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How to use emojis in subject lines [updated for 2022]

Reading Time: 7 minutes

In email marketing, using emojis for email subject lines can be a good way to capture your recipient’s attention and make your message stand out in overcrowded inboxes. Using them strategically is something you should consider if you rely on email to generate sales.

To help you make the most of emojis in your email marketing campaigns, this post will guide you through the following:

  • The benefits of using emojis for email subject lines
  • How to use emojis for subject lines
  • How to add emojis to email subject lines
  • List of popular emojis that brands use in subject lines
Take the guess work out of your email subject lines. Try out our Subject Line Tester today to see how good and effective your subject line really is!

Benefits of using emojis for subject lines

Smileys, emoticons, and pictograms weren’t always used for email marketing. So why use emojis for subject lines now? 

Here are some of the most significant benefits of email subject emoji to your email marketing:

  • They save space. Emojis can replace entire words, which is helpful when you have limited character counts. They can even convey much more meaning and emotion than words can.
  • They drive higher engagement. Emojis are immediately recognizable and relatable. In fact, this study shows that emojis increase customer engagement when used for emphasis and in positive contexts.
  • They give your brand personality. Using emojis can be a good way to foster an image of a friendly and approachable brand.
  • They reinforce the meaning of emails. Emojis help readers internalize messages because they are incredibly effective in conveying and triggering emotions.
  • They make emails stand out. Email inboxes are typically a sea of black and white text. So, a colorful emoji can break that dullness and quickly attract the attention of recipients. This is a huge plus for competitive email marketing

Although the benefits of using emojis for subject lines are undeniable, this study by Nielsen shows that they’re not always a guarantee of higher open rates. Furthermore, their use can trigger negative associations with your brand. You need to make sure you use them purposefully and strategically.

How to use emojis for email subject lines [+examples]

To help you maximize the value of adding emojis in your email subjects, try these strategies individually and see which works best for your audience and the message you want to convey:

1. Fit the context

Add emojis based on the content, context, and intent of the email. Also, make sure the emojis you choose suit your brand image and are appropriate for your audience profile.

Examples:

Sirens are usually associated with big emergencies or urgent messages, and using this email emoji in the subject line successfully incites the same exhilaration around the idea of a huge sale:

email subject line with sirens are usually associated with big emergencies or urgent messages

On the other hand, the calendar email emoji below might seem boring but it perfectly suits the context of the message and the nature of the sender’s business: 

email subject line with a calendar email emoji

2. Complement the subject line

Emojis in email subject lines offer a visual representation of what is mentioned. It makes the content of the email more recognizable and relatable.

Examples:

In this example, readers immediately feel that opening the email could be the key to a hassle-free flight when traveling with their scooters:

subject line with a plane and scooter emojis shows the hassle-free flight when traveling with their scooters

The example below isn’t really meant to incite any emotion but instead to break the monotony of the plain text with relevant visuals:

subject line with relevant visuals breaks the monotony of the plain text
Beyond adding emojis to subject lines, there’s much more you can do to maximize the results of your email campaign. Want to learn about email list cleanup and other tips? Read the 15 email marketing best practices. 

3. Convey a sense of urgency

The right emoji can motivate recipients to act quickly, making them useful for time-limited sales and other ecommerce offers.

Examples:

In this example, the screaming face emoji is used to express extreme excitement and possibly fear of missing out. These emojis are made even more effective when combined with the mention of a time limit (e.g., 24-hour availability):

subject line with the screaming face emoji is used to express extreme excitement and FOMO

Similarly, the use of a clock emoji in the message below gives readers the feeling that the clock is ticking towards the offer expiration. Combined with the idea of a massive flash sale, this email subject emoji could get the reader to shop now.

The use of a clock emoji in the subject line gives readers the feeling that the clock is ticking towards the offer expiration
Urgency is especially effective in emails for holiday-related events. Want more tips for holiday emails? Check out the 35 best holiday email subject lines & most popular emojis.

4. Convey an emotion

Facial expressions are among the most useful emojis for email subject lines because people can immediately feel the emotion being conveyed. 

