It’s official: Oxford Dictionaries' 2015 Word of the Year is an Emoji. Whether this makes you happy or sad Emoji, it’s safe to say that Emojis are here to stay. Big brands like Taco Bell, Coca Cola, Ikea, Bud Light, and GE, plus many more, have already invested in incorporating Emojis within their online marketing campaigns. So what are they? And why are brands investing in them?
Emojis are images you can incorporate into text, email, twitter, Facebook and chat applications like WhatsApp to convey a message or an emotion. They are a shorthand way to communicate. But don’t get Emojis confused with emoticons such as this: :-) Emojis use pictures that are governed by the Unicode Consortium – a non-profit group that promotes standardised coding.
Consumers have been using Emojis since 2011 when Apple incorporated them into iOS 5. Since then their popularity has grown, with 50 percent of U.S. Internet users 18 and older now using Emojis on social media or in their texts, according to AYTM Market Research. Many believe the rise of Emojis is one way we are adapting to communicating with ‘followers’ and ‘friends’ we’ve never met. Emojis stand in place for interpersonal cues that are impossible to decipher or are absent online.
As consumers shift away from Facebook and email to more personalised real-time communication on messaging applications, brands have been left behind unable to communicate with and where their audience is. That is until now. Emojis have given brands a new way to engage and interact with their community, especially millennials. These Japanese pictographs have also allowed brands to speak their audiences' language, and set their tone of voice online. For brands working in a competitive space, like food and technology, being able to differentiate themselves by establishing a digital persona is invaluable.
So how important are Emojis to brands right now? Very. Taco Bell recently lobbied the Unicode Consortium to add a taco emoji to its keyboard and even circulated a Change.org petition that secured 30,000 signatures to ensure their request was met. Dell recently used Emojis for their back-to-school marketing. Ford used them to promote its latest Focus model. And Domino's has invested in them to revolutionise its pizza-ordering process.
However, some brands are taking it too far. Chevrolet recently introduced its new 2016 Chevrolet Cruze in a press release that contained only Emojis. While brands need to adapt to new forms of communicating it’s important they don’t lose sight of the bigger picture: conveying a message. Overuse and alienating older demographics are potential issues for brands, as is measuring the data associated with Emojis. Some brands are benefiting from Emojis. But this doesn’t mean every brand should jump in the deep end just yet. The best approach would be to test the waters before investing.