As a society, humans are always pushing the envelope when it comes to technology, and especially when it is in regards to communication. We’ve gone from face-to-face conversations to letters. From telegraphs to international calling. And now from video chats to emojis.
Whether it be a colon with a parenthesis (aka smiley face) or a complex arrangement of forward slashes and underlines, emojis are everywhere. You use them, your mom uses them, companies use them, even the White House uses them. According to one study by Meltwater, 72.2% of the people they surveyed under the age of 25 used emojis frequently. And you’re likely not surprised by that, considering the demographic; however, emoji use is still high as age increases. According to the same study, 62.3% people above the age of 35 used emojis frequently.
One “pioneer” in this new era of pictograph communication is Kim Kardashian. Although a controversial social media figure, there is no doubt she has capitalized this emoji market. About a year ago, Kim Kardashian launched Kimoji, a keyboard full of figures that relate to her and everything else Kardashian/Jenner related. It wasn’t long until the app shot to the top of the App Store charts. While Kimoji did not shut down the App Store (@KanyeWest), it supposedly had up to 9000 downloads per millisecond! The most impressive aspect of this whole launch, though, is that she priced her app at $1.99 (so maybe they did still make a million a minute…@KanyeWest). In a market where many people wouldn’t even pay 99 cents for an app, millions of people have paid $1.99 to send their friends animated characters of someone else. This just speaks to both the power of her brand and the public’s affinity for emojis.
Seeing the power of emojis, nearly everyone and anyone you can think of has followed suit. Amber Rose has launched her own keyboard, as did Charlie Sheen and Drake’s dad. All three are available on the App Store. As I discussed in my last blog post, Domino’s has made it possible to order pizza via emoji. A new report by a marketing automation company, Appboy, shows us how much companies have latched on this market. Appboy “analyzed almost 9,400 marketing campaigns across iOS and Android platforms and discovered that emoji usage within those messages had soared 775% year-over-year in the period ending March 2016.”
Kim Kardashian isn’t the only reason companies are increasing their emoji presence. Multiple studies have demonstrated that emojis have a similar effect on humans when compared to real facial expressions. They activate an area of your brain related to emotional processing. Building on the emotional aspect of emojis, a survey conducted by IPA reported that marketing campaigns “with strictly emotional content performed nearly twice as well as those with exclusively rational content. Emotional campaigns also performed marginally better than campaigns with mixed emotional and rational content.”
This doesn’t mean that any company can just go to Twitter and spam their followers’ feeds with heart emojis to increase sales. Goldman Sachs tried (and failed) to reach millennials by tweeting out this character-filled tweet. A global bank talking about the future of the economy via drawn characters isn’t the best idea. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton also tried and failed to use the lure of emojis to get millennials engaged. While the idea itself isn’t terrible, she too took on the controversial and divisive topic of student debt.
The world of emojis is even more complex than understanding the right time to use emojis. You also have to be contentious of the color of the emoji. According to an article by the Atlantic, the lightest skin color of an emoji was only used about 20% of the time on Twitter in the United States.
This is despite the fact White Americans outnumber Black Americans 4 to 1 on the website. Andrew McGill, the author, mentions some of the concerns that people had when using emojis, such as “it felt awkward to use an affirmatively white emoji; at a time when skin-tone modifiers are used to assert racial identity, proclaiming whiteness felt uncomfortably close to displaying “white pride,” with all the baggage of intolerance that carries.” This issue plagues people of all colors though, as he talked to an Indian engineer who argued to eliminate skin tone modifiers and said “Every time I use an emoji, I have to make a choice: Do I use a colored racemoji, and draw attention to my ethnicity (even when it’s not pertinent), or do I use a default emoji, which may misrepresent me altogether?” Although the issue of color might seem to be more of a personal matter than a business one, the issues of race still plague this nation. One emoji mishap could be all it takes to send a company plummeting.
Luckily for business, one quick Google search will bring you hundreds of results of the how to use emojis.
- Twitter may not even be where you want to start your marketing campaign. “Mobile messaging — particularly SMS and email — has the broadest reach and highest adoption among mobile users. Messaging apps, relative newcomers but gaining fast in popularity, offer more innovative and engaging outreach options.”
- You have to understand yourself and your consumers “Make sure that your company is a right fit as well. Companies with a lighthearted nature or those that emphasize being tech-savvy and modern can have a heyday with emojis. However, brands that tend to be viewed in a more serious manner, such as insurance or financial companies, should probably steer clear in order to maintain their reputation and credibility.”
- There is a such thing as too much emoji. “Don’t encrypt your message just because the language of emoji has transcended cultural barriers, you shouldn’t assume all your customers are fluent speakers.”
Most importantly, remember this when it comes to using emojis and your brand: “No one is paying to see ads, but they pay to see emoji. Each emoji can be a form of a digital ad. Emoji are no longer just emoji — they’re tiny, adorable commercials.”