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Using Emojis in Subject Lines to Stand Out in the Inbox


When it comes to standing out in a crowded inbox, using emojis in subject lines can be an expressive way to capture subscribers’ attention and boost engagement. However, emojis must be used strategically to have the desired effect.

We are here to help you identify the how, when, and where of using an emoji to get more 👀 on your emails.

Why are marketers using emojis in email?

Before we dive in, it’s important to understand how we got here. Emojis—those little colorful icons and pictures—sum up what you’re trying to say or add emphasis with one compact image. In a world where people have short attention spans but increased connectivity, emojis offer effective short form communication. While words can sometimes be misconstrued through text without proper inflection, emojis can concisely give clear intent and added emphasis.

For email marketing, use of emojis can add impact with fewer characters in a subject line and appeal to audiences across demographics and titles. This adds context, brand relatability, and personality to your subject line.

Emoji placement in the subject line

Placement of emojis in your subject line should be carefully considered. According to a recent test, emojis used at the end of a subject line tend to perform better. However, it’s all about the intended use and the emotion you are trying to create. Here are a few subject line examples we think stand out among the crowd.

illustrated email inbox showing emojis in subject lines

The effects of including an emoji

There’s something fun and casual about using emojis in subject lines. They catch your eye and make subscribers want to engage. But when it comes to performance, how do they stack up compared with text-only subject lines? We break down the metrics for more detail.

Open and click-through rates

Adding an emoji to your email marketing subject line usually sees an improvement in open rate—when it’s relevant to the email. On the contrary, using an emoji incorrectly could negatively impact your branding. For the maximum effect, emojis in subject lines should clearly connect your messaging and emphasis, making subscribers excited to see what’s inside.

An emoji in an email subject line can increase click-through rates (CTR) by 28%. However, this can vary based on the frequency of emoji use, if you choose the right emoji, and each subscriber’s familiarity with using emojis.

Unsubscribes and negative results

Without proper execution, emojis in subject lines can have negative effects. If you add emojis that aren’t relevant or use them excessively, your emails can be seen as spammy and result in an increase of unsubscribe rates. Improper use leading to complaints can also be reported as email abuse.

The best way to avoid these missteps is to constantly test the most effective way to communicate to your audience. There is no one size fits all with emojis in subject lines. Test an email subject line with an emoji compared to one without and then apply the results accordingly.

Be sure to be mindful of your audience, use emojis with purpose, and remember that if emojis didn’t work this time, they might have the desired results in your next campaign.

Considerations when including emoji

When testing emojis in your email subject lines, consider the following:

  • Check the render: Emojis render differently on different devices. Be sure to test in multiple email clients (Outlook, Gmail, etc), browsers, and mobile devices and desktop to be sure they can be viewed properly. This is especially true for new emojis.
  • Avoid looking spammy: Overusing emojis – either in one subject line or in your email campaigns – can make your messages appear spam-like and cause deliverability issues. 
  • Use variations to find the subject line that resonates: Create multiple variations of your subject line text and emoji placement when testing to find the best version.

Adding emojis to your email subject line can be an eye catching way to stand out in the inbox. They are a fun addition that create emotion. It’s important to make sure you test your email subject lines and take the time to choose the right emoji with the right placement. This will not only increase engagement and clicks, but also help subscribers connect to a more personal feel. 

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Maria Coleman

Maria Coleman

Maria Coleman was a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Litmus