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August 6, 2018   |   5 min read

Why Great Marketing Strategies Use Emoji

It’s a lot more than just being one of the cool kids.

When I got my first cell phone, it was the best of times and the worst of times. I was in sixth grade and the year was 2006; iPhones hadn’t been invented yet, while my keyboard consisted of nine keys meant to encompass the entirety of the alphabet. However, I wanted more than anything to be just like the girl in the ever-so-popular AT&T commercial who uttered those famous words: “IDK... my BFF, Jill.” I forced myself to learn all of the abbreviations and complications that came with texting on a T9 keyboard.

Girl from AT&T commercial

My friends and I still reference that commercial today, reminiscing about how our parents hated how we could have in-depth conversations using abbreviations they had yet to discover the meaning of. What makes a great marketing campaign great is the lasting impact it has. That concept remains unchanged today. Besides that commercial’s passive commentary on my generation, there’s no doubt in my mind that it was just the beginning. The beginning of an era where the way we communicate starts and ends with our phones.

What’s crazy is that abbreviations like IDK and BFF are still just as popular, if not more so. Today everyone is trying to send messages to someone right next to them at lightning speed. The only difference between when I was in sixth grade and now, is that emojis are used to help enhance those text messages, or straight up replace them. Even parents have adopted their use without having to conduct investigative research on Basically, everyone is using emoji and you’d be shocked at how easy they are to incorporate into your marketing strategy. Here are three reasons why you should:

1. Emoji Make You Human

What turns a lot of people off about marketing is the fact that many campaigns don’t seem to relate to audiences in an authentic way. This becomes even more prevalent in the digital space. When you use emoji in your marketing strategy, you not only get to add fun visuals to your messaging, but you add an emotional aspect. Research has found that looking at a smiling emoji online is perceived the same way as looking at a smiling person in real life. The point I’m getting at is that smiles are contagious, regardless of the medium used to convey them. Think of emoji as a call-to-action. We use them regularly in digital marketing because they give the user a clear direction on what to do after digesting the content: Shop Now, Download, Like, etc. Today, the way most people digest content is by skimming, not reading, and emoji are instantly recognizable. When someone is skimming through their feed and they see the crying laughing emoji, they’ll know that what they’re about to read is supposed to be funny. When you add emoji to your message, especially the ones with facial expressions (🙂😳🤯), you end up adding human response to a call-to-action in a very powerful way.

2. Emoji Are Universal

If you have a Netflix subscription you’ve likely indulged a few TV shows or films beyond your native tongue. I’m also sure that you’d be horrified if I suggested turning off the subtitles. But, I bet that you’d still generally understand the context of the plot just by watching the expression on the actors’ faces. When you think about it, many of the “subtitles” we’ve been using on the internet have turned into emoji. Facebook’s revolutionary Like button went from being a simple thumbs-up endorsement to an array of emoji ready to react. Sometimes, the best marketing campaigns don’t even rely on words. Yes, even Emoji-led content has the potential to go viral.

In marketing the movie Deadpool, billboards were put up using only three emoji and it was a sensation on the internet. AdWeek called it “stupid genius,” and you really can’t blame them. Simplicity, rather paradoxically, can be striking.

Deadpool emoji-led billboard ad

Ordering pizza can be an inconvenient task for some, but Domino’s made it easier by allowing customers to order their favorite pizza using the pizza emoji. Not only were consumers wondering when they’d be able to order everything with emoji, but this generated so much buzz that it won a flippin’ Grand Prix!

Ordering Domino's pizza via a pizza emoji

More recently, Target rolled out emoji options in their self-checkouts to alleviate customer frustration with scrolling through produce items on a drop-down menu. Not only did this initiative show that the brand is listening, but it also affirms the universal impact of an emoji.

Emoji options in Target's self-checkout

3. Emoji = Big Potential for Fun, Big Potential for Backlash

Did you ever catch the story about the little girl who threw a birthday party with the poop emoji theme? If not, stop what you’re doing and read this. You probably have a ton of questions, but the lucky birthday girl sure looked like she was having a party that would rival her Sweet Sixteen. Now, poop emoji parties are all the rage. If you do a Google search for “poop emoji party supplies” you might be shocked at the number of retailers carrying items catering to the poop party of your dreams.

Family throwing a poop emoji party

With that being said, there’s definitely a time and a place for emoji. The last thing you want to do is send a mixed signal, or worse, offend your audience. Hillary Clinton didn’t exactly get the responses she was expecting when she asked Twitter users to describe their feelings toward student debt using emoji. I present to you, exhibits A-Z:


Don’t fear Emoji—embrace them!

When you utilize emoji in your marketing strategy the right way, you let customers know that you’re not afraid to connect with them. It reinforces that like every other human, you have emotions and know how to have a little fun. Of course, there are instances when brands go overboard and try to seem too much like one of the digital cool kids. But they’re the ones who haven’t figured out that less is more, and emoji are all you need sometimes. When your message takes too long to decipher, you’ll be left wondering who your audience is actually paying attention to. The last response you’ll want to hear is ”IDK... my BFF, Jill.”

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