Do Emoji work in Email Subject Lines?

May 11, 2017

By Chris Franks


I don’t know about you, but I personally think emoji are kind of dumb. However, that’s just one outlaw’s opinion on the matter. Here at the CleverFunnel homestead, we like to joke that emoji are the performance enhancement pills err… weight gain pills of subject lines. They are a quick and easy way to add extra content to a subject line. But, do they actually work? The answer is both yes and no.

Wait Just a Dog Darn Minute!

The truth in these parts is that emoji lay in the realm of either skeezy spammers trying to sell you sex with very bad spelling and grammar, or they are used by lazy millennials, youngsters, and hipsters trying to look cool. This is not to say that emoji are all bad – they’re not. It’s just that people, and especially businesses, tend to use them incorrectly. 

Emoji are increasingly replacing entire words on phones, messaging clients and other chat apps, mostly via auto-correct. The first few times I noticed my phone doing this, it caught me by annoying surprise, because I like to spell out my thoughts, not narrate my conversation like a children’s picture book.  ❤️

In reality, emoji are just the digital version of D-List celebrity Bieber look-a-likes.

In our experience, it really depends on who your target audience is. You’re not going to have much success using emoji in emails meant for financial professionals. However, you could include them if you’re sending messaging from a restaurant or something in the B2C space. ️✈️

There’s Data in Them There Hills 

As we love to do at the CleverFunnel homestead, we put aside our preconceived notions about emoji, and sought out cold, hard data.

We put emoji to the test in our latest email subject lines to see which one gets more opens. This is what came of such things:

The Results

Emoji Comparison Chart | Do Emoji work in Email Subject Lines? | CleverFunnel Digital

The chart above represents two recent B2B email sends. As you can see, we have had mixed results when it comes to using emoji in email subject lines. On the first email which had emoji in we got an open rate of 7.55%. In the email without emoji, we got an open rate of 9.2%. In this test, the subject line without emoji clearly did better. The two emails were exactly the same; the only difference was the subject lines.

The second test results were much closer. The email with emoji in the subject lines had an open rate of 8.3%. The email with no emoji had an open rate of 8.2%. Again, the emails were the same, with the only difference being the subject lines.

The Conclusion

Using these two tests we cannot definitively say one way or the other that using emoji in subject lines will produce more open rates. So far, it’s kind of a mixed bag. We will have to conduct more tests and send more emails. But as marketers, this shouldn’t take too long. The more tests we run, the better.

  Final Thoughts

As I mentioned several other times, emoji in subject lines work differently for different audiences and industries, so we invite you to do your own tests. For our B2B SaaS marketing world, they are a mixed bag. One one hand, they are fun to use every now and then and can get some decent results. On the other hand, we’re not going to be sending  every time we want to send out some newsletter or feature update. We’re also definitely not going to be adding emoji to emails for our clients in the financial sector. In some spaces, emoji are just unprofessional, where clear and targeted messaging works best. However, if we’re sending out food-related messaging for our other clients, a  ️ emoji will probably be fine, especially if the audience will be more B2C than B2B.

Extra Credit 

What good is having a test for 1 audience in a few emails? If I know myself (and I’d like to think I do), I’ll open a GrubHub email with a tasty piece of cake in the subject in a heartbeat — especially if I’m craving a no-longer-in-production Unicorn Frappuccino. 

Do you have a different experience with emoji in subject lines or have a different impression of them? We’d love to hear it. Let us know your thoughts!