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Email emojis: when, why, and how to use them in campaigns

23 min read
VP of Marketing @Ongage

Email emojis can grab attention, express emotions, and add whimsy and brightness to your marketing emails. Explore using email emojis to stand out in the inbox and add context and color to your email messages in this complete guide. 

Email emojis are a popular device for digital communications. These colorful little characters make regular appearances in social media posts 🗣, web content 💻 and emails 📧. But is using email emojis in your brand’s marketing messages okay? 

For most businesses, the key is to choose the right emojis and use them at the right moment and in the right place. 

Email emojis are a fun and colorful addition to your email messages. But just like other signs and signals we use daily, emojis can also provide your subscribers context and a visual hierarchy to follow. 

Any type of business from any vertical can use emojis to help readers navigate and understand their messages. 

Emojis in email subject lines can say a lot in a small space and catch subscribers’ eyes. 

However, it’s important to note that sometimes (and some emojis 😳) aren’t suitable for every brand. 

In this guide, find out everything you need to know about email emojis and how to add them to your campaigns. 

Want to jump ahead?

What are email emojis? How to add an email emoji to your messages Why use emojis in email? Emojis in email enhance emphasis and intent!
Email emojis add context and remove language barriers
Adding emojis in emails humanizes your brand
Email emojis speed the path to understanding
Adding emojis in emails adds visual structure and directs subscribers’ paths through your emails
Examples of email emojis that add interest and boost engagement Do emojis in subject lines increase open rates? 7 strategies for using emojis in your email subject lines and inbox copy (with examples) Use an emoji in your friendly From name to get a head start on standing out in the inbox.
Give your email newsletters an emoji mascot to make them easy to spot in the inbox.
Use an emoji (or two) to tell subscribers what your marketing email is about.
Add emojis in subject lines and preview text to reveal the products your email is promoting.
Employ email emojis as a space-saving way to add context and spark interest in subject lines and preview texts.
Use email emojis in your blasts to highlight a big sale.
Add email emojis to share seasonal themes and holiday spirit with your subscribers.
Do’s and Don’ts of Emojis in Email: Emojis email marketing best practices Don’t use email emojis when they aren’t appropriate for the situation or your brand and audience.
Do think about accessibility, diversity, and inclusion when selecting your email emojis?
Don’t add emojis in emails if they increase your email production costs beyond the value they contribute to your message.
Avoid using emojis if most of your audience prefers text-only messages.
Do preview your emojis emails before you send them.
Don’t use emojis in email if you aren’t sure they mean what you think they mean.
Periodically review your emoji use.
Don’t use emojis in your emails if your data says “no.”
Don’t try to put lipstick on a pig.
Don’t use email emojis that bring people down.
Do choose your emojis purposefully.
Don’t go overboard with emojis.
Do include email emoji use standards in your brand style guide.
Express yourself with email emojis, go forth, and emote!

What are email emojis? 

Email emojis are emojis that appear in email subject lines, preview text, or the body copy of an email message. Email emojis share the exact origins (and code) of other emojis. There are 3700 emoji represented in the Unicode Standard lexicon

However, email emojis are more limited than your regular emojis because an email client must support them to render properly in an email. 

Like digital typefaces (a.k.a. fonts) and images, not all operating systems, platforms, and client support email emojis. 

When a system doesn’t support emojis, these images won’t render correctly and may appear as an open or filled rectangle, a stripped-down black line or pictograph version of the character, or a blank space.

Email marketers must take extra care to ensure their emoji intent is conveyed accurately across devices and operating systems. 

Even in professional settings such as business chats and emails, the use of emojis is no longer completely taboo. Among US and UK workers, 77% report using emojis at work to communicate more effectively. 

Should you use emojis in your marketing emails? 

There are lots of reasons to say yes. Email emojis are small but mighty! 🏋

How to add an email emoji to your messages

Most email template editors do the hard work for you when adding emojis to either your subject lines or email templates. You can simply select the emoji from a menu of images and add it where you want it to appear. 

WYSIWYG editors will add the emoji’s HTML code to the HTML version of your template. If you want to insert an emoji using HTML, you’ll need to add its HTML identifier manually. 

The code for the airplane email emoji in travel brand KAYAK’s email subject line looks like this:

Be sure to review your email service provider’s knowledge hub to confirm that it supports emoji codes before adding these snippets manually.  

