How to Leverage the Emoji-splosion 💥 for Your Email Marketing

a woman holding emoji balloons in front of her face

The 5 by 5: Five Answers to Five FAQs About How to Best Use Emojis in Email Marketing

Emojis – also known as emoticons – started as a staple of casual messaging. They’ve now found their way into canonical literature, feature-length film, legitimate dictionaries and marketers’ hearts.

According to an AdWeek article, emoji use in marketing grew 775% year-over-year in 2016.

Since then, the emoji craze lives on. Two years later, people are using even more emojis. As emoji vocabulary expands, so, too, does the online marketer’s love for the emoji language. Medium reports, “the average number of emojis used in emails and push notifications doubled from 1.22 to 2.23” between 2017 and 2018.

Obviously, the question you should be asking yourself isn’t “Should I be using emojis?” but rather “How should I be using emojis?”

Whether you’re an emoji wizard 🧙 or a complete newbie to emoji marketing 👶, this article will help you up your emoji email marketing game.

1️⃣ What Does the Science Say? Do Emojis Affect KPIs, Such as Open Rates?

Maybe you love emojis and are already using them in your email marketing. Or maybe you use emoji marketing for some channels but you think that email marketing is too traditional a format for emojis.

There’s been a ton of hype about emojis in subject lines impacting open rates. But maybe you don’t quite buy it. It’s a fad, you say. Or, will an emoji in my subscribers’ inbox really seem like anything more than a gimmick?

Well, enthusiasts and doubters alike, let’s look at what the science says. Is this trend worth your time as an email marketer? Or is this just a way marketers keep themselves entertained while cranking out reams of copy?

A lot of people claim emojis in subject lines or preview text can improve open rates. And many email marketing companies have studied their own data to determine if emojis are as powerful as we want them to be.

But, as an Econsultancy article points out, simply looking at “natural (i.e., unstructured) data doesn’t tell the whole story” because the results may not be repeatable.

OK. So, what is the whole story?

The data scientists who wrote the Econsultancy article carried out a highly scientific study. They determined that, 60% of the time, emojis have an effect on open rates. And an emoji can do “one of two things:

  1. “It makes a bad subject line worse
  2. “Or it makes a good subject line better”

👉 Note: This study was carried out in English on a group of 470,000 customers of an e-commerce site. Your mileage may vary for other languages. And it may also vary for other industries.

Caveats aside, what does that finding mean?

It means if you’re writing click-baity misleading email subject lines and you throw an emoji in there, 60 % of the time your recipients will be less likely to open your email than if you hadn’t used an emoji. But if you’re writing good subject lines, then, 60% of the time, an emoji will increase the chances your recipients will open it.

Emojis live up to both the hype and the critique. 60% of the time they either increase open rates on good copy OR decrease open rates on poor copy. #EmailMarketing #Emojis Click To Tweet

In short: Emojis do live up to both the hype and the critique. When everything else around them is good, they’re the cherry on top of the scrumptious ice cream sundae. But when everything around them is a hot mess, they’re going to make that pile of melting ice cream look even more unappetizing.


🧙 Emoji Wizard Tip

A true emoji wizard knows what works for their own target group.

Run precise A/B tests to see how your recipients respond to emojis. Document your hypothesis and your findings. Then run those tests again to make sure those results are repeatable before you draw any conclusions.

2️⃣ How Do I Use Emojis in My Email Marketing?

We’ve learned that emojis can either help or hurt your open rate.

Eeep. That’s a lot of pressure. So, how should you use emojis in the subject line and the preview text?

They function as an extra bit of color that focuses the eye amid the blur of the inbox. You can also use them the same way in your mailings themselves. But just be wary of too many emojis.

The #1 rule of emojis in marketing is to use relevant emojis. Don't try to sell bacon with a space invader 👾. #DigitalMarketing #EmailMarketing #Emojis Click To Tweet

The 3 basic rules of emoji use to get you started:

  1. Use relevant emojis. Don’t try to sell bacon with a space invader 👾.
  2. Use recognizable emojis. If the emoji has your contacts turning their heads and squinting in an attempt to decipher it, then you’ve already lost them. Emojis in marketing are like accent marks. Use them to highlight, underline and draw attention to sales copy – not to distract from it. Leave the ambiguous emojis to people purposefully creating confusing on messaging apps.
  3. Use emojis to complement, not complete, your message. Your copy and subject line must be understandable with and without emojis. Keep reading to learn why.

👎NO
Have you 📕 the latest 📖 by 🏆-winning author N.K. Jemisin?

👍Yes
📖Have you read the latest book by award-winning author N.K. Jemisin yet?

Awesome Emojis for Marketing

  • 👍 Universal symbol for good job!
  • 💯 Feels like you just aced a test, right?
  • 👀 Take a look!
  • 🕯  For holiday or birthday marketing!
  • 💡 A classic!
  • ✔ Check, well done!
  • 📈 Increasing revenue, yes!
  • ⚡Some people think the lightning emoji is overdone, but doesn’t it make you feel like Zeus when you see it?

Ambiguous Emojis to Avoid

  •  🌫 Is it fog? A stray bit of white-out?
  • 🌑 New moon or chocolate golf ball?
  • 📛 Name badge or a do-not-enter sign that a dinosaur took a bite of?
  • 🤽 Water polo or selfie in the bath?
  • 🧠 Brain? Pink marshmallow? Christmas ham?
  • 📹 That’s great you remember when video cameras looked like this. But your target group might not.

