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Marketers embrace emojis for more emotional mobile connections with millennials

The images known as emojis, which have quickly gained ubiquity amongst millennial mobile users, present an interesting and growing opportunity for marketers seeking to engage a demographic with light attention spans.

Smartphone users embrace emojis in an attempt to translate real-world facial expressions into the e-experience and reflect emotions that can get lost in text messages. Increasingly, marketers, too, are placing in emojis in their mobile marketing in order to make the most of the limited space here.

?Emojis have captured marketers? attention because they have a unique ability to connect brands and their customers on a more intimate level,? said Kane Russell, vice president of marketing at Waterfall, San Francisco.

?For those companies that want to generate an emotional response from their customers, emojis pose a viable option.?

Dating back to hieroglyphics
Emojis have been around a lot longer than social or text messaging services - in fact, the words you are reading right now are made up of characters that evolved from what we would now call emojis. The letter ?A,? for example, evolved from a pictogram of an ox.

But, where members of early societies needed to convey messages of necessity, such as ?My ox has died,? modern emojis are frequently used to convey emotion, which is why both marketers and teens love them.

The rise of emojis is just one aspect of a larger phenomenon: the use of images within casual conversation.

"Up until very recently images were meant to convey a more formal message: a piece of art, a historical record, a warning sign, or as advertising," said Bryan Maleszyk, strategy director at Isobar, New York. "Conversationally, we were still stuck with words. The ubiquity of smartphones has changed that."

Now emojis, along with photo messaging apps such as Snapchat and the #selfie phenomenon are used to form conversations because they convey emotional messaging better than words can.

?Emojis ultimately provide brands a new opportunity to bring existing and new fans and customers closer to the content they love,? said Evan Wray, co-founder of mobile branded content company, TextPride, New York. ?Essentially, emojis and stickers are free brand advertisements to highly targeted and engaged users.?

And while marketers love emojis because they convey emotion, the challenge with using them in advertising is that as much as marketers want to think it, advertising is often not conversational.

Implementing emojis in a campaign
There are a few tips marketers can follow if they want to work emojis into a campaign.

"The first is, keep it simple," said Isobar's Mr. Maleszyk.

For example, PETA built its ?Beyond Words? campaign around the red heart emoticon. Supporters of animal rights could text the image to a short code to show backing for activism.

To promote its app which allows users to download movies onto their phones, Life Cinemas described famous flicks in one line of emojis such as:


 ?Life of Pi?

?Finding Nemo?

  ?Harry Potter"

 Another tip is take it out of context.

While it was not meant to be marketing, Beyonce?s ?Drunk in Love? emoji video takes emojis and puts it to music.

Drunk in love

While Emoji Dick, a pictorial rendering of Melville?s famed ?Moby Dick? takes emoji long-form.

Both examples show how taking emojis outside the casual conversation over text messages can create interest.

Mr. Maleszyk also asserted that if no emoji exists, create one.

Nabisco?s Oreo brand targeted mainland Chinese parents this spring with a mobile social campaign which allowed Moms and Dads to take photos of themselves and their children offline and paste their heads into emojis. Over 99 million emojis were generated within 11 weeks (see story).

?If you believe your brand should be in the common lexicon of emojis like Oscar Mayer, lobbying for inclusion into the emoji standard is a good way to go,? Waterfall?s Mr. Russell said. ?Even if you?re not successful, it may create a good brand story.

?To effectively use emojis, consider them one piece of a customer relationship management strategy. Implement them in a campaign that wants to drive an emotional impact, A/B test different variations, track the success of various alternatives and iterate with each new campaign,? he said.

?Mobile marketing has to be a long-term strategy geared toward long-term customer lifetime value.?

Emojis versus text
For certain demographics, and age groups specifically, text is becoming a bit passé.

Emojis quickly and efficiently express people's feelings and emotions. They have the ability to convey more meaning than just plain text, and for that reason can save consumers time. Above all, their graphical nature humanizes communication, allowing people to express what they might via facial expressions if they were face-to-face.

However, in many cases, there?s no need to use emojis while communicating with another person.

?Emotions can muddle a message or make an exchange of information that does not need emotional undertones more inefficient,? Mr. Russell said.

?Emojis are a piece of text-based communication used to enhance exchanges that have an emotional context. They do not have the ability to surpass text-based communication altogether.?

So while emoji will not make text extinct all together, it cannot be undervalued in its potential to aid the creation of meaningful and relational advertising content

?Our favorite brands are everywhere today, from the clothes we wear to what we watch on TV, however, brands are often absent from the number one way people communicate today ? mobile messaging,? TextPride?s Mr. Wray said.

?A traditionally difficult channel for brands to monetize, branded emojis and stickers offer brands a new engagement and revenue opportunity over the rapidly growing and popular mobile messaging experience.?

 Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York