When it comes to decision making, humans are far from the rational beings we’d like them to be. We’re emotional, irrational creatures that often make decisions based on how we’re feeling, not how we’re thinking.
When creating email marketing campaigns, you have the opportunity to bring emotion into the conversation and create a story, not just promote a sale.
One way to provoke an emotion? Use emojis.
As emojis become increasingly popular for the general public to communicate, email marketers have an opportunity to leverage the power of emojis in their inbox. While rendering support varies by client, it’s a great way to build an emotional connection with your subscriber.
Emojis are more popular than ever
Emoji use skyrocketed 775% year-over-year in mobile and email marketing messages, according to Appboy. That’s almost eight times in one year!
Just as texting and GIF usage completely changed how we interact online, emojis represent a new language of interaction—one that your subscribers know how to use. Certain emojis stand out, according to MailChimp.
After the registered trademark, we generally use emojis to signify happiness. Whether we’re smiling wide, falling in love, or signaling our approval, it’s positive emojis that are the most popular.
Add emotion and be creative
Emojis, by definition, add emotion to your content. It’s the same reason Facebook added “reactions,” to its interface: so that users can more accurately express how a certain post, article, or piece of news makes them feel. As more email clients begin to support emoji usage, you have an opportunity as a marketer to build excitement in new and creative ways. Take these examples for discounts and promotions:
You can use emojis in more than your subject line. Preview text, header text, and the body of your email are up for grabs, too. This great preview text example from Boden keeps it catchy for the holidays:
Emojis allow you to express yourself and cue your audience as to what they should feel. Whether that’s excited ( ), crying laughing ( ), or silly ( ), emojis help you maximize your curiosity gap and encourage people to click, like this subject line for Black Friday:
It’s important to be creative when it comes to combinations of emojis. 31% of campaigns that use emojis have more than one, according to MailChimp. Emojis from the same category are used together the most frequently (think: food paired with food, animals with other animals, etc.) and certain standout emojis are used to connect big ideas, such as the sun connecting ocean waves, beaches, and travel.
Using multiple emojis can clarify your meaning or build more complex ideas, like this subject line from Wistia:
It’s clear their tactics mean you’ll have rockin’ video! Adding the rock out emoji pumps up the volume and draws attention to an innovative new feature. Similarly, with Evernote, we know exactly what they’re talking about:
Just make sure you really know what emoji you’re using, and that the emotion matches what you’re promoting.
Using the blushing emoji doesn’t really strike the right emotional balance for a promotion like this. It would make more sense to use a double heart, smiley face, or party hat. The “flushed face” is often used for fear, a mistake, or embarrassment—not emotions you want to associate with your brand, let alone your event!
If you’re using emojis to drive emotion, be sure to double check what emotions you’re driving. If you’re not sure, check out this site that can help you decipher what emojis colloquially mean which emotion.
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Lack of emoji support can leave readers confused
That said, marketers must tread carefully. Because some clients don’t support emojis, you should never try and replace a word with an emoji. Instead, use them as reactions, for emphasis, or as extra punctuation, like this example from Jetblue:
Punctuating their subject line with a calendar emoji adds meaning to their promotion (on travel planning) without blocking the message if the emoji didn’t appear. Using an emoji in place of a word is how we tend to use emojis when we text, but imagine your subscribers trying to figure out what you meant if “travel plans” was replaced by a blank space. That’s a poor experience no one wants to give to their customers. Like this example:
Take out the emoji and the sentence doesn’t make sense! All the work gone into the personalization is for naught. It’s a common usage, and one we don’t think works particularly well.
With continually shrinking attention spans, if you can’t make your point clear right away in the subject line, for the subscriber, it’s not worth reading. Nothing says “unsubscribe” faster than incoherent emails.
Even worse? This example below doesn’t tell us anything about what the email is, to start. And if emojis don’t render? You’re basically sending an email with a blank subject line.
Bottom line: replacing words with emojis isn’t a great way to use them to their fullest extent.
Know your audience
With any great email marketing, you have to know your subscribers. Are they already using emojis? Who are you targeting? If the majority of your subscribers are using email clients that don’t support emojis, then it will only leave them confused.
We know, for instance, that mobile opens have increased dramatically over the last year. Emojis are a great way to say something with less characters—so that if you don’t have as much room in your preview text or in your subject line, your content can still pack an emotional punch:
Emojis allow you to express emotion, so get creative!
This example from Topman, sent over Black Friday, is a brilliant use of emojis to stand out in a crowded inbox, especially for the busiest time of the year for email marketers:
On a more subtle note, we loved this example from TurboTax. Even if the post is already read, the blue dot evokes the “unread message” feature from iOS:
No matter what, test
Emojis, used well, can add power and creativity to your emails and make them stand out in a crowded inbox. But they’re fickle. Make sure to test your emails before every send to make sure they’re rendering exactly the way you want them to—and that your copy makes sense without them.
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Thinking of trying out an emoji in your next campaign? Make sure your from name, subject line, and preview text look perfect in 15+ clients with Subject Line Checker, available in Litmus Builder and Litmus Checklist.