The Subject of Symbols

Emoticons -where would texting be without them?

It’s the difference between “It’s fine.” and “It’s fine :)” – husbands will know what I am talking about.

We all know how powerful they are for making friends, but how are they for making money?

The concept of symbols or emoticons in emails and subject lines is not a new one. As soon as people found out they could liven up their subject lines to gain more attention, the craze spread quicker than the bubonic plague.

However, recently there has been some renewed interest in adding symbols to subject lines leading many email marketers to find out if they could give their email a competitive edge in the inbox by giving it a face to match the message.

According to Marketing Research think tank, Returnpath, many companies have seen great success by using symbols with their emails.

Companies were reported as seeing as much a two thirds reduction in spam reports and a full third reduction in emails being deleted and unread when compared to emails that omitted symbols.

Meanwhile, the trusty folks over at Litmus reported 10% – 15% more email opens with subject lines that contained symbols over those that did not.

Including symbols are no longer taboo as it used to be. Sure it may look unprofessional, but have you seen how Mark Zuckerberg presents himself?

However! There are a few things you should keep in mind before bombarding your subscribers with images of cats in party hats.

Don’t be Overly Emotional

Dont be that guy who cries at the end of Titanic.

If your email or subject line has more emoticons or symbols than words, you’re not creating an email, you’re creating a hieroglyphic.

And there’s a reason why we stopped making those – they’re a pain to read!

If you over use symbols in your emails the novelty wears off – quickly. Readers will soon be more likely to mark anything with a smiley face as spam and a threat to sanity.

Set the Symbol

The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world.

But this is not true for symbols.

You have to select the right symbol for the right job. For example, if you are advertising for a children’s aftercare you wouldn’t include ♥♥♥s – for obvious reasons I would hope.

Readers aren’t robots. They don’t automatically pick up on symbols and instantly open them, they respond to symbols that are relevant to their interest.

Stick to relevant content and your subscribers will stick to your mailing list. A great example of this would be Voyage Prive’s use of symbols that differentiate between the different types of holidays that are being promoted – as you can see here.

A Picture Can Say a Thousand 404 Errors

Some symbols do not appear in certain email clients.

Actually Outlook 2003 (The Demon Barber of Symbol Street) merely leaves haunted blank squares where symbols used to be (?).

Other email clients are friendlier, but that’s not to say that all are – always test your email on multiple clients when you attach symbols, or risk leaving your reader in the dark and your email in the trash.

SharpSpring Mail +’s offers a report function as well as A / B split tests to handle any symbol situation. What are you experiences with using symbols? Have you experimented with them yet? We’d love to know! Comment below!


  • Author: maryka.burger

  • Maryka has worked across multiple industries ranging from hard news journalism to digital tech companies and advertising. She is an expert at building online presence, and offers a wealth of knowledge on digital marketing, social media and automation trends to agencies and digital start-ups.