When Do You Use Emojis in Subject Lines?

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emojis in subject lines

Digital marketing is all about leveraging the right tools in your toolbox. And these days, our toolbox includes emojis. You’ve probably noticed emojis popping up in your inbox every once in awhile. And maybe you’ve been tempted to use them in your next campaign. After all, there is evidence it works: Experian reported that brands that choose to use emojis in subject lines experience a 45% increase in unique open rates.

But having the option doesn’t mean you should use it all the time; you wouldn’t use a hammer to screw in a nail just because you have a hammer. That’s why we want to give you a few tips on when to use emojis in subject lines.

Low character count

You only have so many characters in an email subject line. Fifty-one to be precise since ideally you don’t want an email client to cut off your subject line. With so few characters at your disposal, make sure you use emojis in subject lines that are shorter.

If an emoji is going to put you over the edge for character count, don’t include it. And try to avoid using multiple emojis within a subject line. Not only does this use up your character account, but it can be perceived as trying too hard.

Make it crystal clear

You can use emojis to replace a word completely or emphasize a certain word. But an emoji should make the point you’re making even clearer, not confuse things.


Context will help you here, but you need to make sure you know all of the common uses for a certain emoji. Emojis can have different meanings for different people, depending on how they’ve interacted with the emoji. And, depending on what device they’re viewing an emoji on. So you need to make sure you’re using it in the right context. If the usage of an emoji is ambiguous, don’t try to force the emoji idea. Get your subject line right first. The emoji is just icing on the cake.

Let’s look at the following subject line:

Here, we’re trying to use the red car emoji to mean “drive.” But that isn’t apparent on first glance. You probably read this as “test car a 2017 vehicle!” And that doesn’t make much sense. Here’s an alternate that works a little better:

Here, the meaning is less ambiguous. Your first instinct to substitute the image for the word “car” is correct. And it looks adorable, too!

Know your audience

Finally, think about your target personas when considering whether or not you should include an emoji in your subject line. This tactic just won’t work for some audiences. Some personas might view an emoji as unprofessional. So think about your space, your personas, and the type of content you’re sharing in your email campaigns. It won’t always make sense. And even when it does, try not to over do it. This leads me to my final point…

Draw attention to your star content (and make your weaker content seem more interesting)

Not all content is created equal. You might have an asset that you know your personas are going to love. Let them know how great it is with emojis!

On the flip side, you can make a less interesting asset more enticing by inserting an emoji into the subject line.

Best practice would be to test which emails do the best with or without emojis. From there, you can optimize and create even better emoji-filled subject lines for your audience to enjoy. Again, be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want the emoji to lose its punch.

Think carefully before you bring emojis into your email marketing campaigns. Need a little more advice? DemandZEN would love to talk to you more about the great emoji dilemma.

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