Email Tip – To Emoji, or Not to Emoji?

This week, we welcome a guest post from our Digital Strategist, Erin Alemdar.

Erin is responsible for the overall email strategy, production, scheduling, delivery, and reporting of behavior-based, targeted email, website, and mobile campaigns for B2B and B2C e-commerce clients.

Using emojis in email subject lines is a trend that has grown tremendously over the last few years, and it’s a trend that’s not likely to disappear anytime soon. In fact, the use of emojis in marketing email subject lines increased 775% from 2015-2016, according to Email Marketing Daily. Whether you ❤︎ emojis or hate them, these tiny symbols have made an impact on the way we communicate. For marketers, it’s another tool we can use to stand out in our customers’ already crowded inboxes and enhance the meaning of our subject lines.


According to Experian, 56% of brands using subject line emojis had a higher unique open rate. But where does that leave the other 44%? Why do emojis in the subject line work for some brands and not for others? The answer to these questions is simple, yet frustrating— it depends. There are many factors that contribute to if an emoji subject line will work for you. It’s important to consider your industry norms, audience device and email client analytics, and the context of the email message.

Valentine’s Day emails with the lips emoji in the subject lines had a read rate of 24% compared to text-only Valentine’s Day subject lines, which had only a 20% read rate.  On the other hand, New Year’s emails with the clinking champagne glasses in the subject line had only a 9% read rate, which is significantly lower than the average read rates of New Year’s emails with only text, according to Business Wire.

When are Emojis Appropriate?

For some industries, like finance and education, you would expect their brand tone to be more serious and straight-forward. Other industries, such as travel and fashion, have leeway to have more fun with their messaging and brand tone. Ultimately it is your judgement call on if emojis will be appropriate to use in your emails. A recent study by IBM explores benchmarks across industries for emoji subject line usage. This study is a great resource to help determine how emoji subject lines will be received and interpreted in your industry.

Now What?

You’ve decided that an emoji will be appropriate and fit within the context of your email’s subject line. Great, you’re done! Just kidding. Even more important than the decision to use an emoji is making sure that specific emoji will render correctly across your audiences’ devices. Emojis in subject lines render differently across devices and email clients.

In the example below, the character in each of these subject lines is the same, but looks vastly different in each. Being a 4th of July email, it makes sense to have fireworks in the subject line, but the first graphic looks like a star, the second graphic looks like a snowflake, and the third looks like a flower.










While most email clients support emoji subject lines, the way the symbol renders can alter your intended meaning. Because of this, it’s important to consider the overall context of your email subject line and message. Avoid having the meaning of the subject line be dependent on the emoji itself. That way, if rendering goes awry, the original intended meaning of your message is not completely lost.

How Do I Make Sure the Emoji I Want to Use Will Render Correctly?

With so many factors to consider, and so many devices available, how can you ensure emojis work for your emails? Luckily, there are tools and resources available to help you implement emoji subject lines such as reliable emoji libraries and emoji subject line testing. Below, you’ll find three of our favorite websites that offer full listings of Unicode symbols, including emojis:

EmojipediaOffers previews of how the emoji will look across different platforms, browsers, and devices.

GraphemicaOffers more extensive details on encoding, which could come in handy for using emojis within email messages or landing pages, though isn’t necessary for use in subject lines. In most platforms, to use an emoji in the subject line of an email, you simply copy the symbol from an emoji library and paste it directly into the subject line editor.

UnicodeOffers a unique number for each character, which allows data to remain the same through various platforms, devices, and applications. It displays glyphs from a variety of sources in an easy-to-read and comprehensive chart format.

More Tips

Thoroughly testing rendering across email clients before you send can help you avoid potentially embarrassing or confusing emoji subject line mishaps. Here are a few tips to help you out:

  1. Use the Litmus subject line checker, which provides a quick glance at top email client inbox previews.
  2. Send test messages to as many different email clients as possible and check the rendering in each. Don’t forget to check on mobile!
  3. One of the best and most important tools for testing is user testing. Having a few people look at your emoji subject line will help you gauge whether your intended meaning is being correctly interpreted.

Try it out!

Although there are many factors to consider when using emoji subject lines, following these best practices can help you be confident that your audience will understand and react to your emojis in the way you intend for them to.  We know you want to avoid embarrassing misinterpretations of your emojis, and you especially want to avoid losing the meaning of your subject lines, so be sure to double check renderings.

Want More?

For more tips on how to use emojis to make an inbox impact, download our checklist at

  • Dusan (Duke) Vukadinovic

    A recent study showed that using emojis in a work email makes us seem incompetent but I agree with you that such industries as travel and fashion, have leeway to have more fun with their messaging and brand tone.