Can emojis work as part of your marketing strategy?

The ubiquitous icons have become part of the digital vocabulary, so why not integrate them into at least some of your online messaging? Here are seven ways to employ them.

Emojis—you see them everywhere.

Every social network supports them, as do messaging apps. It’s no longer just about happy, sad, angry, (insert expression) faces either. In June, the Unicode Consortium accepted 72 new emojis, including an avocado and clinking glasses.

What’s more, did you know you can use them for marketing?

There are several good reasons to use emojis in marketing, particularly if your goal is to curry favor with millennials.

Here are three to consider:

1. Emojis are hugely popular.

Ninety-two percent of the population uses them in emails and social media, according to a report from Emogi, a mobile-messaging platform. That same report said 4.8 trillion mobile messages would be sent this year using emojis.

A survey conducted by Signal, a marketing technology company, as reported by DigitalTrends.com, examined the “rise and rise” of emoji marketing and found that the number of active campaigns using emojis increased by 557 percent over 12 months.

2. Emojis are here to stay.

Pokemon Go may be a fad (and, if you recall, businesses tapped into its use for marketing purposes) but emojis aren’t going anywhere—they have integrated themselves too tightly into digital culture, especially among teens and young adults.

JUST ANNOUNCED: The 2017 Social Media Conference for PR, Marketing and Corporate Communicators at Disney World.

3. Major brands have incorporated emoji use in marketing.

When brands such as Domino’s use emoji to let customers order pizza through Twitter, Pepsi issues its own emojis to connect with a younger audience, Bud Light sends tweets consisting entirely of emojis, and Taco Bell launches a social media marketing campaign to celebrate the release of its taco emoji, you know something is up.

All these examples come from big food and beverage brands, but depending on the product or service you sell, perhaps emojis are worth factoring into a marketing campaign, even if you don’t target millennials.

Here are seven ways to take advantage of emojis:

  1. Make tweets more concise. A limit of140 characters can be stifling in getting your message across. Emojis can help your message be more concise, giving you breathing room, as in this example from General Electricor this from White Castle.
  2. Target millennials. Though you don’t want to be patronizing, incorporate emojis into your messaging to Gen Y via social network posts, email messages, instant messaging and even press releases.
  3. Express emotion. Emojis, also called emoticons, were developed to convey emotion. Given that marketing involves creating messages that stimulate an emotional response, it seems natural to use emojis. They can help forge a personal bond between you and the customer.
  4. Show off your brand’s personality. If your brand comes across as stuffy, employ emojis to inject fun into your messaging.
  5. Use emojis with Instagram and Facebook. Emojis are now embedded into Instagram, so their use is as natural as a hashtag. While we’re at it, let’s throw Facebook into the mix: Use emojis in posts, such as this one from Zappos.
  6. Make practical use of emojis. Cheapflights developed a way for customers to book flights online using emojis. That’s not far afield from what Domino’s did with ordering pizza. Both were fun and practical uses of emojis. Could your brand do the same?
  7. Create contests using emojis. For instance, ask people to suggest a branded emoji, guess the meaning of an obscure or esoteric emoji, or decode a message consisting solely of emojis, similar to what Chevrolet did with its press releaseannouncing the Cruze. Brainstorm some creative, funky ideas.

Though I encourage emoji use, there are some things to consider:

  • Make sure it’s right for your audience: Not every audience is ideal for emojis, so be certain you’re targeting the right demographics.
  • Explore the full range of emotion: Though we want all our messaging to be upbeat, don’t be afraid to use “negative” emoticons when appropriate. Humans aren’t happy all the time, after all. Craft your messaging to address a range of feelings—sadness, anger, concern, pride, patriotism and so forth. It’s a way to humanize your brand.
  • Be aware of emoji fatigue: Even though emojis are extremely popular, their overuse can become tedious. A little emoji marketing can go a long way, so use it judiciously.

Emojis in marketing might not be right for every brand, but you never know whether it’s a good fit for yours unless you try. Conduct a pilot campaign with a small audience segment that you feel would be receptive, and check the response. You could be surprised at what you discover.

Paul Chaney is a staff writer for Small Business Trends, covering industry news, services and trends affecting small businesses. A version of this article originally appeared on SmartBrief.

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