, there are heaps 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 makes marketers feel 😢.

Email client support for emoji

As marketers, we have to keep in mind that there are many different email clients out there like Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, etc. And, all these email clients don’t render email the same way (wouldn’t that be a dream!)

Because we can’t force all the email clients to play nice and render our emails the same way, it’s important to know that your emoji may look different in the different clients. So how do you know which email clients are particularly problematic for emoji?

To see what would happen when we included emoji in our email subject lines, we tested a variety in the most popular email clients and found they were generally well supported:

With the exception of Outlook 2003, there was near-universal support. and iOS devices included an additional twist – instead of displaying the basic characters, some symbols like ❤ are replaced by the word ’emoji’, or a small graphic instead.

With an Android device, you can insert an emoji using the appropriate button on the standard Android keyboard. However, emoji inserted in this way will be visible in Inbox on Android but not necessarily in the web version.

Keep in mind that if a emoji isn’t supported in the email client, the recipient may see a ☐ character instead.

Remember: Gmail has to have some extra special considerations when using emoji. You may notice in Gmail when you use emoji in the subject line the icon will look different in the inbox view and after the email has been opened. This is due to the inbox view using the Android version of the emoji, meanwhile, the opened email view uses Google’s own emoji style. While the emoji basically look the same, it’s still worth testing to make sure the same sentiment is expressed in both versions.

In addition, for Inbox by Gmail, it’s currently not possible to insert emoticons in Inbox messages using the browser version.

Chapter 5

Wrap up

Using emoji in your email subject lines can be an effective and attention-generating technique to increase your email open rates 🎉 and get more people engaging with your campaigns.

Remember to test any emoji in your email subject lines before sending to avoid looking like a ☐ in your subscribers’ inboxes.

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