Fast-forward 17 years and it’s now thought that 6bn emojis are sent every day via mobile messaging apps. But they aren’t just being used by Generation Z – Baby Boomers are getting in on the act, too.

Four in five 18-65 year olds are said to use them on a regular basis and 72% of 18-25 year olds find it easier to express emotion through emojis rather than through the written word. 

With a whole new visual world seemingly at more than one generation’s fingertips, what does this mean for brands?

Connecting with your audience

Latching onto this new digital language is more than useful for brands who want to engage with an online audience. The simplistic style of messaging helps companies speak to their audience on their own terms – whether via social, email or content.

A study from Socialbakers analysed the top 500 brands and found that 59% of them included emojis in their tweets, while 40% also featured them in Facebook posts.

It’s reported that including an emoji in a tweet can increase engagement by 25.4%, while using them in a Facebook post can increase Likes by 57% and comments and shares by 33%. Not bad for a simple cartoon.

But how should brands use them? There’s plenty to think about.

Things to do

  • Know an emoji’s meaning – it’s an easy way to make a digital blunder. Just one misuse of the aubergine can open an unwanted can of worms.
  • Make use of the emojis already widely available on the emoji keyboard – they don’t always have to be bespoke to your brand.
  • Only use emojis when appropriate – examine the context of your emoji use before pressing send. If it’s regarding a serious topic, it may be best to stick to traditional methods before plunging down the emoji route.
  • Keep it relevant to your audience – look at your demographics and figure out whether you think emojis will allow you to connect with your audience. Make sure you roll out A/B testing too, to make sure emojis will work for you.

Things not to do

  • Don’t go overboard – yes it is a popular method of communicating with audiences, particularly younger generations, but an overuse can seem patronising and cause emoji fatigue.
  • Take care when creating custom-made emojis – while they may be more tailored to your brand, they may miss the mark with your audience. You need to create emojis that can be used on a regular basis. 

So which brands are brandishing emojis successfully?

WWF: #EndangeredEmoji

The wildlife organisation created an #EndangeredEmoji campaign on Twitter in a bid to raise awareness and help save animals from extinction.

To reach a younger audience, WWF felt it needed to take a light-hearted approach – and using emojis was the way in. WWF finds that social media campaigns can be up to 60% more effective than traditional advertising campaigns – so what better way to reach its audience?

17 emojis from the emoji alphabet were used for the campaign after WWF found that they suitably represented endangered species, with users encouraged to donate 10p every time they retweeted one.

The clever campaign sought to test the waters with social fundraising – to much success, may I add. This particular campaign triggered more than 500,000 social mentions and 59,000 signups.

Pepsi: #PepsiMoji

The famous drinks brand launched an international campaign this year to support its new packaging – #PepsiMoji. Pepsi’s idea was to use 600+ bespoke emojis on more than 1bn of its bottles and cans so that consumers could share a message.

Cleverly, the concept works on the fact that emojis are a universal language that can be shared and used all around the world.

Pepsi has leveraged every channel it could think of as multiple springboards for the campaign – partnering with Moschino fashion legend Jeremy Scott to design accompanying emoji-inspired sunglasses, working with top-end photographers for a series of real-life imagery and creating five-second TV ads and longer films for digital viewing.  

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The mega movie franchise partnered with Twitter for the much anticipated release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, creating special Star Wars-themed emojis that appeared when people used hashtags related to the film.

Thanks to its mammoth fan base, the campaign happily lapped up 17,000 tweets per minute at its peak.

But it didn’t end there. To mark the release of the film on DVD and Blu-ray, Disney reshot Star Wars: The Force Awakens using emojis to tell its story, netting more than 2.5m YouTube views.

Corona Extra: #RaiseSummer

This summer, Corona introduced the #RaiseSummer campaign using – you guessed it – emojis.

Targeting over 21s on Twitter who use iconic summer emojis such as the smiley sunglasses face or beer mugs, @coronaextrausa tracked these and responded to the user automatically with a unique, customised GIF featuring emojis and a bespoke Corona Extra bottle emoji.

The brand was quick to make the most of Twitter’s newly unveiled emoji targeting platform and enhanced the campaign with paid media, too.

Key takeaway

All this tells us is one thing – it’s important for brands to consider changing the ways in which they talk to their target audience and embrace this new form of communication, rather than persisting with run-of-the-mill methods. 

However, be careful not to take your emoji use too far – there’s a time and a place.