How to Use Symbols and Emojis in Email and Win

How to Use Symbols and Emojis in Email and Win
23 March, 2022 • ... • 733 views
Julia Zakharova
by Julia Zakharova

Emojis have become so firmly ingrained in our digital lives that we can hardly imagine communication without these symbols. However, this raises questions about their appropriateness in email marketing. If emojis in email help express thoughts and feelings, then perhaps they can improve communication with customers and business partners? Yes and no! 👀

Let’s puzzle out in which situations emojis can help to cement ties and, vice versa, turn into an awkward misunderstanding.

Why use emojis in an email

Since emojis have turned into a unique part of language and communication, their usage in email marketing comes naturally. According to Campaign Monitor, the companies that incorporate emojis have a 56% increase in their unique open rates. Besides, this is a good way to articulate your tone of voice and get closer to your audience.

But before you start crafting a template with en emoji 😉 after 😍 every 😱 word 🙄, we recommend you to take into account your line of business, subscribers’ gender and age and many other factors that we will discuss in this guide.

email with emojis
An example of an engaging marketing campaign with emojis. Source: MailBakery

As you see in the example above, it is not even necessary to add Unicode emojis. You may create the ones that correlate with your design and which your subscribers can clearly see. Here is a nice way to reactivate dormant users – it sounds personal, witty and cool.

Things to consider before incorporating emojis to email template

Your audience

As you might have guessed, younger people may have a different view of emojis compared to older audiences. For example, the Perspectus Global survey of 2,000 young people aged between 16-29 revealed that 24% consider the thumbs-up emoji 👍 to be used by ‘ancient’ people. Moreover, the ❤️, 👌 and 😭 were reportedly laughed at by youngsters. It applies to email marketing: you should take into account the age of your target audience when planning a campaign.

Another important thing to consider is the type of interaction: B2C or B2B. When you speak directly to your end customers, you may sound more playful and have more freedom over using emojis. B2B emails require a more formal tone, therefore you may get into an awkward situation if you flood your business proposals with icons. Get the data and apply this knowledge when using emojis.

But if you know all the answers about your audience, like Penguin Random House publishing company, you may communicate with your customers through emojis, as in the example below. They launched a campaign where they asked to guess the novel names through emojis.

email with emojis
Subscribers were asked to guess novel names from emojis. Source: Really Good Emails

You can access the complete picture of your audience, as well as campaign dynamics, clickmap and other metrics in any ESP with email analytics tools, including our Selzy Email Analytics.


Perception of emotions depicted in emojis may differ depending on gender, age, culture and emotional connection between the sender and the audience. In this sense, emojis can be regarded as the global lingua franca, however, it is not that simple.

We have access to the same emojis on our keyboards, but certain symbols may have different or even opposite meanings in different cultures. According to the BBC, the thumbs-up emoji 👍 means approval in Western countries and a vulgar or offensive gesture in Greece and in the Middle East. The same story with the angel sign (👼 or 😇): the West considers it as a symbol of innocence, while in China it means a threat or death.

emoji perception chart
The chart shows how people understand the meaning of emojis. Source:

Misunderstandings may cause irritation, and this may result in unsubscription and impact deliverability.

Besides, as the Nielsen Norman Group’s report says, adding an emoji to a subject line makes it more attractive only due to its visual characteristics (not meaning): it attracts the subscribers’ attention and makes them open the email for its visual qualities rather than for its meaning.


According to a study, emojis help disambiguate message content and their perception depending on emoji type (facial versus non-facial) and sender type. A Nielsen Norman Group’s report shows that emojis in the email’s subject lines are seen as less valuable than no-emoji ones. So, if you launch a campaign with a kind of serious message or topic, it is better to avoid emojis, because it may impact its trustworthiness.

Once again, it is important to know your audience and choose the basic and simple emojis or provide more context to avoid misunderstanding.


Emojis may help your email to stand out from the crowd, especially when used in the subject line. However, you are not the only one who wants to be unique. Take it into account and think twice about their relevance. If your email gets into an inbox filled with similar subject lines with emojis, it won’t be successful. Besides, the abundance of emojis may badly influence deliverability and increase the chances of getting into spam folders. If you take a look at your spam folder, you will see how many subject lines with emojis there, because spammers desperately seek your attention.

emails with emojis in the inbox
When there are many emails with emojis, none of them stands out. Source: Automonkey

A/B testing

Even if you are sure to know your audience well, A/B testing will help you to deepen your knowledge. Send a variant of your email campaign with emojis to a part of your mailing list and a different variation without emojis to another part of subscribers. After putting this into practice a few times, you will see how the inclusion of emojis influences open and click rates, as well as deliverability. If you haven’t had a chance to conduct A/B testing, make sure that it is easier than you think with our A/B testing tool.


