Using Emojis & Emoticons in Digital Marketing

We know them.

We use them.

Almost daily I’m sure ?.

They have been a part of our chats, texts and online communications for a while now.

They are like our online buddies.

I am, of course, referring to Emojis or Emoticons.

Just like the significance of colors in digital marketing or the impact of sonic branding,

Emojis too play an important role.

In this post, I’ll cover,

-what are emojis

-emoji in architecture

-advantages & disadvantages of emojis

-emojis in email marketing & push notifications

-emojis in social media

-how you can effectively use emojis

Let’s begin with…

What are Emojis?

They are tiny smileys/images used to convey messages.

But they communicate more than just texts.

They express emotions (hence emotions).

cute smiley

They help in improving enjoyment, personal interaction and the perceived richness of your messages.

And you can integrate them into marketing messages.

Ever since they have arrived, communication, particularly on mobile devices have become an integral part of a brand expression.

Take a look at the below list of messages

personal gmail messages
personal gmail message

What is the first thing (actually the only thing) that stands out?

The Emoji  right?

Because of that you will now read the entire headline.

If that interests you, you will open the email.

See the impact of powerful emojis?

Is “Emoji” even a proper word?


In 2015, Oxford dictionaries, for the first time ever, incorporated a pictograph or an image as Word of The Year.

As below:

Tears of Joy emoji

They officially called them “Face with Tears of Joy”.

Emojis were developed by Japanese keyboard coders to provide shortcuts for fun.

The word “emoji” is derived from the Japanese e (絵, “picture”) and moji (文字, “character”).

That’s brand emoji for you ?.

Popular ones include:

popular emojis

You can check out more here.

Emoji in architecture

So much so that in Amersfoort, Netherlands, a building has been constructed with emojis displayed as below.

emoji building front
emoji building side

Advantages of Emojis

So what exactly do emojis do?

1. Clarity of message

emoji clarity

Emojis corroborate or complete a message.

They help in processing information with ease.

uber eats burger king

In the above headline, they complements the message.

2. Stand out in a crowd

emoji unique

No surprises there.

In a world of chats, texts and words, these little emoticons will no doubt grab your attention.

emoji in crowd

3. Generate emotions

The most important aspect of an emoji.

A few examples,

For hunger,

hungry emoji


emoji skiing


emoji directions

4. Save space

You can replace words with them and save space.

saving space

Since emojis are a visual expression, the right combination with words will make it easier to read.

5. Create more engagement and fun

In Digital Marketing, engaging with emojis can lead to humourous reactions from people.

best of luck emoji

In some cases, you can create an entire statement with them.

emojis in chat
Only emojis in chat

They are primarily used to voice out sarcasm, anger, sadness, joy, appreciation etc.

You can use them to encode messages which can then be used as a marketing gimmick to decode.

6. Establish a brand entity

Emojis can add a personality to even the most boring aspects.

emoji brand

They convey messages when words fail.

Brands are not just products.

They are also characters and identities.

You can humanize your brands using emojis.

7. Effortless

Not completely but they do make reading easier.

emoji reading

Different social media platforms have distinct emojis for communication.

8. Technical benefits

Apart from their ability to display emotions, they form no threat.

emoji technical benefits

May it be to programming, coding, APIs etc.

They are recognized by most of the technical aspects globally.

For example, you can write SQL queries and add them.

emojis in sql

Disadvantages of emojis

Yes, emojis do have limitations.

And can have a more negative impact than you might think.

Hence they should not be used freely without supervision.

1. Misfit

emoji misfit

In some cases, they would not fit the nature of a brand.

And would constitute unprofessionalism.

2. Rendering

emoji email rendering

Although it has technical benefits, they also have rendering issues.

Say, you have replaced a word with an emoji.

It looks meaningful when you read it with the emoji.

But suppose it does not render to your customers.

The statement would then look erratic.

So you need to test out them out on all possible platforms.

3. Over-usage

Emojis do have their limits.

emoji overusage

Overusing them will lead to


-time delay in reading the message as readers need to switch words-icons-words-icons

-decrease in  the “value” of the message eventually

4. Not meant for formal or serious communication

emoji rendering

Emojis by default is considered jovial in nature.

So if you want to communicate a formal message, it is best not to use emojis.

Companies are still not in favor of this language in business transactions and other official exchange of words.

5. Lack of awareness

emoji awareness

There could be instances where customers would actually not grasp what the emoji means.

And hence would disrupt the effectiveness of the message.

6. Destruction of conventional language

emoji destroys language

Yes, emojis are fun.

But they also have transformed the way we communicate.

For the worse- traditionally speaking.