Example:

The email subject line below contains an astonished expression, which immediately leads readers to a feeling of mild shock and excitement:

The email subject line with an astonished expression leads readers to a feeling of mild shock and excitement

Similarly, a shocked face combined with one of relief conveys the feeling of narrowly avoiding a disaster (i.e., missing out on a good deal):

email subject line with with shocked face combined with one of relief

5. Add no more than three emojis

Although emojis for subject lines are useful in capturing the attention of readers, overusing them can lead to confusion. Try to limit your emoji use to a maximum of three per subject line. And always keep them as simple as possible.

Example:

In the example below, notice the emoji use: the subject line contains five different emojis that aren’t even accompanied by any text. It can take a while for readers to determine what it means, which risks them losing interest:

the subject line contains five different emojis that aren’t even accompanied by any text

In contrast, this brand’s emoji use: the subject line contains only three emojis, making it easier to relate to. The pumpkin is instantly associated with Halloween and the orange and black hearts are relevant to the Holiday theme:

the subject line contains only three emojis and a Holiday name

6. Use emojis instead of words

Emojis can be used in place of words not just to save space but also to make subject lines more visually interesting.

Examples:

In this subject line example, recipients will immediately recognize the emojis as lipsticks so it isn’t necessary to spell out the items on offer:

subject line example how easily recipients will recognize the emojis as a gifts waiting in the email

Beyond replacing words with emojis in email subject lines, these visuals can be used in place of letters. In the example below, sun emojis are used in place of the letter O, and it works because the email is about a nail polish color reminiscent of the summer sunset:

example of emojis can be used to replace letters

Before you activate an email campaign, it’s always a good idea to run your subject line through a subject line tester and determine where you can make improvements for maximum impact. You should also split-test several versions to see which elicit the best responses.

How to add emojis to email subject lines

There are several ways you can add your emoji for email subject line:

  • On Windows, bring up the emoji panel using the Windows key + period (.) or Windows key + semicolon (;)
  • On Mac, you can launch the emoji selector by using the keyboard combination Ctrl + Cmd + space ( )
  • An emoji reference website can also be incredibly useful for exploring and discovering emojis. You can use a tool like Emojipedia to simply copy and paste an emoji you like.

Don’t forget to preview your email to see how your subject line looks on different devices.

Find software that can help you craft emails that work. Check out some of the best email marketing tools that support emojis: Best small business email marketing software

Popular emojis for email subject lines

Below are some of the top emojis for email subject lines among businesses engaged in ecommerce and various other industries. You can copy and paste the emojis onto your subject line editor, or you can follow the Emojipedia links to copy them there.

As often happens, you’ll probably find your favorite emoji for email subject line in one of the top examples below:

EmojiEmoji name (+ Emojipedia link)Popular usage
🎁Wrapped giftUsed in emails containing bonuses, free perks, gifts, etc.
🚨Police car lightUsed in emails that announce sales, time-limited offers, etc.
❤️Red heartUsed to express gratitude, love, happiness, and similar emotions.
😮Face with open mouthUsed to emphasize the great value of an offer.
🎉Party popperUsed in emails that celebrate a special occasion or surprise offers for customers.
👉Backhand index pointing rightUsed to focus the reader’s attention on the subject line or a specific part of it.
😍Smiling face with heart-eyesUsed to express enthusiastic feelings of love, infatuation, and adoration.
⏲️Timer clockUsed for time-limited offers and voucher expiration reminders.
🔥FireUsed when sharing “hot” offers and news.
Check mark buttonUsed to convey a positive outcome, a completed task, or to deliver verified information.

Summary: Should you use emojis in subject lines?

You should definitely consider using emojis in subject lines, especially if your business exists in a competitive space. Just remember to do so carefully and strategically. 

Follow the tips and best practices discussed in this post so you can maximize the benefits of emojis and avoid using them in ways that trigger negative associations with your brand.

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Bernard Meyer
Article by
Bernard Meyer

Bernard is the Director of Content at Omnisend, with a passion for good research, helping ecommerce businesses with their marketing automation needs, and beating absolutely everyone in Mario Kart 64.


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