Why use emojis in email? 

Emojis are popular because they’re fun and useful. 

As more people incorporate emojis into their text communications, the number of situations where you shouldn’t use an emojis in email is decreasing. Emojis support better, clearer communications across digital formats. 

People use emojis in emails and elsewhere to express emotions, add emphasis, give context and convey intent, represent physical gestures, overcome language barriers, and speed the path to understanding. 

These are all great reasons for you to use emojis in your marketing emails and some of your transactional emails, too. 

Brands of all kinds add emojis to their subject lines to highlight what’s inside or communicate a time-limited offer. The alarm clock ⏰ and police car revolving light 🚨 emojis do a lot of talking during peak sales seasons. 

A bank might use the bank 🏦 emoji to highlight its physical address and the telephone ☎ emoji to make its voice number easy to locate in a message. 

Here are five ways emojis can improve your emails.

Emojis in email enhance emphasis and intent!

When we speak face-to-face, our facial expressions, body posture, and intonation help convey our meaning. 

Are we joking or being sarcastic? Are we angry or sad? Feeling a bit ill? 🤢

Emojis replace these visual and auditory cues in text-based communications like emails and SMS and help people make their feelings clearer when communicating across digital channels. 

Emojis are especially helpful when people communicating via digital channels want to convey humor or sarcasm. I’ve seen social media and chat discussions go bad fast because what someone meant as a joke was perceived as serious. 

Think about how many online feuds the right emoji could help avoid! 

Adding emojis to your emails adds an emotional dimension.

Email emojis add context and remove language barriers 

If I send someone a text saying that I’m going on vacation, their thoughts may leap to touring a city 🗼, mountain biking 🚵, or spa treatments 💅, 💆. 

If I want to give them a little hint as to what vacation means for me, I can add an emoji that draws the picture. 

Am I flying, hanging out on a beach, or planning on staying home to nap? 

There’s an email emoji for that. 

When communicating with a global audience, emojis can help point people in the right direction when text language transactions fall flat. 

In a survey of US emoji users, 92% said they used emojis to overcome language barriers, and 79% used them to share ideas at work quickly. 

Adding emojis in emails humanizes your brand 

Emojis help you express humor and add a casual, conversational tone to your messages. Using these familiar symbols makes your brand seem more approachable. Two-thirds of participants in Duolingo’s World Emoji Day Survey said that they felt closer and more bonded to people when their use of emojis improved their understanding of one another.

Because an emoji can serve as a stand-in for a physical gesture, adding them to your emails can also make your message seem more present and real. This helps you forge deeper relationship-building connections with your subscribers. 

For example, the waving hand emoji greeting subscribers in this industry update newsletter from CPGD email adds a friendly, human-to-human feel to the message. 

Emojis’ ability to convey emotions can make them a persuasive complement to your email’s copy. 

Email emojis speed the path to understanding 

People use emojis to replace words or phrases in digital communications. This reduces the amount of time they have to spend typing words. It also speeds the path to understanding by conveying a concept or idea with one picture instead of a string of words. 

Instead of writing, “I don’t like that,” in a text message, the user can just select the thumbs down 👎  emoji. Or someone might use the eyes emoji 👀 in a workplace chat to say they’ll “take a look.” 

In your marketing emails, emojis representing objects or concepts, like the hourglass ⏳, money bag 💰, airplane 🛫, gift box 🎁, or party popper 🎉, can quickly convey excitement, urgency or enjoyment. 

And, of course, star emojis ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ are a fast way to communicate that your products or services are top-rated. 

Adding emojis in emails adds visual structure and directs subscribers’ paths through your emails

Emojis in your HTML messages can keep your subscribers moving in the direction you want them to go. They serve as extra nudges hinting at what you want someone to do next or how you want them to feel about your message. 

For example, arrows and other attention-grabbing emojis can direct readers toward your email’s CTA. Use emojis to replace bullet points in your email’s copy to make these classic visual guideposts less generic. 

In the email pictured below, Early Stage Growth lists its three biggest blog posts of the year using emojis to relay their themes. 

Examples of email emojis that add interest and boost engagement

Emojis can add visual interest to the text in the body of your emails and improve your subscribers’ experiences with your brand. 

Incorporate inline emojis into your copy to demonstrate humor, humility, empathy, and friendship, add context or emphasis, and support your brand identity.

