How to Use Emojis in Your Email Campaigns

Email marketers are increasingly using emojis – along with their less-graphically sophisticated counterparts, emoticons – in their messages. (To learn about the differences between emojis and emoticons, check out this deep dive into the subject.)

VentureBeat recently reported that “the rise of triggered email messages, and email for communicating with customers, in general, through mobile devices, drove an over 7,000% increase in emoji usage in recent months.”

There are several reasons for this exponential growth, including the ability of emojis to grab customers’ attention, convey important aspects of a brand’s personality and add visual appeal to messages.

What gives emojis all this marketing firepower? The answer lies in neuroscience. Studies have shown that seeing an emoji activates the region of the brain associated with visual processing, and since it takes far less work for our brains to process an image than it does to process text, emojis can make an instant connection with recipients.

Emojis can boost subject-line effectiveness

In addition to being featured in the body of messages, email marketers are finding them increasingly useful in subject lines.

“Emoji can add visual flair to your email subject lines and engage your subscribers, compelling them to open your email,” says Campaign Monitor, adding that using them in subject lines can, save space (one emoji can often say more than several words), help make an emotional connection with customers and increase open rates (something that research has determined the “friendly snowman” emoji is particularly good at).

Here are a few examples of how businesses are using emojis.

Product Hunt uses emojis liberally in their subject lines to illustrate the topic of their emails.

Zumper uses emojis in the beginning and at the end of some of their subject lines to grab attention for their latest apartment listings.

Tom at Weekly Coffee typically uses the same emojis at the beginning of his subject lines so his subscribers know it’s him right away.

Testing is critical

When it comes to using emojis, two types of testing may be in order: one to make sure your customers will be receptive to them, and another to be certain they will render correctly for them.

AdWeek reported that 92% of the population uses emojis, but there are still generational and even gender differences that your testing could surface. While your grandmother may be delighted to deluge you with heart emojis in her texts, emojis might not strike the right chord for her in your marketing messages. A/B testing and using messages with and without emojis can help you determine how well your target audience will respond to them.

And although emojis are ubiquitous these days, you cannot assume that a specific emoji will appear successfully across all browsers, systems and devices. “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,” reports Campaign Monitor. “If this happens, subscribers may see this ▢ or just the word ‘emoji’ instead of your intended icon.”

Fortunately, there are resources, such as this one, that you can use before you hit “send” to make sure that your emojis of choice will work.

While emojis can be fun (for both marketers and their customers) and strategic, it’s worth approaching using them with a degree of caution.

“Brands shouldn’t be looking at emojis as the singular driver of a consumer’s action — open rates, engagement rates, etc.,” writes Appboy’s Marissa Aydlett. “There are many other factors that contribute to the success of a message: tone, goal of campaign, message content, images, what the landing page or deep-linked mobile experience is like when the user arrives there. Everything needs to connect.”