Branded Emojis Making Their Mark

Swyft Media has launched some eye-catching emoji and branded sticker campaigns for the likes of Ford, Universal Pictures, Dell, L’Oreal, Fox Studios, MillerCoors and 1-800-Flowers over the last year. But what could be more visually arresting than Pope Francis caroling with nuns, chuckling “ho ho ho” or sitting fireside and sipping from a mug in an ugly Christmas sweater?

These and more than a dozen other Christmas-themed Popemoji rolled out last week as add-ons to images created with Aleteia, a global Catholic media company, to coincide with the papal visit to the U.S. in September. The pack has been downloaded more than 118,000 times from the Apple and Google stores, resulting in more than one million images being sent by users to date and generating coverage in media including CNN, FOX Business and the “Today” show.

Similarly, Swyft’s recent BREAKFA-mojis campaign promoting Holiday Inn Express’ new breakfast menu generated more than 113,000 downloads and a million sends for the brand in its first 30 days. And an earlier campaign for the Ford Focus has generated 242,000 downloads and more than 2 million shares of branded content. 



Emojis, purportedly “the fastest growing language in history,” are used by 92% of the online population, according to the “2015 Emoji Report” by Emogi, a New York tech firm also in the space. Their use exploded after Apple added an emoji keyboard in 2011; just last May, the word officially made its way into to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Evan Wray founded Swyft Media in 2012 with his Notre Dame roommate, Sean O’Brien, after unsuccessfully looking for a Fighting Irish emoji to send to friends and realizing “there was an opportunity to attain licenses for branded content to create customized branded emoji that can be sent from one mobile phone to another.”

Indeed, there was. Over the next two years, as the partners built a network of more than 50 mobile messaging, dating and gaming apps, they started working directly with brands to develop customized content they could use as part of their broader digital and mobile campaigns. Woburn, Mass-based Monotype Imaging Holdings, Inc. — which claims the linotype machine and thousands of typefaces as part of its storied past  — acquired Swyft in January 2015 at a deal valued at $27 million, including performance incentives.

Wray cites two reasons for why emojis have become so popular, in particular with Millennials and younger generations:

  1. “The evolution of language. With the shift to digital text, people feel the need for more personalized expression. For example, if you are heading out to grab a few beers, why not send a friend an emoji of two Miller Lite bottles saying ‘cheers.’ It is a much more fun and powerful way to send a fun message. Also, sarcasm generally doesn’t work well within a text conversation, but an emoji with a skeptical expression on its face can do the trick.”
  2. “Everyone wants their own digital brand. They want to represent themselves by showing the things they love in visual communication. Just look at the outrage earlier this year when redheads were calling for their own emoji from the Unicode Consortium. They felt like they were slighted and had no way to visually represent themselves in a mobile messaging conversation.”

Wray and his colleagues quickly righted that wrong, giving a voice to the aggrieved with the Ginger Emoji keyboard.

I asked Wray if the next generation of emojis would be responding to queries or belting out tunes. Turns out, they’re already doing the latter.

Skype’s Mojis — short four-second clips of branded content from popular movies and television shows with full audio — have “really pushed the space forward,” he says. “They are natively integrated into the Skype platform and are optimized for use within mobile conversations. “

Wray also sees a lot of potential for branded emojis with smartwatches and other wearables, given their inherently small screens. And look for more GIFs in the near future.

“We think we’ll continue to see more animated content becoming a favorite of consumers and advertisers and brands,” Wray says.

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