Symbols in subject lines – does it work? Published March 23, 2014 When a new trend appears within the email marketing sphere it helps to examine how useful it has been, what sort of potential it has to enhance a campaign and what cautionary notes should be taken into account. So what of symbols in subject lines? Anything from a heart to a chess symbol and a snowman to a sunshine is available within the list of Unicode characters – all of which can be copied and pasted into the subject line alongside conventional text. Just like in fashion, a trend will sometimes have a lasting effect on the industry around it and still be felt years later, while in other cases it could be just a flash in the pan that wears thin once the novelty factor disappears. Sticking with this style analogy, a lasting shift could be something like skinny jeans, while a brief novelty would be more like the ‘onesie’. Symbols in subject lines – does it work? Moving back to the email marketing world, there has been a notable increase in the number of companies including symbols in the subject lines of their messages; every firm is constantly trying to stand out from the crowd – so can they do this with special characters? Useful? There has been a great deal written about special characters in subject lines, with some marketers saying they have seen a real difference in A/B testing when they sent emails with and without a special character. However, a consistent message is that they must be used in moderation. Some people might associate an email with lots of special characters with spam, but, importantly, it does not appear to affect deliverability if such characters are used – so, a message is not likely to be treated as spam just because it has a heart at the beginning. If you are unsure, then do your own A/B testing on deliverability and overall campaign success – you can also test how placement of the character affects the campaign. Potential There is certainly potential here – you may be able to replace a word with a character to make the subject line snappier or more interesting, or there might be a character that logically fits with a message (for instance, a heart with a Valentine’s Day email). However, it is important to note that your company does not need to jump on the bandwagon if you do not think it fits with your overall campaign. For a brand seeking to connect with perhaps a younger audience, then including symbols could be a great way to offer something a little different. Always seek to do something distinct to your competitors though, so think a little outside the box if you decide to try this trend out. You could add a symbol to certain types of messages, so that people know whether it is a company announcement, promotion, newsletter or industry news message. Cautionary notes This leads neatly on to the cautionary notes relating to special characters. One of the first things to point out is that companies should always seek to get involved with trends at the beginning rather than the end of its lifetime – firms that tag along a year late just look out of touch. As a result, if you are going to use symbols, it may be best to do so now, rather than waiting. Another crucial point is that symbols may not work with all audiences – if you are attempting to engage with a business owner on a serious topic, then including a special character might just put them off and make your email look unprofessional. Last, but certainly not least, not all operating systems and email service providers will have the capability to show special characters; so what shows up as a crown on one recipient’s screen could disappear completely or come up as an empty block on another person’s device. In particular, older systems may struggle to interpret the characters. Again, testing should help you determine which symbols are causing problems on which systems.