Here are some of my favorite examples of brands using emojis in the body of their emails to build connections and increase understanding. 

📧 Social media scheduler Later sprinkles smiling faces and other emojis throughout its email to show its personality and set a friendly tone. 

📧 Business publisher Morning Brew has fun adding amusing or unusual emojis (like the skunk emoji in the example below) in the body of its Sidekick newsletter to highlight sections of the text. 

📧 Startup incubator Y Combinator applies a light hand when adding emojis to its newsletter. With a few emojis, the brand draws the reader’s eye and adds context to the content. Notice the briefcase emoji denoting the “Jobs” section? 

📧 Nature-friendly emojis fill this informational newsletter from sustainable products retailer Net Zero Co. The emoji selections are on-brand and relevant to its eco-conscious audience while adding emphasis to its email newsletter’s content.

📧 Travel tipster Skyscanner’s email contains lots of attractive images of travel destinations, which could leave the copy feeling a little plain. 

The brand brightens up the text and balances the email’s design with emojis that illustrate its text. 

📧 Detour Coffee takes a new approach to using email emojis, turning them into tiny icons to illustrate the brand’s coffee rating system. Emojis are a clever way to communicate the meaning of each category.

Emojis are an excellent device to supplement the visual hierarchy of your messages. Along with headings, fonts, and other graphic features, these little digital wayfinders keep readers engaged and moving forward in your emails toward the all-important CTA

📧 This email newsletter from Ariyh clues readers into what each section is about through the use of text and an emoji. A different emoji designates sections of the newsletter, including recommendations, limitations, and steps for implementation. 

The newsletter also uses emojis to identify other data, such as research links and additional resources. 

Sprinkling emojis throughout the body of your email copy can liven up otherwise plain text and provide your readers with visual cues. 

But what about using emojis in your subject lines and inbox copy

Should you use emojis to stand out in the inbox and if so, what are the best strategies? There are pros and cons to using emojis in your inbox copy. 

Here’s what we found. 

Do emojis in subject lines increase open rates? 

Your subscribers’ inboxes are packed with messages vying for their attention. Emojis add eye-catching color and visual contrast to your inbox copy. Their shape and color make them stand out while adding information or context. 

In addition to adding visual interest, using an emoji in your subject line or preview text allows you to add emphasis or highlight a key point in less space than text. 

But whether these effects increase your email message’s opens, clicks, and conversions is a hard question to answer. 

Researchers and marketing experts don’t all agree about the benefits of using emojis in an email’s subject line. 

 “Emojis increase the probability of opening the email, the number of times email gets opened and clicks to access additional content,” wrote the authors of a 2022 article reporting the results of their research on the effects of emojis on customer engagement in email marketing

An oft-cited study by Experian found that emojis in the subject line could increase open rates by 56%. But those results are so old even the Wayback Machine couldn’t help me find when they originated.  

But Search Engine Journal’s Shelley Walsh discovered that emojis didn’t do much for opens but might give marketers a slight edge in click-through rates in a 2020 review of 3.9 million emails

A 2022 study of more than 37k non-profit campaigns revealed that very few senders used emojis in their subject lines (just 2.7% of the emails sent). The study also found that while click-through rates were higher for subject lines with emojis, open rates and donation amounts were lower.  

Remember that not every user will see your colorful messengers. Plus, your emoji-filled subject line’s ability to stand out depends on what other senders are putting in their subject lines and preview texts, too. 

Also, not everyone is a fan of emojis. One poster in Gmail’s support forum writes, “Please stop allowing emojis (graphics) in email subject lines…This is spammy behavior that visually clutters my inbox…”

Despite some bad press, marketers still love emojis in subject lines. Personally, I do too. They catch my attention in the inbox. 

Plus, as some of the research indicated, your emojis may earn opens from those more likely to click through your CTAs. When assessing the performance of your emoji tactics, look beyond opens to consider click-throughs, conversions, and other engagement signals as well. 

Below are some examples of how brands are embracing emojis in the inbox and strategies you can try. 

7 strategies for using emojis in your email subject lines and inbox copy (with examples)

Try the following tactics for using emojis in your subject lines (and other inbox elements) to attract and engage our subscribers. 

📨Use an emoji in your friendly From name to get a head start on standing out in the inbox.

Emojis can help your sender name stand out when BIMIs don’t register in your recipients’ inbox displays.

