How To Build An Emoji Informed Marketing Strategy

How To Build An Emoji Informed Marketing Strategy

The desire to incorporate your brand into the emoji language is easy to understand – the quick adoption rate of emoji’s have made them UKs fastest growing language in history and successful brand integration like in the case of the Deadpool movie are hard to ignore.

But emoji marketing, or – the use of emoji’s by brands has proven unsuccessful for many.

Trying to capitalize on a trend without understanding it or it’s implications is generally not a good idea…

So before you rewrite your company’s unique selling points in emojis and start distributing it to prospective clients, let’s talk about the psychology of emojis and develop an emoji informed marketing plan that would work for your business:

Topics covered in this post:

  1. Brief emoji history 
  2. What is emoji informed marketing?
  3. Why you shouldn’t start using emojis without a plan

Brief emoji history

Emoji’s, or their former incarnations – emoticons and relational icons, have been a part of computer mediated communication since the early 80’s.

Thanks to the fast adoption of email messaging in the 90s and of social networks in the 2000s emoji’s have become a fixture in online conversations.

Their importance stems from the fact that they compensate for the lack of non-verbal cues in online communication.

They humanize online conversations, making them less formal, more emotion-based rather than information-based, providing us the tools to express ourselves and interpret others’ online messages in ways that more closely resemble face-to-face interactions.

What is emoji informed marketing?

Emoji informed marketing is: understanding what emojis mean and how you can use them to improve your marketing efforts.

Creating your own branded emoji or using the hundreds of available ones simply because you see that everyone else in your space is doing it is not a strategy, it’s more like a recipe for failure actually.

Before you delve into the world of emoji, really think about it, about why you’re doing it, where you want to do it, how you’ll do it and who you’re trying to reach with it and make sure the way you’re going about it is right for your brand.

My point is – just because you can use emojis in the content you create, doesn’t mean you should [more on this in the next section].

Putting it another way – you should allow the emoji phenomenon to inform your marketing strategy, but not dictate it.

Why you shouldn’t start using emojis without a plan

There are 2 main reasons to stay away from emojis in your marketing until you formed a proper plan of how to utilize them:

1. Alienating your audience

As mentioned, emojis fill a void that exists in online communication. They imitate the way we express feelings and emotions in real-life and because of that, make for richer, more meaningful online conversations.

But there is a distinction – In a face to face conversation with someone, we generally can’t control many of our non-verbal expressions (we burst into laughter when we hear a funny joke, we pace or play with our hair when we’re nervous, our intonation changes when our mood does and more).

However, with emojis, we’re in complete control of the emotions we project. We are also aware, to some degree at least, that those we communicate with online also explicitly chose the emojis they used in order to make a specific point.

This awareness can be especially detrimental to brands who use emojis – a brand is not human. You can try to humanize it via emojis, but be careful because just like Microsoft’s AI teenager backfired spectacularly a month ago, the sincerity of the emotions you convey through emojis will immediately come into question.

2. Causing confusion and misunderstandings

Another problematic aspect of emojis is that, similar to the case of real-life non-verbal ques – we don’t all agree on their meaning. The same emoji can mean different things to different people.

For instance – let’s say you have a Facebook fan page dedicated to your cooking workshops. You decide to share a wonderful recipe and, for some reason, thought it would be a great idea to use emojis to depict the different food supplies needed for it. An eggplant might be one of those items, but to some people the eggplant emoji might have another meaning completely…

To sum up – you need to do your research before posting emojis, knowing your own intention is not enough, how your messaged is perceived is much more important, especially when you’re emoji-ing for a brand.

How to build an emoji informed marketing strategy

1. Observe

While you can dabble in using emojis yourself in you social posts, emails, push notifications and app language, the first and most important thing you should do in relation to emojis is observe how your customers and followers use them. This is how you develop all future emoji informed marketing tactics.

Understand how your audience perceives itself

Monitor your audience’s emoji-use by manually tracking their behavior in groups and twitter / fan page conversations or using the various social listening tools available, you will have a better grasp of how people choose to express themselves.

Understand how your audience perceives you

The specific emojis your audience uses and the frequency with which they use it in response to content you produce will help you gain insight into how they perceive your brand.

2. Be proactive 

Optimize your content

By constantly tracking the emoji aspect of your audience’s conversations, you will have a better idea of how your audience sees themselves and what triggers emotional responses from them, giving you valuable information with which to tailor your marketing messages and content to their liking, increasing the chances that the content will make a lasting impression on them.

*Read my post: This Is How Facebook Reactions Can Improve Your Marketing, for more on this.

Form an emotional connection with your audience

One of the most valuable side-effects of the rise of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is that communication between brands and their customers has become a two-way street.

Companies can form actual relationships with their customers by talking to them rather than at them via social. These relationships breed loyalty.

Successful brand community creation has a lot to do with the informality of the communication on social channels [and by ‘a lot’, I mean – it’s the main reason for it].

Adoption of emoji language by brands further humanizes them in the eyes of consumers. It gives personality and instantly reduces the formality of the content, making emojis the perfect tool for brand-consumer relationship building.

Once you understand how you audience uses emojis, which emojis they use and in what context, you can start sprinkling them into conversations yourself to further strengthen your bond with them.

3. Repeat steps 1 & 2

Everything you do, not just when it comes to emoji informed marketing, should be viewed as a test – you improve by constantly testing new things, analyzing the results, learning and improving over time.


Further reading: The Impacts of Emoticons on Message Interpretation in Computer–Mediated Communication by Joseph B. Walther and Kyle P. D’Addario

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