Want Long-Term Relationships with Your Customers? Like Mom Says, “Use Your Words.”

Emojis in marketing: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

I recently attended a digital summit and sat in on a seminar entitled “Email Reimagined.” While the title had a slight clickbait-ish tinge to it, I was here to learn. So I found a good spot and was ready to be enlightened.

Luckily, there were a few good nuggets about length and word usage in subject lines.

Subject lines actually perform better when they’re longer. That’s a wonderfully counter-intuitive statistic in our time-crunched, 140-characters-at-a-time world.

And, speaking of clickbait, users are on to those marketing schmucks. Seems like our audience can be fooled once with provocative subject line terms like “Secret of” and “Shocking” but they are catching on. These terms are now seriously underperforming. Yet another reminder that your brand is a long-term relationship with a customer, not a hit-and-run, bait-and-switch sales pitch.

But it was after these tidbits that the presentation took a pretty frightening turn.

The presenter spoke of using emojis in email. I only thought of one thing,

And then, after your potential overreaction, take a deep breath. Take some perspective. Consider all of your options. Maybe you should use any tool available to help move the needle for your client. And after all this considered thought…you still land on no, just no.

You know how open-minded people say you should never say never, in life or in advertising? Yeah, in this case just say never. Never, ever, for the love of all that’s right and good in this world, never.

OK. Just like in life or in advertising, there are exceptions. Here’s the list:

  1. You have been asked to send an email promoting a new season of My Little Pony knowing that the 8-12 year-old demo may enjoy an emoji.
  2. You have been asked to send an email promoting emojis.

And even with exception one, you’d run the risk of alienating the Bronies.

Yes, even this guy will see your use of emojis annoying.

And let’s face it, when your offering comes from an industry that created this little gem…

…we may want to err on the side of adding to our credibility instead of chipping away at it.

In place of using emojis to capture your audience’s attention, I’m proposing a very radical strategy.


These great little things called words are completely at your disposal. If you have trouble finding them, simply toggle off the emoji keyboard and — whammo — there they are. And these squiggly little lines are a pretty remarkable way to communicate. Done properly, everyone will know your intent. You won’t even need a link to define their meaning.

And this unique form of communication can, at times, create the excitement you get with a shocked cat face emoji, without annoying someone by using a shocked cat face emoji. Words can be charming. Words can be persuasive. Words can be memorable. Words can even be seductive. And all of this can be done while respecting the intelligence of your audience. Something that cannot be said about our wonderful emoji friends.

I get being aware of — and embracing — new technologies. But if we’ve learned anything from WebTV, the CueCat, and QR codes, it’s this: Don’t be seduced by the latest technology just because it’s the latest technology. And, just in case you think it might be fun and kinda cheeky to use these playful little icons, chew on this.

It takes a tremendous amount of skill to use the written word to build sales while building your relationships. It takes zero skill to use this:

Which one will give your brand the mutual respect that comes with a long-term relationship?


From Mail Room Clerk to Senior Copywriter, Nick has brought his creative thinking to clients ranging from Pepsi to Xbox to Union Pacific. His work has been recognized by the Clios, the Obies and Communication Arts. He now works with the talented folks at Walz Tetrick while judging the American Advertising Awards and speaking at industry events.