We no longer text traditional lines.

No complete statements.

Emojis in Email Marketing

Thanks to emojis, email subject lines are now so much more expressive than before.

I’m sure you’ve seen your personal email inbox.

You scroll and you can see the different types that are being used.

emoji in email title

Inboxes are crowded places.

You get flooded with so many emails that most of them go unopened.

Engagement metrics are vital to email marketing.

A decreasing opening rate would lead to emails going into the spam folder.

Emojis can save emails from disengagement.

Using emojis in subject titles can lead to higher open rates as they stand out among other emails.

Brands use a single emoji to set off their subject line.

brands use emoji
fatjoe emoji

1. Suitability

The emojis you use should, obviously, be related to the headline.

Unsuitable ones would not be as effective.

bad suitability

In the above email title, is the Heart symbol suitable here?

Wouldn’t you relate that symbol more to say dating, love, relationship etc?

You have an opportunity to differentiate your email title from others.

Why waste it?

Use the right icons to

-emphasize your message

-convey an emotion

-start with a story

2. Email Rendering

You need keep in mind that there are many different email clients out there.

Like Gmail, Outlook,Thunderbird, etc.

All these platforms will not necessarily render email the same way.

Hence it’s important to know that your emoji may look different in the different clients.

So test your emails.

Yes, most of the time all will be fine but double-checking doesn’t harm anyone ?.

Note: Gmail has special factors when using emoji.

You may notice here that when you use emoji in the subject line the icon will look different in the inbox view and after the email has been opened.

This happens because the inbox view uses the Android version of the emoji, meanwhile, the opened email view uses Google’s own emoji style.

3. Readability

Only rendering properly would not be enough.

The emojis used should also be easily legible and readable.

Else they serve no purpose.

Example of bad readability:

uber eats bad readability

In the above line, you can barely make out that the icon is that of a biryani.

It could be a pizza or any other food item.

4. Email body

The above factors applies for emojis in the email body also.

When I open the above email from Uber Eats, I get the below headline.

uber eats biryani email body

You can see how unnecessary it looks.

The headline is way bigger and both do not collate well.

In contrast, another email from Uber Eats has good usage of emojis.

uber eats 2020

The below emoji usage from Zomato is also another good example.

zomato email

The emoji here is generic and goes with the content.

Emojis in Push Notification

Just like email, emojis are helpful in Push Notifications as well.

As you know, the space for notification is crunched.

Hence you need to be more careful while using them here.

You need to keep in mind the same rules that applies to email.

Emojis in this platform, help in

-increasing engagement

-brand awareness

-increase in open rates

-less space, hence more convenient to read

Emojis in Social Media

social media emoji

Finally, platforms where you can make emoji usage a two-way thing.

You can use emojis in your ads, comments, posts, and tweets.

Going a step further, you can encourage your audience to use them as well.


Through engagement

Say, you create a marketing strategy for engagement.

Where the rules are that the audience should respond, reply or comment using emojis.


You can ask them to describe some event from their lives using emojis.


Give your audience something to think about.

Like a quiz, puzzle or translation activities.

Something that they can spend some time on and have fun.

All with emojis.

It’s easy to include emojis in your social media posts.

Moreover, if you tell your followers to use them then that can help boost your overall audience engagement.

Emojis are easy to use with little effort to no work on for anyone including your audience.

Emojis in Brand advertising

When it comes to ads, then the main point to assess is your target audience.

Emojis are predominantly new age communication entities.

Hence, if your target audience is aged, then heavy usage of emojis needs to be checked.

Coming to youths, we are already getting bombarded with a lot of promotional messages.

May it be emails, social media ads, search and display ads etc.

Emojis would bring in a good change and a better response here.


How can you effectively use emojis?

1. Use relevant ones

relevant emoji

First of all, check the entire tone of the message.

-What is the message?

-Who is it for?

-Does it convey a serious message?

-Can icons be used wherever possible?

If yes then use the relevant ones.

As I mentioned earlier, emojis are not a must for all messages.

Do not use generic icons which are not at all related to the subject or message title.

2. Use clear high-quality images

blurry emoji

Illegible emojis are worse than using none at all.

If your customers do not understand the icon, then the connection is lost.

So test your message and check for yourself if the emoji is clearly visible for what it is.

3. Be creative

creative emojis

You don’t need to use only the usual standard icons available out there.

You can design your own which would serve a better purpose.


Emojis are unconventional factors.

They can be a boon or bane.

Yes, adding them does help in capturing attention.

Depending on how they are used.

Use them naturally in your marketing effort and communications.

drunk emoji

You need to ensure that those can be perceived to be pleasant and well-received.

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