emojis and marketing

The history and the hype: emojis and marketing

By Anja

What’s your favourite emoji? It makes you think, doesn’t it? Which feelings do you express most often in the digital world?

Each of us takes on a “digital persona” that comes alive whenever we Whatsapp, text or email (I wouldn’t advise using emojis in work emails – unless that’s your thing) and we then decide which of these little icons to use to ✨jazz it up✨.

In digital marketing, emojis play a huge role in messaging, and the question for social media strategists, content creators, writers, and the like, becomes: “Does this capture the message we’re trying to convey?” So how did these tiny colourful icons become so crucial to the ways we communicate?

Here’s the rundown.

The history:

Emojis can be traced back to the advent of email in the 1970s, and chat rooms in the 1990s, where emojis were made up of existing punctuation marks 🙂 . Shigetaka Kurita is credited for the creation of early emojis, and his contribution to digital messaging was further acknowledged when the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated an exhibition to his work. From Kurita’s original 176 emojis, there are now more than 2600 in use. (😲)

The hype:

As the digital world expands, expressing tone and emotion has become more urgent, because of the speedy pace at which we send messages. But we also see emojis outside of the digital world. They’re on T-shirts, pillows, toys, shoes; in fact the rise of Crocs and the use of “Jibbitz” to decorate them has even swayed my opposition to these shoes.

Emojis are incredibly popular. We saw the release of The Emoji Movie in 2017, which had actor Patrick Stewart playing “Poop”. This was actually the character’s name… and I’m sure you know exactly which emoji I’m talking about 👀.

Emojis are also relevant, reflecting current trends (have you seen the bubble tea one?) but they’re also becoming increasingly progressive 🏳️‍⚧️, which means messaging becomes more inclusive and reflective of the millions of people who communicate online every day.

Emojis and marketing:

It’s great to know that emojis are accessible to everyone with a smartphone (which is a rapidly increasing demographic in South Africa), and can be used regardless of language or location. However, when it comes to marketing, there are some things to consider:

• Your tone will be observed as slightly playful and less serious.
• It’s important to know the meaning of your emojis in pop culture (an eggplant emoji is not just an eggplant emoji). 😳
• Using too many emojis in copy can be similar to seeing repetitive typos in text. They can distract from your original message. So, use them sparingly, and in a way that accurately captures your tone.

Emojis fill in for body language, they reassert a human element into text and they give an abstract space, and abstract feelings, more meaning. So they can be really important.

New emojis are released with cell phone software updates often, and I will admit to downloading new software ASAP when this happens. 💁🏾‍♀️

Even the most serious of us (I’m thinking of Tom) uses the emoji staple – that bright red heart ❤️, probably the most iconic of semiotic symbols – when he texts his wife (and ONLY his wife, he made this very clear).

Personally, this “✨” is my favourite emoji, by the way. According to Emojipedia, this indicates “various positive sentiments, including love, happiness, beauty, gratitude, and excitement, as well as newness”.

You might see these on my new pair of Crocs.

Image: Abrams/BFA/REX/Shutterstock