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How Oreo is using emojis to drive mobile engagement

Oreo targeted mainland China this spring with a mobile social campaign giving parents a way to take photos of themselves and their children offline and paste their heads into emojis, with over 99 million emojis generated within 11 weeks.

According to a recent survey by mobiThinking, mobile and social messaging apps are not only competing against each other, but also challenging more traditional forms of communication such as calling, SMS and emailing. Services like WeChat, Line and Snapchat encompass the social messaging industry and are predicted to further disrupt mobile, social media and ecommerce markets this year. The Oreo Bonding Emoji campaign reported over 99 million emojis were generated within 11 weeks. 10 million were shared with family and friends on WeChat alone and an astonishing 1.9 billion impressions were made across leading social networks including Weibo and WeChat.

?Emojis are effective because they convey a universal emotion or feeling in a simple, concise manner,? said Kane Russell, vice president of marketing at Waterfall, San Francisco.

?Our society has shifted towards rapidly getting and ingesting information. Emojis fit that development well, and can help brands elicit personal connections with consumers in a much broader fashion than other social forms of media.?

?Marketing when done best is fun ? emojis create that environment. For social action specifically, the emoji character harnesses the concept of a picture being worth more than words,? he said.

Eliciting reaction
Emojis are an easy, simple way to elicit a customer reaction on a personal or emotional level.

As the saying goes, ?pictures are worth a thousand words.? Like a picture, an emoji puts meaning behind an image that carries a stronger personal connection than text. Additionally, emojis have no language barriers. Customers can interact with a brand without having to translate anything.

Child to parent company Mondelez, Oreo is targeting concerned parents in relation the lack of direct communication between themselves and their children due to China?s long working hours.

Attempting to milk the competition from a crowded marketplace, Oreo used the online-to-online concept many brands use to integrate their below-the-line marketing with an online component and took it one step further.

Oreo initiated the campaign with a branded account on WeChat, China?s most popular social media and mobile platform, which allows users to build mobile apps into the account, allowing for a seamless integrated UX.

Fusing families through tech
The app allowed parents to take photos of themselves and their children offline and paste their heads into emojis.

Users could choose from a selection of pictures including trending celebrities. Template and action choices offered animations and the content proved to be enormously shareable with younger and older generations.

To generate hype surrounding the campaign, Oreo bus shelters were placed in selected locations in key cities, and allowed users to project their emojis onto the bus shelter?s screen, remote-control their actions, and even print out personalized emoji stickers.

Utilizing new technology
Emojis offer users a way to express themselves and communicate with others, overall enhancing the digital experience.

Emojis have steadily become a language in their own right as individuals are communicating more often with more people and over more channels. Moreover, how they express themselves has transitioned as well.

The reliance on digital has ushered in a shift towards visual vocabulary and methods of expression have evolved to use smileys and emojis/stickers in order to represent how individuals are feeling. Now, mobile users can bring their favorite TV shows, artist or movie that relates to them into daily mobile communication.

Research firm Ovum expects the approximate 27.5 trillion messages ?transacted? on mobile messaging apps in 2013 to increase to 71.5 trillion by the end of 2014. The firms expects there to be more than 2 billion users worldwide with at least one messaging app on their smartphone by the end of this year.

And according to analytics firm Flurry, use of messaging and social apps grew by over 200 percent last year.

These signs point towards a break-through year for social messaging, as these apps move to offer more services like games, e-commerce and in-app social engagement.

History of engagement
Earlier this year, PETA designed a campaign to maintain interest, enthusiasm and participation among younger supporters through the use of realistic and vivid emojis that participants could share via text messaging.

Supporters could text the Red Heart Emoji to PETA's short code to support PETA?s animal rights activism. The campaign integrated mobile and social in order to maximize customer engagement and reach.

Emojis drive engagement due to their ease-of-use and relevance for consumers. Quick to enter and recognize, they?re mobile short hand that allow customers to efficiently interact with a campaign. 

Emoji are also mobile-only. Widely known and used by a massive smartphone generation, they are an inherently mobile form of communication. As a result, they effectively personalize campaigns to a mobile audience, which is crucial for success given the personal nature of a mobile device.

Mondelez International and Oreo in particular continue to deliver hyper-personalized content.

In March 2014, Oreo hosted a Trending Vending Lounge, a space that created delicious customized snacks based on real-time data collection, for South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival attendees.

Powered by Twitter, two custom-made vending machines enabled visitors to create and eat custom Oreo cookies based on trending social conversations. To start, users browsed a selection of "trending flavors" displayed on a large touch screen panel on the front of the machine. Users choose from 12 flavors and colors of creme and then watch as their unique Oreo cookies were built. Experimental machines used 3D printing technology to assemble the Oreo cookies in less than two minutes. Consumers everywhere were prompted to follow the conversation using the Twitter hashtag #eatthetweet.

China?s digital industry, as well as the rest of the globe, is changing at a breathtaking pace. But the rewards are there for those who have the innovation and creativity to pioneer new changes, as Oreo has done with their most recent campaign.

?The mass movement of consumers towards mobile messaging combined with the growing popularity of stickers and emoticons present an enormous opportunity for brands,? said Evan Wray, co-founder of mobile branded content company, TextPride, New York.

?Brands are everywhere from the clothes on our backs to how we decorate our homes ?tapping into the affection consumers have for branded items, marketers can find their way into mobile by leveraging their own content, without disrupting the user experience.?

?The key is creating a friendly, non-intrusive presence that adds to the personal experience users expect on mobile platforms; by offering branded emoji on the number one way people communicate today (mobile) brands can connect fans even more closely to the content they love. Branded emojis and stickers are so effective for brands because they offer an entry-point for companies to integrate themselves into daily conversations,? he said.

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