Blog - Do emojis belong in college email marketing?

Should Higher Education Marketing Emails Contain Emojis?

I was shocked to recently read a benchmark report from MailCharts and IBM that showed that on average, fewer than 2% of marketing email subject lines contain an emoji.

I could hardly believe this as I seem to get messages like this in my inbox daily:

Screenshot of Subject line in email about low fares with plane emoji

Though it seems that using emojis in subject lines is still only an emerging trend across most industries, it doesn’t mean it’s too early to test them in higher education. Emojis are a common communication tool in today’s world, even if not completely prolific in email marketing just yet, so it’s worth exploring their potential to drive greater engagement rates with your student email communications.

We carried out a few A/B tests of our own on behalf of a university client, testing emojis in email preheaders and a subject line. The tests we’ve completed so far offer an early indication that emojis perform well among a prospective student audience 👍.

Here’s what we’ve tried to date:

Test One: A/B split test — email preheader without emoji vs. email preheader with emoji

A: No emoji 

Screenshot of unopened email reminder for Uganda fair

>>> Open rate: 26.32%

B: With ✈️

Screenshot of unopened email reminder for Uganda fair with happy emoji
>>> Open rate: 61.11%!

Success? 😃 This initial test showed an emoji making a huge impact on open rate.

We did two additional tests with preheader emojis and again saw an increase in open rate. Although, the performance increase was less dramatic in our subsequent tests. In each case, adding an emoji to the preheader increased open rate by roughly 3%.

Test Two: A/B split test— subject line without emoji vs. subject line with emoji

A: No emoji 

 Screenshot of unopened email reminder for online web chat
>>> Open rate: 38.54%

B: With 🙂

 Screenshot of unopened email reminder for Uganda fair with happy emoji
>>> Open rate: 36.69%

Success? 🙁 Open rate performance was slightly worse when an emoji was added to the subject line. But, not to be discouraged as this is only one test; we have more tests coming up to get a stronger read on emoji influence in subject lines.

We’ll keep you posted as we explore emojis further both in preheaders and subject lines. In the meantime, happy testing on your end and do let us know how it’s going; we’d love to hear your findings too!

For more email marketing analysis, check out our blog post Are you optimized for these popular student email providers?