I'm an innate goodie two shoes. At school I rarely (if ever) missed a deadline. As a teenager, I was as happy drinking a cup of tea as I was downing a shot of Sambuca. A shy little thing with a crippling fear of confrontation, my angelic nature was driven less by a desire to please as it was to shield myself against wrath. What's this got to do with the rise of the emoji?
For starters, the word itself makes me wince. Bearing in mind I scorn the rise of text-speak, insisting I sign-off with "Lots of Love" rather than "LOL," and that I flung my arms in the air when "OMG" made it into the dictionary, it is surprising that I find myself gravitating towards the emoji. The explanation lies in my fear of confrontation.
Words can be read in so many ways. What one person interprets as amusing, another reads as rude. What one may take as angry, another perceives as forthright. Emojis, aka virtual cartoon stickers, do what the written word cannot - they cement tone, depict expression, portray a gesture. In a world where we often type to chat, emojis offer a chance to soften delivery, add humour and bring a message to life.
Emojis are a playful and unobtrusive marketing tool, but using them successfully means knowing your audience. Get it wrong and they can quickly turn from cute to cringe. For brands reaching-out to younger generations, using emojis is a no-brainer, as it simply means speaking the language of your target market. For older generations, they're a fun addition to words on screens.
A single emoji can convey a plethora of words, making them great to weave into email subject lines when characters are tight, or in calls-to-action to cut consumers time (about 2% of business-to-consumer subject lines contain emojis). For example PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, asked consumers to text a heart emoji to prevent animal cruelty.
Below are four great examples of emoji campaigns, and two where it all turned ugly.
GE turned science from geek to chic using emojis to generate a Periodic Table of Experiments. As part of a live pop-up laboratory in New York, Snapchat users could send their favourite emoji to General Electric to view a live experiment related to that emoji. The brand teamed-up with famous faces who undertook the experiments. GE cleverly realized that the best way to engage with Millennials is to speak their language and the best way to make science cool, is to make it fun.
Can't find the words to describe where you left your keys? Not sure how to give your partner a ticking-off for leaving his dirty laundry on the floor? I never thought I'd say this - but - Ikea to the rescue, and thankfully that doesn't require an oft ill-fated trip to the flat-packed store of horrors. Instead, Ikea has devised its own emoji's to help customers depict what words often cannot, setting you on the road to domestic bliss.
Dominos has streamlined the customer journey making it all too simple to quickly order that margarita. The company's new "easy ordering" system allows pizza-lovers to place an order by tweeting a pizza emoji to @Dominos. By cleverly slashing the steps to purchase and boosting convenience, the brand is helping to turn the "shall I, shan't I's" into sales.
This charity realised 17 Emoji animals that are used every day, are actually endangered species. It used these to kick-off its '#EndangeredEmoji' campaign on Endangered Species Day, by tweeting an image of the animals and asking fans to join the campaign by retweeting the post. Those that joined were then asked to donate 10 euro cents every time they used one of the 17 endangered emojis in a future tweet.
…..Where it Went Sour
After Apple updated its emoji offering with more "racially diverse" graphics, Clorox tweeted an image of one of its bottles showing the new emojis, with a line: "New emojis are alright, but where's the bleach." The tweet kicked-up a storm with Clorox being accused of racism. The brand issued an apology to say that the remark had in fact been directed at the new toilet, bathtub and red wine emojis.
The (now ex) digital editor for the Houston Rockets basketball team, sent out a tweet during a playoff series win over the Dallas Mavericks: "Shhhhh. Just close your eyes. It will all be over soon." Sound innocent enough? The problem was the tweet included two emojis -- a gun pointing at a horse. That took it too far for many and the editor lost his job.