In the example below, both DTC men’s body care brand OffCourt and vitamin and supplement seller Puritan’s Pride accent their Sender name with a colorful emoji.

📨Give your email newsletters an emoji mascot to make them easy to spot in the inbox.

In our article about email newsletter best practices, we encourage marketers to use a consistent sending schedule and give their newsletters a name or brand identity that makes them recognizable to subscribers. 

Emerging Tech Brew, which is part of the Morning Brew set of newsletters, always starts its line with a coffee cup ☕ (hot beverage) emoji. The Points Guy tags his airline travel newsletter with an ✈ airplane emoji. 

DTC, a direct-to-consumer e-commerce industry publication, chose a shipping box 📦 (package) to identify its brand in the inbox. 

If you plan to use an  emoji as a brand icon in the inbox, choose one that is relevant to your industry and brand personality, and place it in the same location–usually at the beginning of your subject line–each time. 

📨Use an emoji (or two) to tell subscribers what your marketing email is about.

You’ve probably seen messages in your inbox that begin with [Ebook] or [Webinar] [Podcast] or include a reference in the subject line or preview text telling you what the message is about. 

Telling subscribers whether your email is about a downloadable asset, a podcast or a webinar is helpful and enhances their user experience. But this added information also takes up valuable inbox characters. 

Sometimes, email marketers even repeat themselves, adding this same copy to both the subject line and preview text

That’s not a good use of your inbox space!  

Add visual interest and convey your message’s subject quickly with an emoji instead. 

There are emojis for webinars and podcasts? 🤔

Well, not really. But marketers are inventive. 

Use one of several related emojis to hint at what’s inside your emails, such as a book for a free download offer, a microphone or headphones for messages about audio content and video-related emojis for webinars. 

The calendar emoji is a common choice for invites of any kind. In the subject line examples below, Affiliate Summit used a calendar to highlight the countdown to an upcoming conference. 

AMD uses a play emoji to communicate that its email is about a video replay of a past event. Red Cap Cards uses a movie camera emoji to represent its video content. Meanwhile, CPG brand Axe uses a conversation bubble emoji to introduce the subscriber poll in its email. 

📨Add emojis in subject lines and preview text to reveal the products your email is promoting.

Back in the 80s and 90s, physical stickers were fun to collect and share. Judging by the covers of my friends’ and colleagues’ laptops (and mine), they still are. 

Emojis representing products or services in the subject lines and preview copy of the email in my inbox reminds me of these types of stickers. They are cute, colorful representations of the actual item, and they strike a tiny note of nostalgia in my heart. 

These subject lines pictured below include an array of topical emojis. I like how My Science Shop took the time to add a Saturn emoji to its announcement that a new Saturn globe was available for purchase. And Omaha Steak’s lobster emoji immediately makes me think of this tasty seafood. 

Think about the emojis that your brand could use to represent its products and add them to your approved emoji list for future subject lines. (Be sure to check for unintended meanings first!) 

📨 Employ email emojis as a space-saving way to add context and spark interest in subject lines and preview texts.

The emojis you select for your subject lines don’t have to be literal representations of your products or services. Figurative emojis can add humor or convey context through analogy or other devices.

Axios consistently places emojis at the front of its subject line text. But instead of using a single mascot emoji, this brand changes things up. They always relate the lead emojis to the content of the newsletter. 

The inbox image below illustrates what I mean. 

A shuffle tracks emoji that shows two lines crossing like they might on a supply and demand graph represents supply challenges and a newsletter with commentary about the economy gets a shopping cart emoji.  

Axios’ emoji play attracts attention in the inbox and stimulates curiosity.  

As email marketers use emojis more often, we’ve developed shared meanings for some characters. 

A police car light 🚨 emoji expresses urgency or excitement (usually related to a sale). The shopping bags 🛍 or cart 🛒 emoji can indicate a sale in B2C messages or commerce topics in B2B emails.  

A rocket 🚀 represents brand launches or investments that are predicted to go to the moon. Clocks and hourglasses, as you might expect, mean time is running out. You’ll find these emojis frequently featured in last-chance email subject lines and preview text. 

The briefcase emoji 💼 has become a symbol for job postings or topics related to employment. 

📨Use email emojis in your blasts to highlight a big sale.

