The “Emojification” of Brand Marketing

The phrase “a picture speaks a thousand words” has never been truer in a world where we turn to pictures of faces, dancing ladies, or a “see-no-evil” monkey to express ourselves. Whether you love or hate them, there is no denying that emojis have become a ubiquitous part of everyday internet culture, and brands have certainly taken note.

Although the emoji has a history, originally popular in Japan, it is 2015 that has seen an explosion in their commercial use. In April 2015, Apple launched their update iOS 8.3 which included over 300 new emojis, the increasing social use of emojis is fast becoming a tool used by brands to speak to consumers in ways far more expressive than plain text.

“Emojis are doing what the tone of voice did on the telephone and what gestures, tones and facial expressions did in interpersonal communication,” said Mitchell Stephens, professor at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. “It gives people something that has been missing in writing for the past five and a half thousand years.”

The emojification of brand marketing provides a new way to communicate. In an increasingly globalised world, the power of emojis lies in their ability to become a universal form of communication for brands, that breaks through language barriers. And it seems the younger you go, the more accepting people are of an emoji culture. In an article by The Drum, Alison Bracegirdle notes that a “TalkTalk survey showed that 72 per cent of 18 to 25 year-olds found it easier to convey feelings in emoji than in text,” so it’s no surprise that brands are using emojis to connect with a consumer market that has grown up in a social, mobile and digital world.

Emojis have become so integrated into mainstream culture that brands are not only using them, but also looking for ways to make them more personalised, carrying their own brand stamps. This has created a sub-industry world of emojis where brands like Ikea, Coca-Cola and Burger King have designed their own custom emojis to communicate with their consumers. In March 2015, as part of the promotion of their new item, Chicken Fries, Burger King tapped into the popularity of emojis by creating a chicken-inspired emoji keyboard for mobile users. The keyboard includes several dozen emoticons resembling the chicken-emblazoned box that Chicken Fries arrive in, with a range of different expressions.

Burger King

Burger King is just one example of the emojification of brand marketing that allows companies to convey themselves even more creatively, but as they cross over into mass media adoption, what are the top five ways to use emojis successfully in brand marketing?

  1. Email communication – with more clients accessing their email from their phone, emojis in the subject line provide an easy and smart way to attract a reader’s attention amongst a long list of emails.
  1. Emoji-based fundraising campaigns – in May 2015 WWF launched an emoji campaign on Twitter to help raise funds for the charity. The #EndangeredEmoji campaign recognised that 17 animal emojis people use every day depict endangered species, and then encouraged people to donate 10p to WWF each time they use them in a tweet.
  1. To be creative… – emoji brand marketing campaigns work well when combined with already well-established platforms. Although emojis may be the fastest growing language, companies have used social media sites and public holidays to boost their emoji brand marketing even further. For example, last year Bud Light stitched together an emoji American flag to celebrate the 4th of July on Twitter to promote their brand.

4. …but to be clear – emojis provide new ways for brands to flourish, however your brand needs to remain at centre of the campaign. When Dominos allowed people to order pizza with an emoji, everyone recognised the brand activity. Messaging needs to be clear to avoid confusing your social audience.


5. Making your brand more personal – emojis are light-hearted and fun, and can be used by companies to give their brand a personal touch. For example, ASOS uses their Twitter account to speak to their followers in the language they want to see, emoji! Their usage of emojis allows them to add a new tone to their messages which they could not achieve with plain text.

The appeal of the emojification of brand marketing lies in the core idea that communication is as much about what you say as how you say it, and sometimes a simple emoji can be all you need to make sure your brand makes its mark!

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