Get ready for an emoji tidal wave. I'm not referring to the image of a tidal wave, but an onslaught of emoji-fueled campaigns. Brands are increasingly embracing emojis in an effort to keep up with young audiences who are fluent in communicating through digital images. A rising number of brands are incorporating emojis into their content, reports social media analytics firm SocialBakers. In Q4 2014, 28 percent of brand pages on Facebook used emojis in their posts. By Q4 2015, that percentage rose to 40 percent. On Twitter, 59 percent of brands tweeted out emojis in Q4 2015, up from 45 percent in Q4 2014.
Social media experts advise marketers to use emojis in simple messages that quickly get their point across. For example, New Relic, a software analytics firm, ran this ad on billboards:
For those who are emoji illiterate, the brown triangle with eyes is a pile of poop. The campaign works because it's clever and humorous. The ad distinguishes New Relic as a fun and subversive brand--two qualities that are not immediately associated with an analytics firm.
Even campaigns with a serious message can use emojis effectively. PETA incorporated emojis into a video called Cruelty Beyond Words. In the video, an emoji of a woman is shown dreaming of emoji purses, shoes, and other accessories that are replaced with the emojis of knives, syringes, and animals that the items are made of. Viewers are asked to text a heart emoji or the word "heart" to 73822 to learn how to help prevent animal cruelty. The video puts a fresh spin on the images of suffering animals with a call
to action tailored to digital-first audiences.
However, there's a thin line between being clever and overdoing it. Chevrolet, for instance, created a press release about the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze but you wouldn't know that, since the press release was written almost entirely in emojis. The automaker eventually released a decoded version of the statement but it's difficult to see how this campaign would attract young drivers. Millennials are more likely to roll their eyes at such an obvious attempt to pander to them.
Cramming emojis into an ad just because they're popular is an inauthentic way to communicate with consumers. And if there's anything that consumers hate, it's blatant advertising. As is true with any content, the best campaigns tell an engaging story, whether it's through words or emojis.