To Emoji or Not to Emoji...

We see emojis in subject lines all the time now... are they really working??


After reading some research into over 1.5 million subject lines, this is what was found.

Marketers have had an on-again, off-again, love/hate relationship with the Emoji since it was entered into the Oxford Dictionary a few years ago... They're in nearly every Instagram post, tv ads and billboards... they're almost as easily understood nowadays as regular text.

Just because everyone else is doing it... should you?

The researchers looked at hundreds of thousands of email subject lines, to first determine the frequency. Overall, about 5% of global subject lines over the last 12 months include one or more emojis. So, not mega, but not insubstantial.

Here's the kicker though... of the 5% of subject lines with emojis, there were about 1,500 different emojis used. That’s a 💩 load of emojis! (and emoticons, etc)

Some trends became apparent just by looking at the frequency they were used though... Here are the top five:

⭐ Star, ✈️ Plane, ❤️ Heart, 😊 Smiley Face..  another type of Heart

But no-one really cares which ones are the most used, unless they actually make the emails perform better... right??

These guys partnered with a huge global brand to do a proper experiment, following a proper scientific method.

Over the course of 14 campaigns, 10 randomly selected groups (about 50k in size each) received one of 10 different subject lines over 14 sends - five without emojis, and then the same five with emojis. This allowed them to test 70 different emojis across thousands of people.

Note: the goal of the experiment wasn’t to find a “good” emoji - it was to answer whether or not emojis improved or decayed response. That’s why they used a large variety of emojis.

They tabulated the results, made a fancy chart and it looked like this:

Emoji-NoEmoji Chart.jpg

They said that about 60% of the time, they work.. though, when they work, they spike open rates by about a quarter of a standard deviation. When they don’t work (about 40% of the time), they decline the response by about the same amount.

So, what the hell does all that mean??... we'll we took it with a grain of salt and figure that Emojis are language amplifiers. 

An emoji, in itself, won’t make or break a subject line. But, they can be an additive - or subtractive - linguistic feature. 

An emoji does one of two things:

  1. It makes a bad subject line worse 😒
  2. Or it makes a good subject line better 👌

When emojis make bad subject lines worse… ⛔

If you’re already high-pressuring your customers into buying your stuff using misleading tactics, then adding in emojis will make them even spammier.... Dont be that guy... you're better than that.

You may get a short-term spike in response... but it’ll drop off, tactics like this assume your customers are stupid, and that they’ll fall for it time and time again. They're not and they won't.

When emojis make good subject lines better… ✅

If your subject lines are already good… and your emojis are contextually relevant. They'll make your end result even better. 

The emoji usage should flow within the context of the subject lines and aren't over-used. The subject lines should be on-brand and they will be effective. Also - not all of subject lines should contain an emoji, because not every subject line will benefit from one. 

Don't ignore the Emoji... use it to your advantage! 📈

Emojis are the biggest linguistic revolution since the QWERTY keyboard, and if the fact my grandparents are using them, thats proofs that they are shaking things up and fundamentally changing how we communicate. 

Use your new found wisdom wisely young grasshopper.

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Post created using Emojis from