Using emojis to highlight your brand’s latest sale isn’t exactly original. It’s almost expected. Add some color and personality to your sales promotions with emojis that convey excitement, urgency, exclusivity, or money (the kind subscribers can save by clicking).

Each subject line featured in the image below includes one or more emojis that grab attention—the police alarm, an hourglass, money bags, exclamation points, celebration signs, happy faces, and similar general emojis. 

Check out Bath & Body Works’ emoji action. The brand creates a colorful and engaging subject line that alerts subscribers to an upcoming sale and prompts them to open the retailer’s message. 

Keep an eye out for these emojis in your inbox and compare them to sales promotions and messages that use product-related emojis, capital letters, numbers and percentage signs to attract attention. 

Even better, A/B test subject line variations that include emojis with ones that don’t and see which tactics work best with each of your audience segments. 

📨Add email emojis to share seasonal themes and holiday spirit with your subscribers.

Emojis that reference seasons, special occasions and holidays are fun and immediately inform your subscribers that the message is about a timely topic. 

An emoji in your inbox display acknowledges that your subscribers are in a festive mood and communicates that you are, too!

And, like other emojis, we’ve developed a shared understanding of their meaning over time. 

The bunny face 🐰 is for Easter, hearts are Valentine’s Day (of course), and Mother’s Day marketing emails get their share of hearts in the subject line and preview text, along with flower bouquets 💐 and gift boxes. 

Emojis in the subject line and preview copy can capture your subscribers’ attention, convince them to open your email and set the tone for what they’ll find inside. 

But using emojis isn’t right for every brand or every email. How can you use emojis in your email campaigns effectively? 

Do’s and Don’ts of Emojis in Email: Emojis email marketing best practices 

I’ve shared several reasons to use emojis in your marketing and other customer-facing emails. But what are some reasons you shouldn’t use emojis in your emails and what could go wrong? 

Consider these tips and cautions when crafting your email emoji strategy. 

🚫 Don’t use email emojis when they aren’t appropriate for the situation or your brand and audience. 

As your mother probably used to tell you, just because everybody is doing something doesn’t mean you should. Emojis aren’t right for every audience or message. And they may not be right for your brand at all. 

Before deciding to use emojis for your email marketing, review your brand persona and audience attributes. You may decide to avoid emojis or use only a select set of characters. The registered ®️ and check mark emojis might be appropriate for your brand even if a kiss mark 💋 isn’t.

Can B2B brands use emojis in their marketing emails? 

B2B brands can use emojis in their marketing emails and many do. 

Emojis were already gaining acceptance in business settings before the pandemic and the rapid adoption of remote work accelerated the pace. There are some studies indicating that people who send business-related communications using emojis may be taken less seriously. However, workplace communication tools have made emojis a common language among business professionals. 

B2B buyer personas are shifting. 

Increasingly, your business customers want to have the same experience when making purchases for their companies that they have when shopping for themselves. 

Our recent exploration of B2B buying behaviors revealed that two-thirds of B2B buyers will switch vendors if they don’t get the experience they expect. This includes receiving conversational, human communications from your brand.

Browsing through my inbox’s contents, I noticed that some business-related publishers never add an emoji to their email’s body copy and very seldom include it in the subject lines of their messages. 

Little colorful characters just aren’t part of the trusted and authoritative resource image these brands are trying to project. My bank, insurance provider and doctor don’t use emojis when communicating with me, either. My online brokerage firm does. 

☑️ Do think about accessibility, diversity, and inclusion when selecting your email emojis? 

Your email templates may automatically add plain text versions of your messages to its HTML packet. Touch up this plain text to include descriptions of important emojis (ones that add critical context or information) and remove emoji descriptions that aren’t needed or are repetitive. 

When selecting the emojis to use in your emails and subject lines, look for ones that represent a diversity of people and situations. Choose different colors, conditions and ways of conveying emotion to demonstrate your full understanding of your audience. 

🚫 Don’t add emojis in emails if they increase your email production costs beyond the value they contribute to your message. 

Choosing the right emoji for a particular message requires personal attention. Someone needs to select symbols that are relevant to the content and make sure the emoji is safe to use. These extra steps can slow down your workflow. 

If you are using dynamic content blocks to auto-populate an email newsletter or your email’s content is an image, adding inline text emojis will slow your flow. 

Retail Information Systems (RIS) packages its latest content into a consistently styled newsletter that doesn’t leave room for added text. Instead of emojis, the designers use icons and other graphic elements to add visual interest. 

