Smiley Face - Emojis and Email

Don’t Be Shy: Use Emojis in Your Email Marketing


In the world of email marketing, same is lame (or so the saying goes). So how do you make your campaigns stand out from all the other emails crowding your subscriber’s inbox?

Email marketers are increasingly using GIFs and other interactive features within their emails. However, these only work once your readers open your email message. That’s where a well-written subject line and preheader text come to the rescue. And if you want a real showstopper, toss in an emoji or two.

While too many emojis might make your email campaign look spammy, using them in moderation can make your emails pop in the inbox. A 2016 analysis reported a 775% annual increase in marketing messages containing emojis, and there are no signs of slowing.

Emojis can be a powerful tool in email marketing, whether you’re using a simple smiley face or the checkbox emoji. Let’s look at a few ways designers and developers can work together to insert emojis into your campaigns, some things to avoid when using emojis, and which operating systems (OS) support emojis.

Why should I use emojis in emails?

Not only are they fun to use when texting, but emojis are also a great way to catch your subscriber’s attention in a busy inbox. Here’s a short list of why emojis are a good idea for your next marketing campaign:

  • Increase visibility: Ensure your message pops in the inbox to snag that open.
  • Increase brand awareness: Since emojis make your emails more visible in a crowded inbox, this means subscribers will see your brand name whether or not they open your email. This grows your brand awareness and might help you secure an open and click-through in the future.
  • Add a human touch: Emojis are stand-ins for body language. Use emojis in your email to add a playful tone or a human touch.
  • Become part of your brand image: If you choose a particular set of emojis and use them with each campaign, they can become part of your brand image.

What are some different uses of emojis in emails?

So you’ve decided to use emojis in your next campaign. But where do you start? Here are some ideas on where you can use emojis:

Preheader text

Did you know you can add emojis as image preheader text? Alt text is the copy that appears in place of an image if the image doesn’t render. Screen readers also rely on alt text for descriptions of images. If your logo or another image in your email closely resembles an emoji, you might want to use an emoji in place of a text-based description.

There’s one thing to consider when using an emoji in the alt text, however. In our testing, we found that screen readers will read out the system-defined name for that emoji. For example, a regular user would see a 😍 while a user with a screen reader would hear “smiling face with heart-shaped eyes.”

So, for the sake of accessibility, we recommend sticking to conventional alt text naming, using descriptive terms and phrases for non-decorative images.

In your general copy

You may also be interested in trying out emojis in your general email copy. If you do, just remember to stay on brand and keep content relevant to your subscribers.

If you’re interested in adding emojis into the email body, the simplest way is to copy and paste them straight into your code. You can find a full list of emojis here

What are some things to consider when using emojis in copy?

While most operating systems have emoji support, there are some minor differences between OS. For instance Windows 7 machines and earlier versions will not show emojis. On the other hand, Gmail will always show emojis regardless of operating system. You should familiarize yourself with your subscribers’ OS preferences and see if your emojis will reach your target audience.

In addition, some email service providers (ESPs) are not set up to handle emojis, even if your subscriber’s OS is. In this case, you may need to use the emoji HTML entities. Here’s a list of emojis with their corresponding HTML entities.

Subject lines

As we mentioned in the beginning, emojis are a great way to make your subject lines pop and grab your subscriber’s attention. Let’s look at some examples of emojis in subject lines, talk about whether emojis will affect your subject line’s performance, and some tips to consider when using emojis in subject lines.

What are some examples of emojis in email subject lines?

Although this is not an extensive list, subject line emojis largely fall into four different categories:

1. Using an emoji at the start or end of a subject line

Las Igunas heart emoji in subject line

2. “Wrapping” a subject line in emojis

The Works uses double books emojis in a subject line

3. Using two emojis as a suffix

BrewDog uses emojis in a valentine email subject line

4. Using an emoji in your preheader

wayfair uses and exclamation point emoji in email preheader

Does using emojis in my subject lines increase my email’s performance?

And now we get to the million-dollar question: does using emojis actually affect your subject line’s performance (and, therefore, your email’s performance as well)?

There are many conflicting studies out there, but we believe our good friends over at Phrasee have it figured out. In 60% of their tests, they found that emojis help increase email open rates.

However, it does come with a caveat: As Phrasee says, “it is important to note that what emojis really do is amplify a subject line’s message. Incorporating an emoji will make a bad subject line worse and a good subject line better.”

