Getting Started with Merge Tags for Email

The information you collect through your Mailchimp signup form is saved in an audience field and tied to a unique label, called a merge tag. Use merge tags to insert personalized or dynamic content from your audience into the campaigns you send.

In this article, you'll learn about merge tags and ways you can use them to customize your email campaigns.


If you're new to Mailchimp, take a few moments to review the terminology we use to discuss audiences and merge tags.

  • Audience
    A collection of contacts, along with their profile details, preferencess, and other data.
  • Audience field
    A place where specific contact details are stored, like a cell in a spreadsheet.
  • Merge tag
    A unique, text-based identifier that corresponds to the data in an audience field.
  • Dynamic content
    The personalized or otherwise unique content that's inserted into a campaign by a merge tag.

Before You Start

  • Merge tags are available for email campaigns and some default forms and response emails.
  • Since audiences often contain different audience fields, they also have different merge tags. If you have more than one Mailchimp audience, make sure you use the correct merge tags for the audience you plan to send to.
  • Merge tags are style sensitive. Check for extra bolding, italics, or other formatting around or inside your merge tags.
  • To make sure each of your contacts sees good-looking content, you should save default merge tag values in your audience settings, which we'll cover in this article.

How Merge Tags Work

Your Mailchimp audience contains audience fields that refer to your contact's information. Each audience field corresponds to a unique merge tag, which looks like a snippet of text wrapped in special characters: *|EXAMPLE|*. When you insert a merge tag into your campaign, we'll replace the tag with the content stored in the corresponding audience field.

For example, to include your contacts' email addresses in your email, you would place the *|EMAIL|* merge tag in your content where you want your contact's email address to appear. When your contact receives the campaign, they'll see their own email address where the merge tag was placed.

image showing merge tag in a campaign to bring in an email address

Some merge tags pull in URLs, which you can use to create hyperlinks on other content, such as text or images. When you link an image in your content with a merge tag, you'll use the hyperlink tool on the editor toolbar to add the merge tag in the linked URL. When your contacts click the linked image they'll be taken to the URL the merge tag refers to, like an update profile page.

Types of Merge Tags

Mailchimp offers two types of merge tags to help you include audience and contact content: system merge tags and audience merge tags. Typically, system merge tags refer to the data in your Mailchimp account and audience merge tags only refer to the information stored in your audience, including contact data.

System merge tags can be used to include social sharing links, RSS content, and account information, or to translate your campaign. System merge tags are also used to add unsubscribe, update profile, and forward links to your campaigns.

Audience field merge tags pull your audience data into your campaigns, like the signup form URL or company name associated with the audience, or contact-specific information like email address or first and last name.

Each time you send a campaign that uses merge tags, we'll pull the most recent data from your account or audience to replace the merge tag. Use our cheat sheet as a quick reference for available Mailchimp merge tags, including merge tags for personalization, social sharing, and subject lines: All the Merge Tags Cheat Sheet.

Customize default merge tags

Default audience merge tags look something like this: *|MERGE1|*. You can edit and customize these merge tags in your audience settings to give them a more descriptive name, like *|BIRTHDAY|* or *|CITY|*. Be careful when you rename your audience merge tags though, because our system uses certain reserved field names that can't be reused elsewhere.

Manage Audience and Signup Form Fields

Set default merge tag values

A merge tag only works correctly when there is data in the field it's associated with. For your most commonly used audience merge tags, be sure to input default values that will display if the contact profile doesn't have any data in a certain field.

For example, you could set the default value for the first name merge tag to "Friend." Then, when you use "Hello *|FNAME|*," in a campaign, contacts whose first names are not in your audience will see "Hello Friend."

If you don't set a default value and the contact doesn't have the data in their profile, they'll see the merge tag itself where the contact-specific content was supposed to appear.

Set Default Merge Tag Values for an Audience

How to Use Merge Tags

To include dynamic merge tag content in your campaigns, type the merge tag directly into your campaign content or choose a merge tag from the Merge Tags drop-down menu.

Merge tags can be added to any email campaign or automation email, and in the Final "welcome" email in the Form Builder.

Type a Tag

When you type a merge tag directly into your content, be sure to surround the label with the asterisk (*) and pipe (|) characters. If there's a typo in the merge tag, your contacts will see the mistyped text instead of their personalized content. You'll find the pipe key above the Enter/Return key on most U.S. keyboards.

Choose a Tag in the Toolbar

To avoid typos and syntax errors, insert a merge tag in a content block from the merge tag menu. Place your cursor where you want the merge tag to appear, and click the Merge Tags drop-down menu on the editor toolbar. Choose the merge tag you need, and that's it!

Testing and Troubleshooting

You should always preview and test your merge tags before your campaign goes out. Here are some things to know about testing merge tags in Mailchimp.

  • To see a live preview of your merge tags, toggle the Enable live merge tag info slider to the green checkmark in Preview Mode.
  • Merge tags do not preview in the Template Editor. To test these merge tags, create a campaign from the saved template and use our preview and test tools.
  • If you use merge tags in your signup forms and response emails, sign up through your form and review how the merge tags appear in each step of the process.
  • If merge tags aren't working the way you expect, check out our troubleshooting guide.

Preview and Test Your Email Campaigns

Troubleshooting Merge Tags

I don't see live merge tag info in my Preview Mode

Was this article helpful?

Anything else we can do to improve our site?