From 😊 to πŸ’₯: The science behind the effective use of the emoji in email marketing
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From 😊 to πŸ’₯: The science behind the effective use of the emoji in email marketing

Published : August 9, 2023

In 2015, Emoji became the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year. Cut to 2023, emojis have evolved into a universally understandable language across customer demographics. What was once confined to private texts between friends is now the vocabulary of brands in every possible industry.

A study conducted by Return Path revealed that using emojis in subject lines increased read rate by 24% and improved reply rate by 15%. Adobe’s survey found that emails with emojis generated a 44% higher click-through than those without.

So, how do you use emojis in your marketing emails to attract, engage and convert your users?

Ensure that the emojis match your brand persona

If you’re an economic think tank, emojis may not be the best idea for you. If you’re a new-age tech company with a millennial audience, you can consider peppering your email copy with a few. If you’re a lifestyle company for young, active urbanites, emojis are your best friend.

Emojis, for the most part, are meant to be fun, mischievous, snappy, and even snarky (within reason). If the tone of your brand and your narrative don’t match those sentiments, emojis won’t work for you.

So, the first step is to create a list of emojis that align with the perception you’re trying to create in your customers.

Use emojis only  for positive conversation

Emojis generate positive emotions, so using them for negative or even neutral communication can be a faux pas.

For example, are you announcing a summer sale? Use the beach umbrella and sun emojis!!

Are you confessing to a downtime of your server, leading to a probable loss for thousands of users? Emojis can only harm your image.

Emojis should only be part of messages that make people delighted, intrigued, or motivated (to complete a quiz, for example). They have no place in conversations requiring seriousness – company updates, current events, messages from the CEO, and the like.

Be very clear on what each emoji means

What if you use the fist-bump emoji πŸ‘Š, but some users think you’re punching them in the face? 

Or you use πŸ™‡ for thinking, whereas this character is actually bowing! It’s called dogeza in Japan.

This is a real possibility if your brand’s audience spans different ages. People from different generations read emojis differently. Some take them literally; some have no idea what a new emoji might mean.

When using emojis in emails, ensure that the meaning of  the emoji is obvious. Don’t touch the ones with the potential (yes, even the potential) for ambiguous interpretation.

Keep pace with current trends

If you’re a millennial, you probably use the tears-of-laughter emoji πŸ˜‚ when something is really funny. Did you know that Gen-Z uses the skull emoji πŸ’€ for the same reason?

Marketers must stay updated with trendy emojis and how new ones denote old meanings. Keep your eyes on social media, especially the comments and video captions.

Be funny whenever possible

Nothing hits as well as humor, but only if you’re actually funny. Emojis can be a fantastic tool for conveying humor, as Baskin Robbins demonstrated:

Did you ever think an iconic ice cream brand could use the “nail polish” emoji to make a statement? Probably not, but the creative minds in their social media marketing team knew better and did better.

However, humor can easily become insensitive, especially if you’re unaware of current social or cultural issues relating to specific locations where your audience live, work, and browse from. Be very mindful of how your humor might be interpreted (or misinterpreted) by the Twitterati or Insta-goers.

Keep your humor clean, politically correct, and PG-13 (unless your brand sells adult products/services). Follow brands known for their humorous copywriting and emoji use, you will get a sense of how they create the correct perception for their digital audience without sacrificing hilarity or panache.

Check how the emoji renders on different devices and operating systems

Take the “woman dancing” emoji, for instance. It looks straightforward, but appears different to users of different devices, platforms, and OSes. Check the image below:

Women dancing emoji - Netcore Cloud


Your audience will check their email on many devices (mobiles, tabs, laptops, etc.). Before deciding which emojis to use in your emails, check how each one will appear on those devices to avoid misunderstanding or a technical glitch.

If you’re counting on one or more emojis to make a point in your email copy and the emojis render incorrectly to your users, you’ve lost the entire plot.

Be mindful of accessibility gaps

It’s quite possible that some of your users are differently abled and will use assistive technology to comprehend your email content. For example, a visually-challenged user may use screen readers to read out the nature of the emojis. If you insert a “woman dancing” emoji, the screen reader will say, “woman dancing emoji.”

When inserting emojis, take these considerations into account. Place emojis at the beginning or end of your copy so that it does not confuse the user when the screen reader says “woman dancing” in the middle of a sentence.

Also, double-check each emoji’s audible description to ensure it aligns with your brand image.

Conclusion: The right emoji hits the right spot

Emojis have emerged as powerful tools in the realm of email marketing, providing a means to connect with subscribers on a deeper, more emotional level. By strategically incorporating emojis into subject lines, preheaders and within the email body, marketers can enhance their campaigns and foster stronger engagement.

However, it’s important to remember that context, relevance, and understanding your audience remain key. Identifying the right emoji for your brand and audience is no easy task. There are cultural perceptions, business concerns, and tonal nuances to consider with every emoji, and you still might have missed a current trend that makes your emoji passe or just plain boring.

Getting it just right can be a real challenge. To make it a safe bet, take help from people who know marketing emails inside out, including the use of emojis. Netcore has multiple expert teams for every aspect of successful email marketing.

Netcore has been recognized as “Ahead of the curve at applying AI to marketer workflow” in The Forrester Waveβ„’: Email Marketing Service Providers Report 2022. For the second year in a row, we received the “Highest overall customer rating” as a Customers’ Choice, in the 2022 Gartner Peer Insights “Voice of the Customer” Report.

We send over 20 billion emails a month on behalf of 6500+ businesses across 40 countries – we’re constantly tracking trends, analyzing results, optimizing at different levels, and pushing for the highest achievable goals in email ecosystems.

Reach out to us, and we will figure out which emojis will get users to open your emails, read through, and click CTAs – in other words, boost your email marketing ROI.

Happy emoji marketing! πŸ’₯πŸ˜ŠπŸ’Œ

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Written By: Netcore Cloud
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