The Punchbowl Trends Blog

Marketing insights from the leading celebrations site for moms

Symbols: The Saviors of Email Subject Lines?

January 31, 2013 · in Content Marketing

We spend hours and hours obsessing over our email marketing – debating over the most compelling image, choosing a call to action that works, writing a pithy subject line – and ultimately we all want the same thing: just open the email. Please. 

A new trend has hit online marketing: the use of symbols in email subject lines. A star here, a heart there. With the rising popularity of emoji characters and the increasing number of people reading their email from a mobile device, adding symbols to our emails seems natural. We text with them, why not email with them?

Symbols can help set your email apart from the hundreds of others in a crowded inbox. Especially for moms, who are busy with work, family, and running a household. Most people today open their email and see a wall of text, but a red heart or green shamrock may cause them to do a double take: what is that? Who is it from? Gold. The naysayers argue that symbols affect deliverability and sometimes come across jumbled. There is no proof that symbols result in emails being marked as spam and as long as you test your campaigns (see our tip below), your symbols should be safe from spam. 

symbols in email subject line

A heart happy day in my mobile inbox.

Before you start emoji-ing your customers like crazy, let’s touch on some email marketing tips for executing symbols well so your efforts are smart and help increase open rates, rather than appear like spam.   

Don’t force it. 

Just because you’ve decided to try out symbols doesn’t mean they have to be in your next email marketing campaign, or even in one of the next five. Make sure your use of symbols jives with the message of your email. If you’re sending out a survey request, it doesn’t make sense to include a coffee cup icon, but including a red heart in your Valentine’s Day email campaign probably works with your messaging.  

Put it up front. 

The symbol will lose effectiveness if it’s at the end of the subject line and no one reads it. Place symbols at the beginning, or near the beginning, of your subject line to ensure they grab the attention of the reader and avoid being automatically trashed. 

  symbols in Punchbowl's email marketing   

Two subject lines that put symbols at the beginning of the text.

Do a split test. 

If you’re getting opposition from your manager or team members about symbols, it’s probably around their effectiveness and deliverability. There’s only one way to calm those fears: put symbols to the test. Put together your upcoming email marketing campaign. In Email A, include the desired symbol in the subject line. Leave it out in Email B. Send Email A to half your distribution list and Email B to the other half. Compare open rates of both campaigns. This will help you decide if shamrocks on St. Patty’s Day are in your future. 

Don’t overdo it. 

Your email doesn’t need 6 bold stars to get customers’ attention. That will just annoy them and cause them to delete the email. You also don’t need symbols in every single email. Along the lines of don’t force it, don’t go overboard with your use of symbols. Use them wisely and in moderation. Otherwise your emails risk becoming the brand who cried symbols. Not good. 

Send yourself a test. 

That sunshine might look good in a Word document, but how does it look in your inbox? Always send yourself a test of the final email before going widespread. Send it to your personal and work accounts, or as many different mail exchanges as possible. You want to make sure the placement is right and that the symbol comes across as you expected. 

There are endless lists of symbols out there (but remember, don’t overdo it). The symbols on Wikipedia and FSymbols should get you started. Consider your upcoming email marketing campaigns and think about where symbols might fit into the strategy and put them to the test. 

Any advice from those of you who have tried symbols in your email subject lines? Tweet us your experience @PunchbowlTrends