The Rise Of Emoji Marketing

For years, brands have been chasing the coveted millennial market for their size, influence, growing incomes and their insatiable appetite for digital media.

But now, the eldest millennials are approaching 40 and we see marketers shifting their attention to “generation z.” Loosely defined as those born after the turn of the century, this cohort grew up in our social, mobile and digitally-connected world.

They communicate with text messages and, increasingly with emojis – single images that convey emotion such as a wink, a smile or a heart.

Brands are using emojis to communicate with their target audience, to infiltrate their mobile phones, to demonstrate that they are on top of the latest communications trends, and also to convey messages in elegantly simple ways.

Update March 7, 2015: Goldman Sachs used emojis in this tweet to demonstrate how millennials life choices will drive the economy. A pretty good example of how a brand is trying to reach today’s digital audiences.

In this example, Budweiser used Emojis to celebrate the American 4th of July holiday


What Are Emojis?

Emojis are images you can incorporate into text, email, twitter, Facebook and chat applications to convey a message, an emotion. It is a shorthand way to communicate.

Emojis are different from emoticons, such as this smile 🙂 this wink 😉 and this OMG :-O

Emojis use pictures that are governed by the Unicode Consortium – a nonprofit group formed in the 1980s to promote standardized coding.

This is a wink emoji:

And this is another popular emoji:

The Uniform Consortium released 2,834 new Emojis early last year.  But most of these were in widespread use for years.

There are a few trends driving the push by brands into marketing with emojis.

  • There are more than 2 billion mobile phone users in the world, according to eMarketer.
  • The amount of messaging on these phones is doubling year over year.
  • The abundance of information is making the battle for customer attention even greater.
  • This is forcing brands to relate to their audiences with short, emotional images.
  • As a society, we are spending more time on our mobile devices.
  • We are connected to more people. And we consume more information than ever before.
  • But we are also more impatient. Voicemail takes too long. Email requires too much effort with all that typing.
  • Text messaging and apps are popular because they are simple, short, and typically more direct.

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The emoji is just the next evolution of communicating, sometimes even complex thoughts or emotions, with simple pictures.

Plus, emojis can transcend even language barriers. A smiley face is universal. And now there are literally thousands of emojis that are gaining worldwide acceptance and allowing en entire generation to communicate across borders.

In 2014, many brands started testing marketing with emojis. Oreo launched a mobile marketing campaign in China. The campaign allowed parents to take photos of themselves and their children and to paste them on to dancing emojis. In less then three months, the campaign generated nearly 100 million emojis.

10 million emojis were shared on chatting service WeChat and nearly 2 billion impressions were made across Weibo and WeChat.

Inline image 1

In March, 2014, PETA also launched an emoji campaign aptly named “Beyond Words” aimed at increasing engagement with their target audience. They sent out a text and invited people to create images with the heart emoji. Some amazing results such as this came about:

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Respondents are automatically opted in to receive PETA mobile alerts, are invited to retweet the campaign video on Twitter and to share campaign related posts.

More recently, GE launched an emoji campaign to explain “the science behind emojis.” Including a microsite and a twitter invitation, the campaign invited participants to send any emoji to their snapchat account to see their “periodic table of emoji.”

Some brands are using the rise of emoji marketing to help them reach their target audience such as with this “Emoji Translation Guide” from marketing technology company Hubspot and this “What Emojis Really Mean.

Takeaway For Brands:

Here are the top things brands should consider when approaching marketing with emojis:

  1. Use the latest technology to reach your audience. Whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, or the next big platform, Brands need to understand which platforms their audience is using to connect, consumer and share.
  2. Brands should think “mobile first.” Mobile phones are more ubiquitous than even mobile internet coverage. And there are still a few more billion people on the planet who have yet to gain mobile access. Brands should start any marketing activity with a strategy that supports mobile access first.
  3. Tap into emotion to help drive brand messages. Studies have shown that emotion is more effective than promotion by a factor of two to one. Brands should think about what their audience cares about. And craft marketing messages that relate to them in a more human way.
  4. Make it simple to drive user engagement. the consumer journey must be as easy as possible. If the emoji teaches us anything, it’s that we are looking for more effective ways to communicate more information, faster. The brands that win are the ones that will deliver amazingly simple customer experiences.
  5. Test everything. Emoji are becoming engrained in our society and are not likely to go away anytime soon. But Emoji marleting may not be for everyone. Start small. Test an approach that may work for your brand.
Are you interested in engaging and converting new customer for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help.

This article originally appeared on The Guardian.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.