How emojis could change your communications forever

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Is this the future of communication?
Is this the future of communication?

Whether you love them, hate them or just don’t get them, emojis seem to be everywhere.

From the latest advertising campaign by McDonlads, to Google’s decision to allow them in certain Adwords or the fact that Instagram’s most recent update has made hash-tagged emojis searchable; there’s no escaping these tiny graphic icons.

In fact some people think that these might be the first truly global language.

Like many new technologies the early adopters of emojis were Millennials, quickly followed by their social-media-savvy siblings, Generation Z.

And in the words of American marketer and bestselling author Seth Godin, these early adopters are ‘sneezing’ and spreading the emoji virus to the masses!

But it’s not just emojis that are changing how we communicate

If you want another example of how communication is changing and focusing more on visualization, take a look at Snapchat.

In a recent interview Evan Spiegel, one of the social networks founders, was asked a simple question: “What is Snapchat?”

Here’s his blindly obvious but insightful answer:

“Snapchat really has to do with the way photographs have changed. Historically photos have always been used to save really important memories: major life moments, but today… pictures are being used for talking.

So when you see your children taking a zillion photos of things that you would never take a picture of, it’s cos they’re using photographs to talk… And that’s why people are taking and sending so many pictures on Snapchat every day.”

And you can’t argue with Snapchat’s success, having over 100 million daily users of its app. Quite how the app will ever make any money – not least a profit – once the current trend for investing marketing funds in almost anything social with no real payback has abated is a debate for another day.

Here are three emoji advertising examples

1. Oreo’s “Play Together With Your Kids” campaign: The cookie brand ran a campaign in China that urged parents and children to create custom emojis by putting their faces onto dancing figures.

The result was eminently sharable and the campaign hoped to capitalize on the idea of parents bonding with their children to support Oreo’s brand goals. The firm also put codes on cookie packets that would unlock more content and, obviously, boost sales. This video has more detail.

2. General Electric’s #emojiscience: GE created an “Emoji Table of Experiments”, that uses emoji as icons in a periodic table-type layout, and that introduces people to DIY science projects.

The campaign aims to show the fun side of science – alongside some of the interesting work that GE is doing – and also insists that “There’s science in everything—even emojis,” which ties nicely with the firm’s “Imagination at Work” tagline.

3.Bud Light’s 4th of July tweet: Of course, it’s easier for certain brands to incorporate emoji than others. Bud Light made use of this with an emoji tweet — the right form for a millennial audience, timed for a holiday that matches with the Budweiser brand — for the US 4th of July celebrations.

So what does this mean for your communications?

I guess this is all about relevancy. For instance, if you manage marketing communications for consumer brands aimed at Millennials, emojis might be a perfect fit for you.

Some brands might feel that there is no relevance with their positioning or target market.

To be honest, I’m yet to use emojis in any work-related communications. Maybe it’s because I manage business-to-business legal marketing which doesn’t feel naturally relevant. Or maybe it’s because I’m not brave enough, and should embrace the ‘safe is risky’ mantra a bit more.

But I would guess the first word of warning is: don’t try too hard. There’s nothing more embarrassing than someone trying hard to act a lot younger and cooler than they actually are; or in other words, desperately trying to be ‘down with the kids’.

I’d love to hear your thoughts? Short-term craze or long term communication strategy? Are words dying out or will they work in tandem with emojis and photos?