Check how your chosen emojis look on different devices, because their display may depend on the email client, operating system, and social media platform. Also, keep your software and analytics resources updated. You may want to check which gadgets your audience uses with help of Email Analytics or Google Analytics.

different displays of one emoji
The way an emoji looks differently on different devices. Source: Emojipedia

One thing is that they look different on different devices and another is when they do not display at all. Needless to say that it affects user experience and deliverability.

not displayed emoji
An example of an emoji that failed to display. Source: Constant Contact Knowledge Base

Symbols to be wary of in your emails

Bear in mind that even if you know your audience, some users may misinterpret the emoji you send. Controversial situations won’t be good for your marketing performance and may affect sales. But, first of all, you should be well aware that negative perception of some emojis takes place if the context is offensive itself.

Fruits and vegetables

Some images may be regarded as harassment attempts. Of course, it happens if they are used in that particular context, however, social media platforms Facebook and Instagram banned ‘sexual’ use of eggplant 🍆 and peach 🍑 emojis. At the same time, if a company sells peaches, it is more than logical to use this emoji in the marketing communication.

Animal symbols

Cute animal emojis may be misinterpreted in an offensive way, For example, 🐴 can be used as an insult to people with long faces or those who laugh out loud. 🐘 or 🐳 can be viewed as an insult to overweight people, while ​​🦍 may refer to a primitive or uncivilized person, according to the guides provided by Bullfrag. Now live with this knowledge 😬 Once again, if you mention animals in the direct sense, like congratulating on the International whale day, you certainly may use this 🐳 emoji.

Weapon images

Emojis of weapons can be seen as a threat and spread hatred. Possibly, this is why Apple replaced the pistol emoji with a water gun 🔫.

How to use emojis for email subject lines

The subject line is one of the most important parts of a marketing email. Obviously, if you attract the user’s attention within the inbox, you win 🎉, sales rocket 🚀 and everyone is happy 😍. Earlier statistics showed that 5-7 years ago emojis really affected open rates positively, as we said at the beginning of our article. Hackernoon, citing Swiftpage’s own survey, supports this opinion, stating that emoji newsletters increase unique openings by 29%, unique click rate by 28%, and CTR by 93%.

But take a look at the other side of the story: according to Search Engine Journal, the fact that your subject line stands out with emojis and catches users’ eye does not mean that they click and open the email. Their recent statistics of 2020 indicate that subject lines without emojis had a slightly higher open rate, with 52.94% and 47.06%, respectively. So, the unwanted attention may upset subscribers and cause the opposite negative effect.

Conclusion: emojis, as an attention-grabbing tool, should be applied wisely in any email marketing campaign. The tips below will be of much help.

Replace some words or numbers

A good way to incorporate emoji into the subject line is to substitute some words to save space and win attention. And it will definitely be in place both in terms of sense and design.

emoji in subject line
Heart emoji stands for the word “love” and saves space. Source: Econsultancy

Focus the reader’s attention on a particular part of the text

As I said earlier, emoji should relate to the content. In the example below the emoji of a clock emphasizes that the offer is limited in time and at the same time it doesn’t look aggressive – no exclamation marks ❗️ or shocked faces 😱. This skill requires practice, but it will eventually lead to better contact with your audience.

example of relevant emoji usage
Well-placed emoji in a subject line. Source:

Where to place emoji in the email body

There is no particular rule on how to use emojis in the email copy, and you should simply consider their appropriateness, tone of voice and make sure you address the right community and maintain warm contact.

Replace some words and minimize the reading time

If you decide to place emoji in your email body, make it logical and not just thoughtlessly stuff the text to make it more bright. Remember, that emojis should enrich your message and save your customers’ time. Otherwise, flooded with symbols, emails will hardly have good deliverability.

words replaced by emojis in subject line
The word “lipsticks” replaced by emojis. Source: Omnisend

Convey or emphasize a certain emotion

Emojis should serve to highlight a certain emotion, especially when it comes to business communication. For instance, an economy and management source Busy provides newsletters about new planning tools – this information is for professionals, and does not imply jokes and other distracting things. However, the example below shows that they add a laughing emoji to cheer up subscribers before diving into a brand new tool.

emoji in business newsletter
An example of incorporating emoji in the copy of a business email. Source: Really Good Emails

Adding email emojis with Selzy

Selzy provides an email builder allowing you to insert pictograms of faces, objects, and symbols in the email template. You can choose the emojis from or — choose the icons and their respective codes from the official Unicode website. The sources also show how emojis render across different platforms. Then draft your email and incorporate emojis either in a subject line or an email body.

Email builder
An example of incorporating emoji in a subject line


Some people call emojis the 21st-century hieroglyphs and compare them to rock art left to us from our ancestors. A few hundred years later, people will also study our correspondence, watching the birth of a new language of social communication. Anyway, they have become an integral part of all forms of digital communication, including email marketing.

If you want to benefit from the use of signs indicating emotions and objects, follow the advice:

  • Analyze your audience in terms of gender, age and the tone of voice you convey.
  • Do not add emojis only to show off: they should be logical and suitable. Otherwise, customers will only be irritated.
  • Check emojis on different platforms and devices and keep your programs updated.
  • Double-check the possible misunderstanding and hidden meaning of certain symbols. If you have any doubts, it is better to avoid them at all.
23 March, 2022
Article by
Julia Zakharova
Editor, digital & printed media contributor
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