So, the long and short of it: Maybe. This is why it’s important to A/B test your emails and note what is working for your subscribers and what isn’t.

What are some tips to consider when using emojis in subject lines?

Before you start using emojis in your subject lines, ask yourself:

  • Does the emoji make sense, and will my subscribers understand the content?
  • Are enough of my subscribers on devices or systems that support emojis?
  • Do I have a good subject line even without emojis?
  • Am I A/B testing the use of emojis and how they affect my email performance?
  • Does my subject line make sense if the emojis don’t display?

If you answered yes to all of the above questions, it could be a good time to start testing emojis in the subject lines of your email marketing campaigns.

What should I avoid when using emojis in email messages?

Emojis can superpower your campaigns, but they can also derail your well-intended message. Here’s a list of don’ts for using emojis in your emails:

Don’t overuse emojis: There are so many options on the emoji keyboard. It’s tempting, we know. But more is not better. Using too many emojis looks unprofessional, obscures your message, and makes your email more likely to trigger the spam filter. Check out this sample email below:


More is definitely not better. Don’t be that person. 🤦

Don’t use inappropriate emojis: Know your audience. You don’t want to include the eggplant emoji 🍆 on an email advertising Christmas cards (unless you’re selling a very specific type of Christmas card).

inappropriate use of egglpant and peach emojis

While emojis definitely do grab attention, it doesn’t necessarily mean this attention is positive.

Don’t use emojis as the main attraction: Use emojis to complement your copy and content. They should help amplify your message, not be the point that anchors your email. After all, there’s always a chance that emojis won’t display correctly in your subscriber’s inbox. Here’s an example of good use of emojis as the supporting actor in your message:

Use of checkmark emojis in email body copy.

Don’t forget to consider accessibility: It’s tempting to sprinkle emojis throughout your email, we know. But, don’t forget to consider accessibility issues when doing so, since emojis might exclude certain segments of your email audience. For instance, screen readers may not interpret emojis as intended. Remember, a regular user would see a 😍 while a user with a screen reader would hear “smiling face with heart-shaped eyes.”

What operating systems (OS) support emojis?

Again, not surprisingly, not all of your subscribers may be able to see your emojis. Support for emojis depends on the operating system (OS) the user opens your email on, rather than on different email clients. As you’ll see in the table below, emoji support for Windows doesn’t rely on Microsoft Outlook but rather on the Windows OS. For instance, Windows 7 is a big culprit for not showing emojis.

Operating SystemsEmoji support?
iOS 9
iOS 10
iOS 11
Android 5.1
Android 6
Android 7
Windows 7*𐄂
Windows 10𐄂

* Windows 7 machines and earlier versions will not show emojis, some emojis will be converted to Emoticons.

There are a few exceptions to the OS rule, the most notable being Gmail. Gmail renders emojis regardless of OS, as it converts the Unicode into emojis automatically.

It’s also worth noting that emojis will look different in Gmail inbox compared to the opened email message in Gmail. This is because the inbox relies on the Android version of the emojis compared to the opened message using Google’s emojis. Check out the examples below:

Emojis in the Gmail inbox (Android emojis)

Gmail nail polish and pizza emojis display in the subject line before open

Emojis in the opened message (Google’s emojis)

Gmail inbox emoji change

Don’t guess, test!

Whether you’re including emojis in the subject line, using them as alt text, or even slipping a cheeky wink into your copy, it’s important to first test how your email will look across all the major devices and operating systems. Doing so will ensure your subscribers won’t misinterpret your message. For example, our Campaign Precheck tool lets you test your message across more than 70 different devices and platforms.

Try Email on Acid free for seven days and unlock the full power of email testing now.

This article was updated on April 29, 2022. It was originally written and published in February of 2018.

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Author: The Email on Acid Team

The Email on Acid content team is made up of digital marketers, content creators, and straight-up email geeks.

Connect with us on LinkedIn, follow us on Facebook, and tweet at @EmailonAcid on Twitter for more sweet stuff and great convos on email marketing.

Author: The Email on Acid Team

The Email on Acid content team is made up of digital marketers, content creators, and straight-up email geeks.

Connect with us on LinkedIn, follow us on Facebook, and tweet at @EmailonAcid on Twitter for more sweet stuff and great convos on email marketing.