Science based marketing: Should you use emojis as a part of your marketing strategy?🧐

So, you’re just about to post that Tweet/Facebook/Instagram post but as you’re reading through the caption you notice it is missing something. What could you include in your captions that makes potential viewers want to engage even more with the post? Emojis might be the thing you’re looking for!

Since the first emoticon ‘:-)’ (emotional icon) in 1982, users have been adding, and developing new, symbols and emojis to describe their emotions in the digital space. In fact, Facebook reported in 2018 that 900 million emojis, without text, were used in the Messenger app every day. Yet, the 3521 current emojis available so far in 2021 is not enough with users petitioning for and requesting new emojis.

Many brands are indeed using emojis in their communications today. The current evidence support the several benefits to adding emojis:

Yet, many marketers are still, and should be, asking the question ‘to add emojis or not add emojis?‘. So, why not look at the science behind the use of emojis in order to decide?

The science behind why people use emojis💡

Language is ambiguous, meaning not all written text means the same. Sarcasm, irony, and similar meanings might be misunderstood by the reader on the receiving end. Emojis is a way to emphasise meanings behind a written text. Take the example: “I would hate for that to happen.” and “I would hate for that to happen😏”. Without the emoji, the first example can be read as the sender really don’t want something to happen. In the second, the side smirk emoji hints to sarcasm and that the sender want something to happen.

Not only are emojis used to fill in context of text based messages, science also show that our brains react to emojis the same way we do to images of people’s faces. In addition, studies has shown that the usage of emojis can increase emotional connectivity between users, and therefore the social intimacy.

Finally, emojis are images. Pair this with the results that say humans can process images by as short as 13 milliseconds, and you’ve got another element in your message to satisfy our shortening attention span.

The science behind emojis and our usage of them therefore support that utilizing emojis as a part of a marketing strategy might increase connection between brands and their audiences.

Generational, cultural and personal

I’m sure many of you are aware of the recent discussion going on about the laughing crying emoji versus the skull emoji. Well, the science backs up why Gen Z are using emojis differently than the other generations. When it comes to older generations, which includes older millennials (30+), they have a harder time understanding the functions behind emojis, and are more inclined to interpret them literally. Gen Z are also using emojis in a more nuanced and ironic tone than other generations – ‘No❤️️’ might be one of the best examples.

Not only are generational differences important to consider, but cultural differences also determine how emojis are interpreted as well. Different emojis can have very different meanings in different countries. While in the West one might use the waving hand emoji “👋” to say hello at the start of a conversation, the very same emoji is used to signal someone no being friends in China. Similarly, the ok hand sign “👌” is a positive one in some parts of Europe and North America, yet insulting in other parts of Europe, South America, and the Middle East. Another group that might read this emoji differently are those who know American Sign Language as it means the number 9. In the worst cases, this symbol has also been linked to white supremacy – further pushing the importance of knowing when to post emojis and in which context so not to accidentally convey something one does not intend to.

Brands using emojis in their marketing

Emojis are used in countless different brand categories. Ariana Grande, for example, has been using the white heart emoji in almost all of her tweets, making it a part of her current branding.

WWF incorporated emojis into their marketing by letting people donate by tweeting different emojis of 17 endangered animals.

McDonald’s shows how effective emojis are at conveying emotions and meanings with their simple emoji advert.

Another example of using emojis in branding is the usage of the pink flower emoji and black heart emoji in their launching of MAC Black Cherry collection.

The emoji usage in the marketing of the movie Deadpool is one where the importance of knowing your audience and how they will interpret emojis is highlighted as many read the poster as “SkullPoopL” instead of “Dead-poo-L”. Luckily, considering the type of humour the movie uses, it became a popular hilarious moment that even Ryan Reynolds joined in on.

So, should you use emojis as a part of your marketing strategy?

Like anything within marketing: it depends. Based on the topics I’ve discussed in this post these are the questions you should ask yourself before adding those emojis to your marketing strategy:

  • What is your brand personality and tone of voice? Emojis are a way of conveying emotions and connecting with others, but it’s also seen as informal and playful. If your brand heavily values professionalism, seriousness, and/or elegance, adding emojis will probably hurt that branding and lead your customers and leads to trust you less in handing professional and serious issues. However,
  • How does your target audience use and feel about emojis? As discussed, there are several factors that impact someone’s interpretation of different emojis. How Europeans interpret one emoji can be completely different from those living in Asia. Generational differences is included in this section as baby boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z all use emojis differently. While millennials might find it funny when a brand uses the crying laughing emoji ‘😂’, Gen Z has made it clear it prefers the skull emoji ‘💀’ for the same emotion. Baby boomers on the other hand might prefer plain text.
  • Are emojis appropriate for the topic being discussed? Emojis receive the best feedback when it is being used with a positive sentiment. In serious or sad topics, most people will probably find it unprofessional and inappropriate to include emojis. An example in this case could be a non-profit organisation using emojis connected to a tragic case of human rights. Many will probably see this as highly inappropriate and insensitive. However, emojis might be well received to good news and wins from a non-profit organisation.
  • What does the emoji add? Emojis should be thought of as any other visual element within marketing. If you have decided that Emojis fit your brand and marketing strategy you should still consider which emojis you use and if it adds to the message you want to give out. You should research which emojis are trending at the moment and around your topic, and how the different emojis are perceived within your target audience, and then pick accordingly. Finally, if you are using emojis, be aware of how many you use in a piece. Too many emojis, no matter how much your target audience enjoys them and how it fits your brand, can be distracting and annoying.

So, the science does back up incorporating emojis into your strategy, but it does mean being aware of how you use them. Let me know if you are using emojis in your content marketing and how it’s working for you!

Save this article for the next time you’re thinking about adding emojis to your content, or find this article on my Pinterest so you can save it there!

Published by Elise Olsen

Media and research devotee turned marketing enthusiast! I strive to give small business owners and bloggers all the research-based content needed to optimise your online marketing and social media strategy for growth!

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