Targetting Millennials? Consider Emoji

Targetting Millennials? Consider Emoji

The popularity and use of emoji among millennials has caught the attention of marketers. But what separates a good campaign from a bad one? What is the best way to go about it? And what are emoji really saying?

Telling a story where language fails

How and when we use emoji tells a story about who we are. Linguists have found that emoji function as visual language which lets us communicate ideas in a more distinct and real way than we can with words. They also help us communicate more clearly by representing emotions and feeling. New research shows that emoji are culturally specific and when we use them we are contributing to a larger narrative about how see ourselves, the world and our place within it.

Language vs. representation

Recently two styles of emoji campaigns have emerged. The first uses emoji as language by inserting them into a statement while the second uses emoji to represent a facet or identity of a product. Those that use emoji as language, like the White House infographic about Millennials and the economy, Chevrolet’s all emoji press-release and the We Got You anti-drug campaign, tend to flop with the public because they use emoji too literally. While these campaigns used emoji in a unique way they alienated the audience by making the message too confusing and dense to read, or seeming to dumb it down.

Marketing campaigns that use emoji as representation are more successful because they play on an existing relationship between consumers and emoji. The World Wildlife Foundation’s #EndangeredEmoji campaign, for instance, captivated its audience and motivated support because it built on the popularity of cute animal emoji by giving them real significance as animals on the verge of extinction.

Uniting personal with brand identity

People get excited about new emoji because they represent a part of who we are. Taco Bell got over 30,000 people to sign a petition for a taco emoji because people love tacos. The new Star Wars emoji, FX’s emoji app for the shows Archer and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and #PepsiMoji catch on because they build on a consumer interest that is tied to personal identity. People download the emoji, they snap a picture and the marketing campaign works its way through their social feeds.

What is your favourite emoji and what story does it tell about you? Share in the comments below.

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