Won't be a jiffy
12th October 2016

To emoji or not to emoji 🤔

Louisa MarsdenLouisa Marsden

Emoji. We all know what they are, and the news of an emoji keyboard update prompts almost as much excitement as a new Apple product launch (cue avocado fanatics everywhere).

With messaging platforms trumping social networks, brands are seeking opportunities to tap into the growing one-to-one messaging audience, which is currently 25% larger than that of social media.

It’s quite evident that emoji advertising is a thing. Brands need to alter their approach to stay current, with stats from Appboy showing 72% of 18-25s find it easier to express emotion through emoji rather than written word, with 92% of those online using emoji regularly.

Tapping into this trend without coming across as forced, desperate and essentially out of touch to a clued up audience is a tough feat, but what emoji do offer for brands, is a level of intimacy to break up the cold hearted persona of digital communication.


Feeling a little emojinal?

Being around for nearly two decades since their invention in 1999 in Japan, emoji have grown from a limited 180 characters to over 1,600 😱. We’ve gone from the simple, pre-millennium ‘=)’ to the Unicode encoded, little balls of yellow we all know and love today 😇.

Nearly a decade before Apple launched the App-store, there was no way of predicting the wide scale popularity emoji would have. In 2011 Apple made the decision to standardise the emoji keyboard across its smartphones, meaning a worldwide explosion of emoji use and accessibility. 


To emoji or not to emoji?

Regular text is often open to misinterpretation. We crave the emotional reaction to situations, and try to mimic that of our reactions in real life.

Unlike individuals who can correct themselves relatively quickly, if you’re a brand, sending out a message, the last thing you want to do is to be misinterpreted.  Emoji can offer an international understanding – which may not always be immediately achievable via written text.

True to their brit nature, brands and individuals alike also like to throw in hints of sarcasm and humour to tickle recipients and deliver tone of voice. 

Emoji help to recreate an element of humour, empathy and emotion we encounter when talking face to face, while adding character and context to a jungle of mundane keystrokes.

We’ve even adapted our brains to react to emoji in the same way we would a human face, offering us more personalisation than the bygone OMG, lol and lmao abbreviations.

And guess what the Oxford dictionary word of 2015 was?

 Well. It wasn’t quite a word. It was an emoji. The tears of joy emoji to be precise. Showing our language adapting in new ways and becoming ever more popular, and furthermore accepted, as a form of expressive communication.  


Brands and Tone of Voice

A number of brands have capitalised on ‘emojimania’ and offered their attempts at reaching out to a younger, millennial demographic. 

Branded emoji keyboards are a strong first step, but more innovation is needed as the two biggest players, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, currently offer no support for branded keyboards.

One of the main points brands have to consider when delving into the world of emoji use, is the relevance it has to them and how well it fits in with their tone of voice.

We’ve witnessed brands from Dove, Burger King and Kim Kardashian all jump on the branded keyboard hype, channelling their tone of voice through personalised emoji. While the likes of Domino’s have created the future of ordering, with an ‘easy order’ option, simply tweet or Facebook message Dominos with the pizza order, and it’s in the oven and on its way to your door! Mind blown.

Dove’s message centered around the ‘love your curls’ campaign, which entailed launching a curly haired emoji keyboard, to squash the hegemony of straight hair emoji. It stays true to Dove’s values of celebrating women’s beauty in every natural form, as well as offering something all women can relate to - with different hair colours, skin tones and hair styles.

However, when House of Fraser took to Twitter for their ‘#Emojional’ campaign, they sparked criticism with their portrayals of celebrities surrounded by emoji, to celebrate the Valentine’s holiday.

What stands out in this campaign, is not only its cringe factor and general misuse of emoji, but how far removed it is from the HOF tone of voice. This left many of the brands’ twitter base not only confused but wondering if the account had been hacked, for which HOF responded with ‘Okay, something is going wrong, 🐻  with us’.

The big difference in the way Dove and House of Fraser have utilised emoji here, is the relevance it has to their following, and also, whether it offers their audiences any relatability. While Dove include their audience in the expression of emoji, which further advertises the brand itself, House of Fraser alienate their followers, with a campaign which goes completely off the point of celebrating Valentine’s day.


Let’s round it up…

Emoji can offer a witty, humorous and relevant stamp for brands and their audiences. A simple, expressive and international form of communication - which is clearly taking over as a new language.

Brands now have the ability to market themselves in some of the most personal spaces in our daily lives, our mobile screens, without looking intrusive. Instead, this form of native advertising allows users to interact with brands in a natural way.

By staying true to their tone of voice, audience and identity, brands can utilise emoji effectively to tap into a younger demographic. The way emoji will continue to develop is yet to be known, but with an ‘emojimovie’ commissioned by Sony, as well as Penguin Random House purchasing publishing rights to ‘the emoji story’ book, emoji are undeniably becoming a brand in their own right – and the future of our digital communication.

P.s. for continued emoji fuelled fun, tap emojitracker into your browser and prepare to be dazzled by the power of emoji 😲