Emoji in Subject lines

Using Emoji in Email Subject Lines

Emoji – meaning “picture character” – drastically changed the way we communicate. We use emoji in day-to-day texting, but even in communication with colleagues where many business communication tools (like Slack) encourage the use of emoji. Emoji become present in advertising, and are often seen in social media and email marketing due to their power to make marketing messages more impactful. Using emoji in subject lines in email strategically can notably increase open rates because emoji bring fun and entertainment. Before considering benefits and ways of integrating emoji in email marketing, let’s take a look at the emoji facts:

Emoji Origin and History

The word “emoji” (from Japanese e – picture, moji – character) has only a coincidental resemblance with English words “emoticon” and “emotion.” Emoticons and emoji are not the same thing: an emoticon is created by symbols available on keyboard, such as :-), while emoji is an actual picture that renders on different devices. So, the famous smiling yellow face almost all people online use is an emoji, not an emoticon.

The first emoji was created in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese designer. His original set of 176 emoji is now a part of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. in the 2000is, emoji become available and popular outside Japan. Apple included an official emoji keyboard in 2011, while Android did that two years later. Emoji quickly gained a massive popularity and become more plentiful. We now have numerous emoji representing emotions, people, objects, animals or activities. Beside digital communication, emoji become so popular that today they can be found on accessories, T-shirts, notebooks, toys etc.

Emoji in Business

With near 3000 emoji in the Unicode Standard, picture characters evolved to a special language itself which integrated into the way we communicate on almost all levels. Usage of emoji overcomes communication between friends or family members. Emoji become so present around us that there are studies, articles and observations where the main question is are we going back to a form of primitive language. Nevertheless, whether our human language became enriched or impoverished with the use of emoji, there is no doubt that massive adaptation to emoji transformed the way we convey and receive information.

Emoji in business often can be highly unprofessional, but there are situations where emoji can be used smoothly.  Businesses use emoji as a part of informal communication among colleagues, but, more importantly, as a way to intensify promotional content and connect emotionally with customers. Emoji in marketing proved to be very effective, especially if the target audience contains of younger people.

Emoji in Email Subject Lines

Email marketing experts are aware of the benefits of using emoji in subject lines and know that there are reasons to include relevant picture characters in email content as a method to improve open rates. The subject line in promotional email determines whether your customer will open your email or delete it.

According to Experian, including emoji in the subject line can increase open rate by 56%. This is a great way to make your newsletter stand out and trigger your subscriber. An appealing subject line is the first step in selling your product through email marketing. Emoji provoke the emotional response and can also save space in subject lines. Emoji can replace the whole word and shorten the number of characters. This way, subject lines look more friendly and welcoming.

DOs and DON’Ts


Keep it relevant: considering the number of emoji, there are surely those suitable for any subject line. It’s surprising that smiling poop emoji has the highest open rate, but that doesn’t mean you should use it if your business has a serious tone. Choose the most appropriate emoji according to your brand identity and the target audience.

Test: the most important test is to realize how emoji will render on different devices and email clients. Not all email clients support the emoji, so if your email list mostly consists of Outlook (older versions) users, you should better stay away from using emoji in subject lines.

Test, again: Do A/B testing to see will emoji in subject lines boost your open rates. Also, you can see which emoji works best for you. Using emoji in subject lines should be well-planned and tested.


Overuse: Although it would be interesting to replace the whole subject line with emoji (and there were some similar examples), this probably won’t work. Too much emoji can look irritating and ridiculous. Choose the right combination of text and emoji instead.

Miss the context: emoji are there to fulfill the message, so be careful when choosing the right ones. Many emoji can be interpreted wrong. The meaning of your message should be the same for all your subscribers.

Copy the biggest players: just because you something works when big businesses are using it, that does not mean that it will work for you. Following the good case practices of big players is good and can be effective, but only if you adjust activities to your business properly.


Using emoji in subject lines is one of the most interesting methods that can increase open rates and promote your business. Emoji bring personality and color, but they also affected the way we communicate online. Emoji, as a universal language, influenced popular culture and incorporated into communication greatly, so businesses started using emoji as a part of marketing activities. Smart usage of emoji can boost key performance indicators, but including emoji in marketing tactics should be well-planned.  

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