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Is Emoji Marketing for Your Brand?

Evi Katsoulieri

Product Manager @ AdRoll

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Many people use emojis while texting — it breathes life into the conversation and reinforces the meaning behind the words (ex. “Wow, I can’t believe I ate that whole pizza by myself 🍕😵”).  So, if you’re wondering whether you can do the same with your social media and email marketing efforts, the answer is yes 👌 — but within reason. Let’s explore the pros and cons of emoji marketing. 

What Are Emojis?

Emojis are small animated icons and images used in mobile messages and web pages. They exist in various genres, including facial expressions, types of food, everyday objects, and animals. They’re often confused with emoticons, but the difference is that while emojis are actual images, emoticons are built from keyboard characters when put together a certain way

Emojis and Engagement

The stats don’t lie — according to Hubspot, emojis drive engagement across social media, email, and mobile:

  • 25.4% of tweets with emojis get better engagement.
  • 57% of Facebook posts with emojis get more likes. 
  • More than 50% of brands saw an increase in email opens when emojis are included in subject lines.
  • Push notifications with emojis saw an 85% increase in open rates and a 9% bump in conversions. 
  • 92% of internet users use emojis and other symbols during their everyday interactions.

So, why are emojis so good at driving engagement? The Emojics blog sums it up nicely:

When people look at an emoji, their brain behaves in the same way as when they look at a real human face.

This is particularly important because a significant percentage of consumers find out about their products and shop online. There’s no salesperson to say “hello” to you when you visit a brand’s social media page, or a person to walk you through the new products when you click to open an email. Online interactions lack the warmth and friendliness that an in-store experience offers, and the use of emojis could help mitigate that. 

The Pros and Cons of Using Emojis

There are many benefits to using emojis, but on the flip side of the coin, there are also cons to using these cute icons. Let’s dive into some below: 


  • They can build your brand’s image. This is dependent on whether your company is considered more “serious” or “casual.” If it’s the latter, then emojis may help you connect with the audience and stand out from the crowd. You can even create an emoji that’s exclusive to your brand. 
  • They can save you space. Social posts have character restrictions (such as Twitter, with 280 characters), and email subject lines are restricted to 40 characters. With so little space to write what you really want, emojis can do the job for you. 
  • They translate across the world. Emojis set the tone of an email or social post right off the bat — and the best part? Anyone, no matter what language they speak, can understand emojis. 
  • They help your emails stand out. Emojis can catch the reader’s attention and assist your efforts to maximize campaign results.


  • Emojis may come off as unprofessional. A recent study suggests you should be careful how casual you make your emails. Researchers from BGU, University of Haifa, and Amsterdam University found that including emojis in work emails may make strangers think you’re less competent, which can make them less likely to share information with you.
  • Emojis show up differently, depending on your email clients. For instance, Gmail can show emojis differently than those seen in iOS Mail. Emojis’ designs vary and can be received differently. Sometimes, emojis can even cause your emails to land in the spam box. 
  • You need to do continuous research. New emojis and emoji trends pop up all of the time — for example, there are 117 new emojis recently got approved in January 2020. 🤯 Be sure to do your research and use this emoji frequency chart.

Best Practices

Emojis by themselves mean little — there needs to be a delicate balance between the right marketing message, emotion, and intent for an email or social post to work. Here are some best practices to consider in order to drive engagement: 

  • Research your audience’s emoji usage. As mentioned earlier, there’s a possibility that some people might not enjoy a smiley face or a heart in their communications. Use social listening tools to identify which emojis your audience uses the most, and start A/B testing your emails (one version with emojis, the other with zero) to see which option wins out.  
  • Research the localized meaning of the emojis. Emoji meanings can vary across countries. For instance, the “hugging face” emoji 🤗 is interpreted as a funny shrug in Canada but is considered a hug or the equivalent of “That’s cool!” in other countries. 
  • Look for possible alternate meanings. It’s easy for text messages to be misconstrued, depending on how people perceive the tone, and the same applies to emojis. Try to avoid winky faces or any icons that might be construed as “suggestive.” The rule of thumb is to not use any emojis that express an action you wouldn’t do in-person with your customers. And when using human emojis, stick to the default skin tone (ex. 👩👨)
  • Research the top emojis. In our experience, hearts ❤️and smiley faces 😀😍 can help increase the open rate of an email. According to reports about emojis for digital marketing, the following emojis are worth trying out: 🚀, 🔥, 💰and 📈.Pro tip: Check out emojipedia for the meaning of each emoji and how it looks like for different clients, or get the latest news on emojis. 
  • Use emojis in moderation. When you use too many icons, it may come off as tacky. Case in point, check out this tweet from Goldman Sachs:

    Image: Twitter

    And in the case of emails, your emoji-riddled emails will probably wind up in the spam folder.

To Recap

Emojis are an excellent (and easy!) way to add a dash of color and personality to your marketing messages. However, before you start pumping out the hearts and smiley faces, be sure to do research on your audience and keep the above best practices in mind. We’re confident that in no time, you’ll find an emoji cadence that you and your audience will have fun with. ✨

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