You need to start using emoji icons in email – here’s why!

With inboxes being so packed full of messages theses days it’s more important than ever that your email campaigns really stand out from the rest.

The more impactful and interesting your content appears, the greater the likelihood of increased engagement and response rates.

Responsive designs are a must and animated GIFs can look really smart when used in the right way. Personalising subject lines and email content also works well and with accurate targeting on permissioned data you’re onto a winner.

Emojis aren’t just for social messaging apps like iMessage, Facebook and WhatsApp, they can also work just as well within email marketing campaigns.

What is an Emoji?

An Emoji is essentially a small digital image that can be used in a digital conversation or when writing in order to express a feeling, emotion or idea without the need for words. It’s not the same thing as an ‘Emoticon’, which is a typographic display of a face within text – for example… ;0)

Emojis can be used in a similar way to an Emoticon but have much wider relevance and can include common objects, such as mobile phones, televisions and computers, buildings, flags, types of weather, animals, different types of food and drink, forms of celebration, and facial expressions.

Emojis first came about in the late 1990s on Japanese mobile phones, and have since become hugely popular. The word itself originally meant ‘pictograph’, and came from the Japanese 絵 “picture” and 文字 “character”.

It is a complete coincidence that the name happens to sound a little bit like ’emotion’ when translated to English.

Harnessing them in your email marketing

Given that many decisions made during the process of buying a product or service are emotional, it seems only right to introduce something that encapsulates the feeling into the conversation.

It is, after all, about creating a story for your buyer – and stories are rarely built exclusive of any emotion. Emojis can help your email campaigns to connect with your subscribers on a one-to-one level, and they’re becoming hugely popular. Now is the time to start adding them in if you want to stay truly ahead of the competition.

As Appboy found in 2016, Emojis were used 777% more in campaigns that year compared with 2015. In emails, which came to the game fairly late, the YOY rise was 7,100%.

“Emoji” was also awarded ‘Word of the Year’ by Oxford Dictionaries thanks to the vast increase in word usage in 2016. Also that year, the month-on-month growth for Emoji use was at more than 20%, and on the increase! These rises in Emoji popularity and usage are vast and astronomical, but also not entirely surprising. 

In a digital age where everyone is bombarded with more information and text than ever before, capturing the attention of your audience can be challenging. It’s thought that the average adult can read 300 words per minute.

Given that you only get a few seconds of people’s time when they read your emails – if anything at all, before they’re quickly deleted – you need to be able to communicate with them in less than 40 words – roughly the same amount of room as a Tweet.

So how can you do this while staying relevant, informative and powerful – but using less space than desired? An Emoji, of course. As the old saying goes, “a picture speaks a thousand words”.

Using the right image

Typically, people will use Emojis that show emotions in order to show their self-expression; for example, a smiling face or a crying face.

Brands tend to use eye-catching Emojis in order to gain attention and evoke an emotion. This might include a pointing finger, a celebration confetti cone, a shining star, a thumbs up, or a seasonal image/object.

Putting a pair of eyes before something noteworthy might inspire the reader to look closer at what they’re reading – it subconsciously directs them to perform a particular action.

In a crowded inbox, Emojis in the subject line will help you stand out. A pointing finger towards your subject line can capture attention much quicker than words.

The goal of the image, whichever is chosen, is to build rapport and convey an emotion succinctly. A thumbs up might say “We agree with you” or “Isn’t this great?” while a happy face will say “This makes us happy, and it’ll make you happy too”.

Images transcend language; no matter what your mother-tongue is, everyone understands that a red heart is symbolic of love or a gift box is representative of a present. This is the huge power of Emojis – they surpass global boundaries.

The most popular Emojis, according to MailChimp, include the Registered Trademark sign, a smiling face, a smiling face with love-heart eyes, a love heart, a sunshine, an airplane, a thumbs up, a beaming face, the TM sign, a love heart on paper, a winking face, a shining star and a gift box.

In essence, the most used ones are also those that convey the most positive responses or reactions in an audience.

Also according to MailChimp, 31% of campaigns that do use Emojis will use more than one; therefore, it is important to think about creative pairings and using several together to convey a larger idea.

For example, an airplane, sunshine and splash of water might make someone think about travelling abroad to a beach location. Ultimately, it needs to match to what you’re promoting or it won’t make sense.

Making it work

Beyond picking the right Emoji, it is important to keep in mind that as they are based on Unicode characters which means support for displaying Emojis varies across email apps and mobile devices.

As an example, if your users are on Windows XP, they won’t see Emojis and will instead see an empty square box. Likewise, Windows 7 (which holds a large proportion of the market share) is very limited in its support of Emojis and will either display in black and white or not at all.

Mac and Apple, however, are fully supportive of Emojis.

It is, therefore, crucial that Emojis are used in a controlled way. For example, don’t try and replace an entire word with an Emoji. It should instead work as extra emphasis or punctuation – so added either to the start or end of a sentence. In this respect, if the message provider blocks an Emoji, it won’t then look unusual to the recipient if it doesn’t appear, and they won’t be confused.

As an example, if you put “It’s going to be a 🌞 day” and the Emoji didn’t appear, your audience would only see “It’s going to be a □ day”. Rather than leaving them guessing or thinking you’ve sent something that doesn’t make sense, simply adding the sunshine to the end of the message without omitting any words will be just as effective – and don’t forget to always test your subject line before sending just to double-check.

It’s also important to consider your audience and what they’re familiar with. If you have a particularly young demographic, they will be much more familiar with Emojis and what each one represents in terms of core message. They may also be using email clients that are more supportive of these graphics.

Give it a try

Subject lines are never easy and getting the use of Emoji right isn’t either but hopefully this post has given you some ideas on how to introduce a new element to your messaging.

If you need some more inspiration when it comes to writing creative subject lines take a look at look at a few of our other posts…

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