Some brands that use image-based messages still manage to capture the look and feel of emojis by incorporating them into the graphics. These “fauxmojis” are image files, not coded emojis. 

Shopify uses this fauxmojis method to add emoji-like images to its free trial offer pictured below. 

🚫 Avoid using emojis if most of your audience prefers text-only messages. 

Most emails are sent in some version of HTML by default. Even messages that appear to be text-only are often a version of HTML lite, using limited code but code, nonetheless. However, if your audience consists of subscribers who elect to only view their emails in plain text, your emojis won’t show up. 

Subscribers who use screen readers may not appreciate emoji-laden messages as their readers may recite the name of each emoji as it appears.  

A row of “dancing women” may look good to you, but hearing the phrase dancing woman seven times as likely to cause subscribers who listen instead of looking to make a quick exit from your message.  

Emojis may not register with screen readers or render properly across all devices either. So avoid replacing essential text with these micro-images.   

AI-powered micro-segmentation and dynamic content optimization gives marketers more options for emojis and more

 Email’s flexibility as a channel has always been one of its best qualities. But new personalization and segmentation technologies powered by AI give marketers even more ways to customize their subscribers’ experiences. 

Using predictive, automatic content selection tools, marketers don’t have to choose just one way to communicate with their email subscribers. AI-driven content personalization allows you to create multiple versions of an email subject line or template then use AI-powered analytics to select which version each subscriber receives. 

Using this technology, you can create versions of your email campaigns with and without emojis and let your AI tool automatically select which version is best for every recipient.  

☑️ Do preview your emojis emails before you send them.

Test how emojis in your inbox copy and email body render across different devices and email clients to ensure that your design delivers as intended. When reviewing your email emojis in different environments, check to make sure they render correctly and look appropriate. The same emojis may look very different depending on where it is displayed. 

🚫Don’t use emojis in email if you aren’t sure they mean what you think they mean.

Humans. They’re so complicated, and so is communicating with them. 

Each emoji in the Unicode Emoji list is accompanied by a text description, such as “grinning face,” or “pot of food.” But just because an emoji has a description doesn’t mean that’s how users define it. 

Many people don’t apply the literal translation or original intent of an emoji when interpreting its meaning. Context, cultural differences, the development of emoji slang, the use of emojis for innuendo, and other factors affect how your audience may interpret your brand’s emoji-speak.

For instance, in some cultures, the “smiling face with halo” 😇 emojis associated with death is perceived as a threat! 

Meanwhile, the “skull” 💀 emoji is used as slang for extreme humor, a reference to something “killing it” in comedy or saying “I’m dead” because they laughed so hard. 

Ever wondered why the “increasing chart” emoji shows a red line instead of green? It’s because in Asian countries, like Japan, red is good and green is bad.

Hand gesture emojis can be especially risky territory. Different cultures ascribe different meanings to hand signals, such as an open palm or raised fist. 

The meaning of an emoji may change quickly and can also vary between generations. So you need to know your emojis and your audience before you begin experimenting with emojis in your emails. 

Also, because operating systems render emojis differently, senders and receivers may not get the same impression. For instance, the big grin emoji you sent may appear as a grimacing face to some of your users. Even if you’re confident about an emoji’s meaning, check its appearance across devices and operating systems.  

Emojis that are misunderstood or have multiple meanings

Emoji Interpretation(s)
😇 (smiling face with halo) A sign of death or just a happy little angel.
🍑, 🍆 (peach, eggplant) Sometimes fruits and vegetables are used as stand-ins for other objects.
😘 (wink and kiss) The wink and kiss, and similar emojis, may be perceived as signals of platonic or romantic affection.
🙏 (folded hands) This ‘hands pressed together’ emoji may mean praying, bless you, thank you, please or a high-five depending on the sender and the context.
🖐, 👊,✊, 🤘 (high five, oncoming fist, raise fist, sign of the horns) Hand gestures that are perceived as positive signals in one country or culture may be a sign of aggression in another.
🙂 (slightly smiley face) It’s a smile, right? 14% of people globally read this as a sign of deep exasperation or mistrust because it’s not a big smile. 🙄
💸 (money with wings) Easy come, easy go. Some people think the flying money in this emoji is headed their way, others think it is leaving them.
💅(nail polish) The nail polish emoji may mean self-care such as getting a manicure. It can also be a reference to gossip because people often spill the tea while at the salon.
😭(loud crying face) For some people this one means crying. Younger people use it as the new LOL because 😂 (face with tears of joy) is so done.
🥑 (avocado) People may call you an avocado because you’re mainstream (ya’ basic) or because you’re the better half of a relationship.
🍃 (leaf fluttering in the wind) This particular leaf emoji signifies a special kind of weed to some viewers.
💁 (person tipping hand) The person with one hand tipped may be sharing information, saying they don’t care or just feeling sassy.
🙃 (upside-down face) An upside down smile may communicate silliness or sarcasm–a big difference in intent.
🤡 (clown face) The clown face emoji may mean you’re being funny or you’re creepy. I guess it depends on how you and the recipient feel about clowns.

