What's Emoji Got To Do With It?

“What’s love got to do, got to do with it

“What’s love but a second-hand emotion”

Tina Turner – “What’s Love Got To Do With It”

The more time I spend with my nieces and nephews who are in their tweens and teens, the more I learn about how that generation communicates across devices and via the panoply of emojis. As I look at their texts, Instagram feeds and mobile device screens, I feel like I need to take a class in decoding short codes and hieroglyphics. 

Emojis are not new; in fact, they have been around since 1999, when Japanese mobile carrier DoCoMo introduced them, long before my nieces and nephews were born! Since then, emojis have gained rapid adoption around the world and have become standard characters on our mobile device keyboards. Recently, Apple introduced a new batch of emojis via their iOS 9.1 release, ranging from an emoji for a Vulcan sign to a highly controversial hot dog emoji. Emojis have entered the mainstream and are not just for kids anymore. Brands are using them as a fun way to drive brand engagement and, in some cases, even commerce. 

Earlier this month, fast feeder Taco Bell celebrated the launch of the new taco emoji by creating 600 pieces of unique content. When people tweet a picture of a taco emoji with another emoji to @tacobell, they will automatically be sent back a photo or GIF mash-up of the two images. Does this sell tacos? Maybe, but it’s certainly a smart way for a brand, with a big, young adult consumer segment, to drive fun engagement and keep their brand top of mind. 

Domino’s has also gotten into the emoji game. They are tapping into emojis with the release of the pizza emoji. Domino’s customers who have registered a “Pizza Profile” in the text-based Anyware ordering system can place an emoji-based order. According to Domino’s, customers who use the pizza emoji to submit their orders, order four times more often then standard texting orders. 

Taco Bell and Domino’s are not alone. PC maker Dell has used emojis for various marketing efforts, including their recent back-to-school campaign. Apparel giant Nike created a football sticker pack for Facebook Messenger and for their branded app late last year and again earlier this year. 

These are just a few of the early adopter brands. As fast-follower brands learn about others’ successful use of emojis, more brands are sure to follow. And why not, emojis are a great way to drive evergreen brand engagement across millions of mobile devices. For brands that learned from the world of social gaming, synthetic currency and social credibility, releasing limited-edition or seasonal emojis may be just the ticket to create a great ongoing dialog that consumers will seek out and compete for.

All of which means, I need to spend more time with my nieces and nephews to understand a fast-evolving world of hieroglyphic communication. :-/

Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Nov. 12, 2015, in Marketing:Entertainment.

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