Emojis: Marketing That Goes Beyond the Message


Marketing is built around communications and in an ever increasingly digital world; more and more of these communications are transmitted through text. A major flaw of text based communication is that the tone is often difficult to make clear. We’ve all sent that SMS or email that’s been misunderstood. This is where emojis come in; they’re a form of digital body language.

Emojis inject a feeling and mood into a message. They can lessen the blow of a negative communication and breathe warmth into a message of thanks. They’re used and understood in all cultures and countries, forming the closest thing we have to a global language.

These Little Pictures Are Everywhere – Where Did They Actually Come From?

Of course, like so many digital trends – the emoji has evolved and been adapted over many years. The first ever traditional text based smiley face or emoticon was first used in 1982. See the image below for the first ever example of a text based smiley face used online. It was after this that the humble smiley face took off with the growth of newsgroups and the introduction of the World Wide Web in the 90s.


The recognisable pictograph based emoji today came into the world in 1999 when it was introduced by Japanese mobile telecoms giant NTT DoCoMo. The word emoji comes from the Japanese words of e (picture) and moji (character).

Why Use Emojis in Marketing Communications?

Language is always evolving and emojis (whilst not technically words, for the pedants out there) are coming into wider usage day by day. You may be left wondering how a tiny cartoon drawing of a smiling monkey with its hands over its eyes relates to marketing – so read on for reasons why you should be integrating emojis in your marketing communications:

  • Smartphones -The explosive rise of emojis has been fuelled by smartphones, the vast majority of which have apps stores with a whole host of different applications that utilise emojis. Recent data suggests that nearly 2 billion people have a place in their pocket for a smartphone and forecasts predict up to 6 billion users by 2020. With such a fantastic reach, it makes sense to speak to smartphone users in the language that they know best.
  • Social Media – Anyone that uses social media knows how ubiquitous emojis are on their favourite platform but they might still be astounded by this statistic: in mid-2015 the Instagram data analytics department released data that showed that 50% of all messages posted on the platform used at least one emoji.
  • Internal Communications – For many people, emojis are considered informal communications that should only see the light of day when used in light hearted messages. However, research by the University of St Louis – Missouri actually discovered in a study that those using emojis benefitted from their emotional expression, whilst not being negatively affected by their widely perceived credibility issues. Though this does have its limits, we wouldn’t recommend putting them on your CV quite yet.

Some Innovative Examples of Emoji Usage

We’ve seen some great usage of emojis in marketing communications this year, some of our favourites include:

  • Chevrolet’s Emoji Only Press Release – In June, American car manufacturer Chevrolet were celebrating the launch of a new model but they didn’t sent out a press release that merely incorporated an emoji, they sent out a release that only consisted of emojis. See it here.

  • #EndangeredEmoji – In May, the international charity WWF released a new campaign that set out to create a link between animals depicted in emojis and an endangered animal. We really liked this as it created a deep and lasting psychological connection between the two.
  • Emoji Air – In June, Airline Norwegian Air Shuttle wanted to create a domain name that really stood out to spread the word of its new route from Copenhagen to Las Vegas. The end result was a domain name made up from emojis that spread like wildfire across social media.

Emojis to the Future

Emojis and the wider use of visuals within text is a trend that is set to continue, it’s an accepted form of internet culture and one that is becoming increasingly ingrained within modern life. From the questionable use of an emoji in a newspaper headline to Oxford Dictionary declaring that the face with tears of joy is their official word of the year for 2015 – it’s clear that the emoji is here to stay.