This innovative marketing campaign received a lot of attention online, with major publications such as the Daily Mail covering the story1. Other brands such as Taco Bell, Cartoon Network, Google and Superdrug took advantage of #WorldEmojiDay, according to Campaign Live2. These promotional social media campaigns illustrate that emojis are rapidly becoming powerful marketing tools.
Emerging mobile technologies are rapidly changing how the world communicates. During the 2000s, the introduction of text messaging popularised ‘text speak’3, where people use abbreviations to communicate easily on the go. When smartphone technology started becoming widely available in the early 2010s, it became possible for consumers to go online anytime, anywhere, via their mobile.
This facilitated the rise of emojis as a digital communication tool. First developed in Japan in 1999, according to Tech Radar4, emojis were originally introduced to Western consumers in 2010 by Unicode and are now available on various mobile platforms, including iOS and Android. More than six billion emojis were sent worldwide in 2014, illustrating their ever-increasing popularity among consumers.
Increasingly, brands are capitalising on the popularity of emojis to create innovative ad campaigns. On World Emoji Day, mobile marketing automation firm Appboy released research5 which indicates that consumers are receptive to emoji-based marketing. Over the past year, the number of consumer messaging campaigns which have included emojis rose by over 600%.
In a poll of 500 consumers, Appboy found that open rates for emoji-based push notifications on iOS and Android rose by 210% and 1,063% year-on-year since June 2015. Over the same time, emoji-messaging campaign conversion rates rose by 135%.
Meanwhile, 68% of those questioned admitted that they like or love emojis, with only 6% saying that they like or hate these digital icons. Over a third (39%) of those surveyed said they believe it is “fun” when brands communicate via emoji, however 60% receive emoji-related messages just once per month and 35% do not receive them whatsoever.
The report explained: “Marketers who want to take advantage of emojis in their messaging should make sure they’re taking steps to avoid sending emoji campaigns to customers who don’t respond to them.” A minority of respondents see emoji-marketing as childish (12%) or inappropriate (11%), so it is vital that brands conduct market research before using emojis for promotional purposes.
General Electric’s Emoji Periodic Table of Elements serves as a great example of how to do emoji-based marketing effectively. In December 2014, General Electric took over New York University’s chemistry lab to promote science. They developed an ‘emoji periodic table of element’ online for the campaign, linking each icon to a tutorial, so consumers could conduct experiments and increase their understanding of scientific concepts.
As part of the campaign, General Electric asked consumers to send emojis via Snapchat, responding with a video tutorial of the relevant experiment. General Electric also involved major celebrities in the campaign – for instance famous science educator Bill Nye ‘the science guy,’ created a video6 where he used emojis to explain the concept of evolution.
Commenting on this campaign Sydney Lestrud, General Electric’s Global Brand Marketing Manager, was quoted by Campaign Live saying: “We try very hard to just pay attention to what our audience or community is already doing — how they’re already communicating…We look at the platforms or social channels where they already are or where they’re tending to migrate to.”
“A lot of the time, we tend to really focus on a younger generation — the Millennial audience — who sort of lead the way in terms of where a lot of our communication goes.”
Going further, he added that emojis are becoming particularly popular with digitally-savvy younger consumers, as they are “organic to mobile and social media.”
“Emojis are… becoming more important in our everyday language, particularly as messaging apps continue to grow… Emojis are a huge part of that — how we express ourselves; how we express our emotions. So we really saw emoji as an increasing trend. It’s inspiring and fun. [We thought] it would be a unique and impactful way to communicate to a younger audience.”
Thinking of consumers
It is key that brands tailor their emoji-based marketing to their target consumers. For example by consulting Twitter’s recently released list of the most popular emojis in different countries7, companies could ensure emoji-based marketing campaigns resonate with various nationalities. With this strategy, businesses could potentially emulate General Electric’s success, creating an exciting emoji-based marketing campaign which engages consumers worldwide.