In 2010, emojis were universally standardized for all service providers; they took mobile communication by storm by allowing all users to express their feelings visually via social media and mobile devices. Almost instantly, Facebook feeds became animated and text messages gained a well-needed dose of color. It’s easy to see why people love these cute and convenient icons: they add new layers to a conversation. And it wasn’t long until brands such as Coca-Cola and Taco Bell caught on to their potential. In fact, in the last 12 months alone, active marketing campaigns containing emojis increased by a whopping 557%.
But it’s not all fun and games when it comes to emojis. These pictorial messages run the risk of coming across inappropriately and ineffectively when used excessively, in the wrong setting, or for the wrong audience—so much so that it can lead to brand-message dilution and loss of credibility.
While emojis straddle a fine line between fun and relatable and unprofessional and patronizing, their huge impact on today’s society beckons any brand to consider their use.
Who’s using emojis?
A whopping 92% of the online population and 40% of brands online, to be exact. As brands make the shift from the coveted millennial market, emojis are an effective segue into Generation Z—both for its influence and insatiable appetite for digital media. Today, a huge trend with brands looking to use emojis in their marketing strategy is to simply come out with their own emoji keyboards. Bitmoji, Mentos, Free People, and Ikea have all jumped on the bandwagon, but the winner: Kim Kardashian. (Who doesn’t love the classic crying Kimoji?!)
Convey emotion through emojis.
Emojis clarify brand messages by setting a clear tone and voice. From a wink to a heart, the simplicity of the image breaks down linguistic barriers, allowing brands and celebrities to convey messages more effectively. PETA took emoji marketing to the next level with their Cruelty Beyond Words campaign. The organization created a 30-second video made entirely of emojis, depicting the torture and slaughter of animals for fashion. The video hit the heart and conveyed a heavy subject in an easy-to-understand yet somber manner. That’s not all: it proved that online users strongly resonate with brand marketing content that contains emotion indicators, or emojis. A smiley face or a thumbs-up might seem frivolous at first, but these symbols actually serve as vital communication tools that lead to deeper connections.
Give emojis purpose.
Emojis mobilize consumers to interact with brands in tangible ways. Domino’s dominated pizza deliveries by making it possible to order a pie (or three) with a quick tweet of the pizza emoji. This easy and accessible process skyrocketed Domino’s sales—generating more than 500 orders through the emoji system in one day and creating mass publicity, with mentions in USA Today and Forbes, on Good Morning America, and more. The World Wildlife Fund got creative, too. The organization raised money on National Endangered Species Day by vowing to donate ten cents for every tweet that featured an endangered animal emoji.
Doing emojis wrong.
Like anything, when emojis are overused by brands, they lose their effectiveness. Last year, Goldman Sachs used a slew of emojis in a tweet to promote a report on how millennial life choices reshape the economy. The social media team failed: they paired a serious report with a lighthearted series of emojis, tarnishing brand image and authenticity. This resulted in backlash from the online community and taught brands a valuable lesson on how not to use emojis in brand marketing. In the words of Florenza Phung, “Just because you have 140 characters to tweet does not mean you should use all 140 characters for emojis.”
Now that emojis are part of society’s digital lexicon, it is more important than ever for brands to evaluate their usage with careful consideration and a purposeful plan to boost conversions and engagement, as opposed to blindly hopping on the bandwagon.