Are Emojis Helpful for an E-Mail Marketing Strategy?

Posted by Lisa Smith on Dec 23, 2015 9:26:30 AM



E-mails were once exclusively text-based, so marketers focused on compelling writing to make conversions. Thanks to improvements in message capabilities, effective e-mail marketing strategies depend on visuals more than ever before, and predictions indicate that this will only increase in 2016. A big part of this shift is the increased popularity of emojis. These little text-based pictures are so popular the “tears of joy” emoji was named the 2015 Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionary. No, we’re not kidding. 

The prevalence of emojis isn’t solely a social phenomenon. MailChimp reported delivering 1.4 billion business messages containing emojis in their subject line from February to May of 2015 alone. That’s a lot of smiley faces.


The shift toward more casual, personal branding has been going on for some time. Injecting personality into business marketing has become essential to help companies standout in an ever-increasing flood of promotional content. But does that mean adding emojis to e-mail subject lines will help to boost branding in e-mail campaigns?


The simple answer is: it depends.



  • Effective e-mail marketing relies on good storytelling. Emojis help to add context to your message.
  • Images help your e-mails stand out from your competitors in a reader’s inbox.
  • Stats show that Millennials and people over 45 are more likely to respond to an e-mail with an emoji in a subject line. MarketingLand notes click-through rates increase by 70 percent if the subject line is funny.
  • 56 percent of brands report an increase in their click through rate when an emoji is added to the subject line.
  • Ideally, subject lines are short and easy to scan. Emojis help you convey the same message using less space.
  • Images can help you take advantage of trending events. For example, Econsultancy reports companies who added a snowman emoji to e-mail subject lines during the holiday season saw a 66 percent increase in message engagement.



  • Be careful when incorporating trends. Additions like emojis need to match your brand identity or they could be a turnoff to longtime customers.
  • Effective e-mail marketing relies on a consistent tone. A sudden switch to more casual messages could come off as inauthentic.
  • Adding several emojis to the subject line or copy could make your message difficult to load.
  • Not all emojis are created equal. Econsultancy reports that some emojis cause a decrease in engagement. For example, the sun emoji averages a -8.03 percent engagement rate.
  • Some e-mail clients automatically label e-mails with emojis as spam. This practice is decreasing as emojis become more popular, but companies should still do research about the acceptance rate for each emoji they plan to use.


Tips for Incorporating Emojis into Your E-mail Marketing

If you think emojis will add a boost to your ongoing e-mail campaigns, marketers should take these steps to use them effectively:


  • Research which emojis your major e-mail clients support. Unsupported images will appear as an empty box.
  • Less is more. You’re working with limited space, so select one or two emojis per message.
  • Keep the emojis you use relevant to the subject to create a consistent tone that doesn’t feel gimmicky.

The most effective e-mail marketing practices for emojis focus on the interests of your buyer personas.  Work with a professional marketer to research your audience and determine if they are more likely to respond to a more causal tone and images or if this would be distracting.


An ideal way to determine what types of subject lines work for your brand is to run A/B tests. These will help you learn which emojis your audience responds to. This can also help with list segmentation so you can write different subject lines based on the response rates of each group. Age, gender, or occupation could play a role in whether or not a lead will find your emoji too cute or too trendy.



Topics: marketing