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.