I spent time going through the past month of messages in my spam folder, something I’ve never done before. Email has frustrated me for the past few years, as I’ve found its the best way for me to not see something. My efforts to unsubscribe from mailing lists feel fruitless, as most of my Inbox is irrelevant junk. Which led me to wonder just what sort of message doesn’t make the cut onto my landing page.

If each message were a piece of physical mail, here is what the breakdown of my roughly ninety emails would look like, each represented by the envelope needed to send it.

The quantity is ridiculous. Just for Postmates and Walmart to make that impact they had to send me emails multiple times a day, sometimes even several times before noon. Alas, all of them went straight to spam, where they meet their fate of automated deletion in thirty days time.

I found it interesting how the title of an email is a phrase trying to persuade me to engage further. An apparently common strategy is to include emojis in the subject. I assume this is to try and catch my eye with a pop of color, or tap into some deeply ingrained visual familiarity on my end. Although it seems quite silly, the most recent email with an emoji was what caught my eye first. Below are all of the emojis you’d find in the subjects of my spam folder, listed in chronological order.

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ✨ ? ? ? ? ? ⚾❗❗❗❗? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ⏰ ? ? ❤️ ? ? ? ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ?

This spread of emojis can loosely be sorted into these three categories:

  • things I should want

??????? ? ?

  • general emphasis – used to get attention in general

?⭐??❗?✨? ?

  • pitch-specific emphasis – these supported persuasive phrases used [“running out of time“, “out of this world“, “fall in love”, etc.]

?⏰?? ? ❤️ ?

It is important to note though that depicting what you’re selling and tacking emphasis emojis onto an all caps subject line is not the path to getting my click. It is mostly obnoxious and a little condescending for them to think otherwise. A balance has to be struck.

I found that the most persuasive subject line currently in my folder is this as follows:

” The ENTIRE SOLAR SYSTEM is buzzing about THIS ?”

Friday, February 28 at 7:52 AM

I felt most persuaded by this message because of how uniquely odd it was in a sea of discounts and flash sales. The phrase is classic clickbait, but without any real basis for an allusion to extraterrestrial life to be called for. The whole thing is so uniquely odd and tone deaf, it almost feels referential to the divine idea of spam mail. Of the ninety-something messages I received over the past month, this one earned the rare click.

If I were left to persuade someone, I would send them an email nowhere near as frequently as Walmart or Postmates. If you know your message will likely end up in spam, the key is to send mailings just enough that people almost forget you send mailings. When you do, you’ll need to have an intriguingly unusual subject line and maybe one tastefully self-aware emoji for good measure.