Over the last several months, I’ve noticed an increase in symbols in the subject line of my personal email coming from several innovative businesses.  Have you received an email with a special symbol in it such as a heart, star or happy face {♥ ★ ☺}?  For example, recently I received emails with subject lines:

  • Meet The All-★★★★★s + Free Purchase Offer!
  • We ♥ our Students:  Save Online Classes, up to 50% off
  • Customers Save 15% Storewide! ☺
  • ♫ Sale on Your Favorite CDs ♫

I thought it was unique and clever way to market to customers.  I did a little research to see what was happening with this new marketing trend.  Some early adopter businesses (both small and large) are realizing that using a symbol that relates to their subject can positively affect that particular email open rate.

Messages with symbols get attention

The great thing is that if you use the standard font types, then symbols can be read by most devices, including mobile.  A study done by Experian  states that when symbols are in the subject lines, they have a higher unique open rate in 56% of brands they analyzed.  They also shared a couple of results from their study, which were not surprising, but were confirming what I would have expected as a marketing manager:

• The black heart (♥) is the most popular symbol, but provided only a modest open rate lift.

• The greatest unique open rate lifts were in subject lines including umbrellas (☂) and airplanes (✈).

The report also provided the most popular symbols based on their analysis.  Check it out, as it can be most helpful for someone who needs a little guidance to begin using this unique marketing tool.

Five winning tips

Here are five tips to remember if you are going to use symbols in your subject lines:

  1. Include a symbol when it supports your message, not just as a decoration.
  2. Use symbols sparingly to retain not only their uniqueness, but also your email uniqueness.
  3. Experiment with the popular symbols first, so you will ensure the symbols are readable by as many devices as possible.
  4. Test placement of your chosen symbol.  Does placing it in the beginning, middle, or end of your subject line have an impact on the open rate?
  5. Test and test again.  Depending upon the size of your email list, you can test 2 versions of your email message by either changing the placement or the symbol to determine if one performs better than the other.

Whether you use an email marketing product or send basic formatted emails to your customer, if you have notice a drop in your open rates, you may want to try to use an appropriate symbol in your subject line to see if you get a lift in your open rate.   I’ve also included a quick reference  list of symbols to review from Wikipedia. Adding an appropriate symbol to your email subject line, when used intermittently, can make your email pop.  It may also help your future emails open rate if customers associated your symbol with your business.

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Have you tried using symbols in your subject lines? What has worked? Please ✍ and let us know!