Emojis and marketing

Guest post by Kirsty T., work experience student from St Mary’s School, Cambridge

Emojis made their debut appearance in to the digital world in Japan in 1999, on some of the very first mobile platforms. The Telegraph went as far as to describe emojis as being “the fastest growing form of language in history”. The concept behind these icons is to be able to convey a message or an emotion through symbols, without having to use words. Emojis are universal, so as long as you have the appropriate device, anyone can understand them. As a result of this rapid change in communication, an opportunity has arisen for marketing experts to consider the use of emojis in marketing. Brands such as McDonalds, Ikea and Chevrolet are some of the first to lead the way by using emojis as a basis for branding their products or within advertising campaigns. Among the apparent triumph of these icons within the world of marketing, there are also many critics who appear to be sceptical about their effectiveness.

The first complication is that the meaning of an advert that uses emojis could be ambiguous if recipients are not using a suitable device that allows the recipient to view the emoji as intended. In some cases, if viewers cannot view the message as intended, the advert might not have the desired effect on a proportion of the target market. This could lead to the brand being seen as being too exclusive, if only smartphone or tablet users can access the content, which can have a negative effect on the product’s image. The digital era is relatively new and, for many who have not grown up with technology as a part of daily life, the use of emojis in marketing campaigns may prove to be too challenging to decipher.

On the contrary, there do seem to be numerous reasons as to why the use of emojis within marketing has been so successful in raising the status of a brand or product. First, emojis have proven themselves as a useful tool in increasing one’s popularity on social media; positive emojis are perceived as fun and upbeat. In a recent study Simo Tchokni of the University of Cambridge said “there is a strong link between emoticon use and social power”. The positive link associated with emojis can be used within a marketing strategy to make products appear upbeat and accessible. The fact that these icons are so universally understood, across linguistic and cultural demographics, means that campaigns will no longer have to be tailored to suit different audiences, widening marketers’ target markets and the potential number of consumers they are able to access through one campaign. It is also worth noting that emojis represent innovative and forward thinking, as they work in tandem with the ever expanding digital era. Therefore, when linked with marketing campaigns, the products also appear to be equally advanced and modern, which in turn develops their reputation.

It is of course reasonable to suggest that there are some contexts in which it might seem inappropriate to use emojis, in particular when discussing topics of an important or sensitive nature that need to be communicated conscientiously. But there are also many circumstances within marketing when it is relevant to use emojis to convey a message. The most important point when using emojis in marketing, as is the case with all marketing activity, is to note who your target audience is and whether the message will be interpreted in a positive way that will deliver success for your client.

 

Let’s get vertical, vertical!

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“People just don’t rotate their phones… who can be bothered?”

This ‘revelation’ from Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is the driving force behind the latest digital trend marketers are having to contend with, or risk getting left behind; providing vertical video and image content.

To those of us who aren’t millennials, this may seem like exaggeration. But Troy Young, president of Hearst Digital, supports Spiegel’s thinking, saying: “Mobile phones are vertical devices… turning it sideways is a lot of work.” What’s more, Darren Tome, VP of product management at Mashable, believes that “phones are the dominant device for content consumption with the young, digital generation” so it’s vital that marketers heed the lessons shared by those platforms which are proving so successful with the younger generations; ensuring that content is created “in an aspect ratio that’s native and natural for mobile”.

The statistics show that there is some truth in these claims: on the Snapchat platform, vertical ads are viewed to the end nine times more frequently than horizontal ones, and this is on a platform which is significant in reaching millennials, boasting 35 million daily users aged 13-34 in the U.S. alone. What’s more, as mobile increasingly becomes the primary device for accessing the internet, having accounted for more than half of e-commerce transactions for some time now, it may not just be those marketers catering to millennials who need to invest in vertical content.    

Snapchat isn’t the only platform to focus on vertical content. Meerkat and Periscope, both of which stream live video, are also configured for vertical content.

Acknowledging the trend and being keen to adopt vertical content, however, is only the first hurdle in the race to ‘go vertical’. Unless you are in the same position as Snapchat, Meerkat or Periscope’s content teams, which only have to provide content to suit their vertical display channels, you almost certainly will need to produce horizontal content as well. The majority of outlets are set up to display horizontal content, whether this is a brand website, most social media channels, or mainstream advertising channels. So in practice, to incorporate vertical content in to your strategy, you are most likely going to need to create two distinct pieces of content if you’re to continue sharing on existing channels while also investing in vertical channels. It’s not as simple as repurposing horizontal content for vertical distribution, nor is it easy to repurpose vertical for traditional horizontal distribution. Twice as much work often means twice as much budget.

Some brands and publishers are beginning to show vertical content within special vertical display boxes on their sites, for instance Mashable recently shared its first piece of cross-platform vertical content, on desktop, mobile and iOS, to some extent negating the need to duplicate content. We would have to question whether this could go too far though, as our wide screen televisions, laptops and desktops clearly benefit from wide angle filming; you can experience more from your content when it’s wide screen! Furthermore, TV advertising, cinema advertising, and horizontal billboard advertising are going to continue to require horizontal content.

It will be interesting to see how far vertical content reaches in ‘cross platform’ distribution. We would much prefer to see vertical content prioritised for mobile, but horizontal content retained everywhere else. It’s just a question of time and budget, versus optimal user experience which varies from platform to platform. We wonder which will win!

Break through the noise

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The digital marketing landscape is more crowded than ever before; it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd – and most importantly your competitors. 69 percent of marketers are creating more content in 2015 than last year and are using an average of seven social media platforms for marketing purposes.

To increase audience engagement you need to create compelling, meaningful and timely content. Here are our top 10 tips on how to break through the noise:

1.     Understand your brand position and audience – this is easier to get a handle on for B2C businesses but is equally important for B2B companies. Try creating audience personas for target customer groups – this can help you identify content topics that are engaging for users.

2.     Always put your reader first – it’s easy to post content that you are interested in but what about your readers? The only way to attract potential leads is to think of your audience’s interests first.

3.     Be unique – no one wants to read regurgitated content.

4.     Be selective – avoid publishing the same content but with a different title. Do not post content for the sake of it, make sure you always have something interesting to say, otherwise don’t say anything at all.

5.     Avoid over publishing – once you have mastered selecting golden nuggets of content, make sure you give your posts time to breathe, or your audience may miss them.

6.     Keep it simple – it’s tempting to attempt perfection when creating content but a good rule of thumb is: don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. Content that is relevant, timely, unique and important has the most chance of creating an impact on your readers.

7.     Be the first – say it before it’s been said.

8.     Try to make your audience smile – balance your content with a mixture of light hearted and informative posts.

9.     Be creative – when developing your content be original, think about unique layouts and styles of posts. Be imaginative and create your own infographic or make a word cloud. There are some great free tools out there to use. Our personal favourites are canva.com and piktochart.com.

And finally…

10.  Don’t forget to put the word SOCIAL into social media – always remember you are trying to engage your audience in conversation.

Our copywriting team develops marketing strategies that utilise original, curated and repurposed content to conscientiously promote its clients as thought leaders, while building engagement with their business and consumer audiences, stakeholders and influencers, via traditional media, digital and social media, blogs, websites. To find out more get in touch via info@consciouscomms.com.

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