Emoji seems to be the digital language de jour.

If you need evidence of the iconic medium's pervasiveness beyond your own texts and timelines, consider that this past July 17 marked the fourth celebration of World Emoji Day, or the coming theatrical release of The Emoji Movie, a full-length, animated feature about the adventures of anthropomorphic emoji (with Patrick Stewart in the role of the poo emoji, no less).

The trend seems to be less a war on words than an organic adaptation of our mobile, quick-scroll society.

Some 92% of all internet users report integrating emoji into everyday communication. When it comes to integrating emoji in marketing, however, the stakes are significantly higher.

Major hospitality brands are leveraging tiny airplanes, palms and other colorful images to help their tweets pop and subject lines entice. Some industry players have taken it to the extreme. Aloft designed an emoji-only room service menu. The Priceline Group’s KAYAK brand recently introduced emoji-based search. These examples, however, are more notable for their novelty than their utility.

Numerous studies have shown the strategic use of emoji to increase engagement and open rates with push notifications. Exactly how much of a boost is a bit unclear. Some studies show a bump of around 5%, others note spikes of 95% or more.

Maybe don’t take any one stat as gospel, but rather use the collection as a guidepost. The pattern seems to be that the integration of emoji holds true marketing potential.

Think it’s time to work emoji into your hotel messaging strategy? Here are six things to consider:

1. Keep an open mind

Emoji in marketing is a relatively new phenomenon. There may be pushback from senior team members or brand managers. As with any other fresh tactic, the goal is to stand out. It’s OK to try new things.

2. Don’t force it

An emoji itself is literally a lesson in “less is more.”

Keep it simple; a smile, an island, clapping hands. One of the best performing emoji for boosting email open rate is a simple heart.

Some 58% of respondents to a recent survey said they felt brands are trying too hard when using emoji in advertising or corporate communications.

Don’t overload your messages. There's no shortage of bloated brand fails to learn from.

3. Stay on brand

The basic tenants of marketing still apply. Clear and concise communication is the goal.

Emoji can be a fun, light way to connect with travelers, but be sure to stay clear and relevant.

Fortunately, there are a wealth of common travel-related emoji to experiment with, from snowflakes and sunshine, to planes, trains and automobiles.

4. Don’t assume all users see the same thing

Emoji render differently across devices and platforms. Something as straightforward as a grinning face looks different on Twitter than it does on Facebook, and different yet again on an Android platform verses Apple's iOS.

In fact, here's how different the hotel emoji can render.

To avoid being misinterpreted, consider sticking with standard, mainstream emoji.

5. Be really, really sure you understand what your emoji represent

While, indeed, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, things can be ambiguous in the emoji realm.

While the majority of travel-related emoji are pretty safe, there’s a great many fruit, vegetable and hand gesture emoji that hold suggestive meaning in pop culture well beyond their original intended use.

Do your research, and avoid the use of emoji that may be misinterpreted, or worse, offend.

6. Testing … one, two, three

Keep perspective. Don’t expect an image to double your open rate on its own. Engagement is influenced by a huge range of factors including the timing, frequency, and relevance.

Start slow. Sprinkle relevant emoji into tweets.

Use A/B testing with email subject lines to see which emoji – if any – boost open rates. Most mainstream email marketing platforms make this simple to do. Test and retest.

Note, at least one recent study cautions that consumers may now be showing signs of emoji fatigue. The key to success is to find what resonates with your particular audience. As always, marketing teams should lean on their trusted digital marketing partner to help guide them through their campaigns.

More on emoji and marketing:

Tom Dibble

Published 25 July, 2017 by Tom Dibble

Tom Dibble is the founder & CEO of Screen Pilot and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (1)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Mainstream brands using emoji in marketing seem mostly examples of the novelty effect. People pay attention to new things, at least the first time.

But great care is needed when testing such gimmicks, because testing is great at detecting *consistent* increases - e.g. you introduce free shipping and it has a long term impact - but it is bad at detecting temporary changes.

Just because testing shows a gimmick works once, that doesn't mean it will work next time. And just because retesting shows it has stopped working, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try it again after a long enough break.

Here's a recent example where the impact of novelty was even greater. Paddy Power's controversial shark race has just gained them a lot of attention. But can you imagine if they repeated the exact same thing next week - instant scorn. When using gimmicks to attract attention, just like a shark [allegedly], you have to keep moving or die.

11 months ago

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