Marketers Rejoice! Emoji Marketing is Here

Digital Marketing


Last month, legions of iPhone users rejoiced in the ability to download Apple’s iOS 8.3 and obtain access to a whole new set of emojis. I mean, who doesn’t want more emojis on their phone?!

In Japanese, emoji literally means picture letter. For the small amount of people out there who don’t know, an emoji is a tiny digital image that reflects an idea, object, or emotion to the viewer. But why all the excitement (read: obsession) over these little pictures? Ok, first the obvious, they’re fun. They make the person you are texting smile and they can often convey emotions where words just won’t do!

Consumers are intrigued by the design and variations of different emojis, and developers keep consumers on their toes, always wondering “What will they come up with next?” Emojis also reflect the times, such as those showcasing diversity and individuality, while others keep up with trends, such as those representing brand new technologies like the Apple Watch. Other emojis play into the growing number of super fan groups, such as those showing the likes of Star Trek or even Taylor Swift. In essence, there’s something for everyone. The evolution and prominence of emojis demonstrates just how much these little icons matter to consumers and how integrated they’ve become in our digital psyche.

Ask any millennial or Gen-Xer and they probably have a favorite emoji, whether it’s the cat with heart eyes (my personal fav), the two beer glasses clinking together, or the good ole’ thumbs up. Emojis are a growing force in the cultural lexicon and are an important communication tool with the younger set.

So what does this have to do with marketing? Well, marketers are now beginning to take advantage and have fun with these silly, colorful icons. Best of all, marketers are getting increasingly creative with the way they use them. It’s no longer enough to just include a smiley face after your tweet—you have to build a campaign with emojis at the center. Let’s dig into this craze more.

Being Emotional

It’s important to remember why people started using emojis in the first place. When we’re not communicating face to face, our language doesn’t always come across the way we intend. Finishing a message with a smiley face is a good way to make sure a piece of communication goes over in a positive light. A smiley face can be the difference between a request that appears brusque and one that’s sounds friendly. Emojis humanize messages by demonstrating the emotion behind them. They add a dynamic edge to digital interactions. Just think—in person there are hand gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions–but online, there are emojis.

Emoji Marketing

You can certainly use emojis to spread joy, but you can also use them to tell a story or paint a larger picture. Some brands are lucky enough to have intimate connections to certain emojis. Beer brands, for instance, frequently take advantage of numerous beer emojis for their marketing efforts. In fact, on July 4th of last year, Bud Light created a highly popular tweet that used very fitting emojis to construct an American flag. The post was retweeted more than 150,000 times.


General Electric recently used emojis to construct the Emoji Table of Experiments, from which kid-friendly experiments were designed. For instance, an experiment represented by the heart emoji involves blowing up a heart-shaped balloon using baking soda and vinegar. GE hit a home run with its emoji-filled approach to making science fun.


Branded Emojis

The emojis that come with the iPhone are definitely cool, but why stop there? More and more companies are bringing visibility to their brand by enabling customers to download sets of branded emojis. This allows your customers to engage with your brand on a whole new level. They are using your branding to communicate with one another and engage with your business at the same time. This is a powerful marketing strategy and a way to develop stronger bonds with customers. A number of platforms, like Swyft Media and Snaps, have emerged to streamline this process for brands.

Many brands have already done this. Burger King created its own Chicken Fries emoji keyboard as part of a wider promotion for this menu item. Also, Disney and Lucasfilm teamed up with Twitter to create Star Wars emojis to promote the upcoming film. To activate the emojis, Twitter users simply have to use a hashtag with the right keywords and a digital likeness of C3PO, a stormtrooper, or other Star Wars character will appear.

star wars emojis

Smart marketers are tuning into consumers’ fascination with emojis and are using this trend to their advantage. Consumers are intimately connected with their mobile devices. Emojis are a big part of their everyday conversations and how they express themselves via devices. As customer communication evolves, marketing evolves, too. At the same time, marketers have discovered how powerful these icons can be. In an online space that is frequently limited by word counts, emojis convey more information in less space and are visually engaging at the same time. Not only are they versatile, friendly, and fun, they’re also powerful tools to help marketers connect with their audiences.

Have you used emojis in your marketing efforts? Please share in the comments below!