Emails and Emojis

The very first thing I do when I get to the office is to check my email. As an email marketer, I pay waaaaay more attention to the emails that land in my inbox than the average user. As I said before, the emails that you toss into your trash without a second thought take a lot of time and planning. So I am hard-coded (literally and figuratively) to analyze the subject lines and preview lines and design and personalization of the emails that make their way to my inbox.

imageOn Monday morning, I discovered a colorful, bright and happy inbox. Full of EMOJIS. Now, I have seen this before, but four emails with emoji-laden subject lines in one day was surprising. Until now, I have reserved emojis for communicating emotions that words simply don’t justify like: ( ) But with their growing popularity and ability to grab your attention and convey messages quickly, could they be the next big thing in email marketing best practices?

History of Emojis

Emojis have been around a lot longer than most millennial, hitting the scene in Japan in the mid-90’s. Their usage increased after being included in the Mac iOS and OS X Lion update in 2011 and has only continued to expand with the frequent emoji updates. This fall, with the release of the iPhone 6s, Apple gave their fans what they needed: a taco emoji, a champagne emoji and a middle finger emoji. With 250 new emojis (Can “Man levitating in business suit” and “Alembic” get some love?!), Apple as seen record iOS 9 adoption rates. Research shows that 92% of the population are using emojis, so it is not surprise that many are claiming that emojis are the “fastest growing language in history”.

Emojis and Marketing

A recent report from Emogi  gives brands and wide-eyed marketers (hey, that’s me) the data that they need to sell in the use of emojis in marketing efforts to their bosses and clients. While millennial are the top users of emojis, the percentage of users decreases very little as the users age increases, which would allow your use of emojis to connect with a wide range of your audience. Key users, largely women, say that using emojis help to better explain what they are feeling and makes it easier for people to understand them. In a day and age when communication can be easily misconstrued, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to be better understood, especially if it is in the form of cute little emojis?

Social media is the perfect place for the use of emojis and brands are jumping into the game. Remember when you could order a Domino’s pizza on Twitter using the pizza emoji? But how does emoji use translate into the wonderful world of email?

A Case for Emoji Emails

Between February and May, MailChimp has seen 214,000 email campaigns go out using emojis in the subject lines. And according to Salesforce, 2% of B2C emails are using emojis. The most popular of those emojis are the big-eyed happy emoji, smiley with heart eyes, actual heart and the standard smiley. With more than 50% of emails being opened on mobile devices (and a growing number opened on Apple Watches), the space (and time) available to convey the message of your email is getting smaller and smaller and the use of emojis in subject lines is increasing. MailChimp has stated, however, that they have yet to detect whether or not emojis lead to a positive or negative correlation of open and click rates.

Emojis should be used to reinforce your subject line and to stand out in an inbox full of black and white text. Marketers should steer away from using emoji to tell their story as not all devices and email clients support emojis. Readers should be able to understand the subject line with and without the emoji.

Ok, but how

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 2.05.40 PMBe cognizant of the tone of your brand and your audience. While emojis are a good fit for a wide variety of ages (especially if your audience is millennial women), emojis may not be a good fit for more serious B2B clients. But if you are looking to take some risks and emojis align with your tone and strategy, emoji away.

Very few email marketing or marketing automation platforms have jumped into the wonderful world of emojis. MailChimp (or for all my Serial listeners out there, “Mail Cimp”) is leading the way with an emoji tool integrated directly into their campaign setup, making the addition of emojis to your subject lines a piece of cake.

Test and retest. Emojis don’t play nice with every mail client and browsers, so make sure that you test rigorously. You can check here to see if you can emoji. If you have data about which platforms your contacts use, you can segment your lists accordingly and only send your emoji emails to readers that you know will be able to receive and view the emoji subject line.

Don’t forget to A/B test. This is where email marketing starts to feel like a science experiment. Using the tools in MailChimp, you can test emoji subect lines vs. non-emoji subject lines to determine whther or not the color illustration is leading to an increase in opens or clicks. You can also compare emojis to each other to see if you should use “Smiling Face With Smiling Eyes” or “Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes” (which is what I consider the “uh oh, this could be bad” or “ek, I probably shouldn’t have said that” face).

Avoid the heart emojis. Try unexpected emojis that are still relevant to your message/brand to stay unique.

Listen to your data. Review your post-send data and determine what works and what doesn’t. If you are seeing higher clicks and opens on emails with emojis in the subject lines, then by all means, give the people what they want! But like everything in life, it’s best in moderation. Emoji with caution.

Emojis in emails are a novelty that can help you to surprise and delight your customers. But they won’t be for long. Soon you will be seeing four or more emails with emojis in your own inbox, so act fast and start spicing up your emails today.

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