🧙 Emoji Wizard Tip

Once you’ve mastered the basics, try these tips. As exemplified by actual subject lines from my inbox.

1. Make ’em laugh. The marketers who rock the use of the emoji are the ones who make you laugh.
$5.55 Memorial Weekend Madness 🤪

2. Choose an unusual emoji. When my inbox was being flooded with Black Friday emails, this simple black dot drew my eye.
Pre-Black Friday Deals!

3. Use emojis for difficult emotions, too. Everything’s not always kittens and sunshine, and sometimes you have unfortunate messages to communicate. Emojis can soften the blow.
New Fees 💔

3️⃣ Why Do Emojis Sometimes Look Different?

Emojis come in all different shapes and sizes. We’re not just talking about the 1156 emojis currently available with the release of the eleventh version of UTF-8 emojis.

Emojis actually display differently depending on where you’re viewing them. Ever OS, app and browser has its own version of each emoji. For example, the popular speak-no-evil monkey can appear as any of the monkeys below.

various versions of the same emoji

Yes, that is a blank box ending the line of cute monkeys. Unfortunately, some apps, including some email clients, don’t support emojis at all. In this case, instead of an adorable colorful icon, a small square or a question mark will show up on your screen.

This is the risk you take when using emojis. They might not arrive in your recipients’ inboxes exactly the way you want them to.

Want to check out all the display options of your favorite emoji? Look it up on emojipedia.


🧙 Emoji Wizard Tip

Emoji fragmentation is the technical term for when the same emoji displays differently across platforms.

Certain emojis are so fragmented that they can cause serious miscommunication. For example, the emoji now known as the woman dancing 💃 used to cause a lot of confusion. She was a woman on Apple devices, a blob in Google, and a boy on Samsung devices.

To learn more, read this history of emoji fragmentation and convergence.

4️⃣ What Can I Do to Avoid Display Errors?

You can’t completely avoid display errors. Sometimes it happens with newer emojis. Other times it happens with outdated email clients. Some email clients don’t display any emojis at all.

The solution? To gather all the emoji knowledge you can before you embark on your own emoji-splosion. As they say, forewarned is forearmed.

Emoji fragmentation is the technical term for when the same emoji displays differently across platforms. #EmailMarketing #DigitalMarketing #Emojis Click To Tweet

So, how do you arm yourself?

First, learn about emojis. In addition to using emojipedia (linked above), you can check this list of all emojis currently available. This way you’ll understand better what’s out there and what fragmentation issues may exist.

Note, too, that some of the newer emojis, such as man with red hair (see below), will appear without the hair in a web browser but will work on a Mac.

red-haired man emoji

Second step: preview testing. This way, you’ll know what your emoji-ed email looks like on various devices.

For example, email display client testing lets you preview how your mailing looks on many different email clients. Alternately, send yourself test mailings and view them on several different operating systems/clients.

Once you know how your emojis appear, you can decide if the risk is worth it. If the email looks good in most major email clients, or if it looks good in clients you know your recipients use most, then it’s worth taking the emoji risk. If an emoji is not displaying well in something as major as Gmail or Outlook, however, then rethink your emojis.

When you’re doing your testing, remember that older systems and email clients create some of the biggest problems – usually because they haven’t received updates.

In particular, you should watch out for older Outlook clients. Also, Android 5.0 (or older) and Blackberry are definitely systems that will have problems with emoji display.

Again, knowing your target group here is key.

Are your subscribers tech freaks who stand in line at midnight for the latest iPhone? Then they’re probably not toting around Blackberries. But if your subscribers don’t have a lot of disposable income and/or aren’t emotionally invested in tech, then be prepared for the possibility that they may have outdated devices.


🧙 Emoji Wizard Tip

It can be helpful to have a few devices lying around the office so you can use them for testing.

Simply give them a factory wipe and keep them around (with their chargers)! It’ll give you quick answers when you want to know how emojis look on older mobile phones or Blackberries.

5️⃣ How Do I Add Emojis to a Campaign in My Newsletter2Go Account?

It’s easy to add emojis to your campaigns from your Newsletter2Go account.

You can add emojis to any text design elements, as well as to the subject line, sender name and preview text.

Pick your emoji from the existing emoji catalogue and insert it with a single click.

insert emojis into an email campaign

If you can’t find the emoji you’re looking for in our software’s catalogue, then you can cut and paste emojis. Choose the emoji you’d like from an online emoji database, such as those linked above, and paste it where you want it in your mailing.

In Sum …

Adding emojis to your email campaigns is like adding icing to a cupcake. It will sweeten the chances of your recipients enjoying your email.

Be judicious about how many you use, and make sure the tonality matches. You wouldn’t put white-chocolate turkey icing on a rich cheesecake, now would you? So why would you use an inappropriate emoji where it doesn’t belong?

Whatever you do, make sure your copy is strong enough to stand alone. Because if your copy is poor, the emoji will make it worse.

Think about the emojis from the recipients’ point of view and set out to delight them.

And, above all, test your email display before you press send!

Are you ready to become an emoji wizard with your email marketing? 

Start your Newsletter2Go account today and get 1,000 free emails. Our quick 5-minute registration process will set you up to become an emoji wizard. 🧙

About the author

Mara Taylor
Online Marketing Manager at Newsletter2Go

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