☑️ Periodically review your emoji use.

Like all the other elements of your email’s design and copy, your emojis should be scheduled for regular check-ups. Include a review of emoji use in your pre-send and annual audit checklists.

Use a resource like Unicode’s Full Emoji list, Emojipedia, and Urban Dictionary to double-check your emoji’s meaning.

🚫 Don’t use emojis in your emails if your data says “no.” 

Past performance and industry statistics about emojis should be your starting point but not the end of your evaluation process. Use A/B testing and real-time, AI-supported analytics to uncover how your audience feels about email emojis and whether adding them boosts your campaigns’ performances. 

Also, keep an eye on your emoji-included emails’ engagement metrics and other key performance indicators. Emojis alone shouldn’t trigger email service providers’ spam filters. However, over-emojification can be a spam signal that tips the scales against you if your messages have other spam-like elements, too.

🚫Don’t try to put lipstick on a pig. 💄 🐷

Emojis can draw attention to both good and bad copy. So it’s a good idea to test how your subject lines and email messages perform independent of any emojis. If the text doesn’t resonate with your audience, extra flair isn’t going to help. 

🚫Don’t use email emojis that bring people down.

Emojis have a contagion effect, too. Positive emojis may lift a recipient’s mood but negative ones ☹️ will bring them down. So be cautious about using emojis that may be interpreted negatively. 

☑️ Do choose your emojis purposefully.

Emojis shouldn’t be an afterthought. Chose when and where to use emojis as part of your broader email campaign strategy. Only use emojis in a campaign if doing so aligns with that campaign’s objectives and your audience’s preference.  

When you use emojis, use images that complement your copy and add context or convey emotion. Particularly when adding emojis to your subject lines, look beyond the standard top ten emojis to find ones that add value as well as visual interest.

Stick with positive emojis to inspire positive reactions from your subscribers and are brand appropriate. Once you find a set of emojis that suit your brand’s persona, stick with them to add consistency to your messaging. 

🚫Don’t go overboard with emojis. 

When your email’s subject line or body contains more emojis than words or long strings of emojis, these characters become the main attraction. This can distract from your message, make it difficult for subscribers to read and understand your copy, and appear spammy. 

Of course, there’s always room for exceptions. This subject line from DTC food ingredient brand NuNaturals breaks the “not too many emojis” rule but with a purpose. The subject line for its email packed with social proof includes the classic signal for a customer review: five stars.

☑️ Do include email emoji use standards in your brand style guide.

Maintain a list of acceptable and unacceptable emojis and create rules for when and how you’ll use them in emails. Your guide may set standards for which types of emails are suitable for emojis, whether you’ll use them in subject lines, a limit on how many emojis can appear in a single message, and similar information. 

Update your guide regularly and add new emojis as they’re released. Maybe World Emoji Day, June 17, would be a good day to schedule your annual email emoji audit. 

Express yourself with email emojis, go forth, and emote! 

Don’t just tell your subscribers who you are and what you’re talking about; show them with the perfect email emoji. 

And, to help you gain the time you’ll need to find just the right emoji every time, check out our amazing guide to email automation. In it, you’ll find 32 examples of automated email campaigns you can design and personalize for your audiences.

VP of Marketing @Ongage
Melissa brings years of company building, startup launching, SaaS to positive ARR, and email marketing experience. In Ongage, she is leading the marketing team while planning and launching the strategic implementation of the operation. Melissa firmly believes that brand awareness and adoption happens by answering burning needs and education. She's been developing the Ongage brand to reflect the company's DNA and values, taking it along the way to the stars.

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