Back in 1985, the glam pop girl group, the Bangles, exhorted everyone to “walk like an Egyptian”. These days, the hair isn’t quite as high and musical tastes have changed, but folks are again taking their cues from our friends in the Middle East. Today, we’re not walking like Egyptians, we’re communicating like them – with our own version of hieroglyphics! Better known as emojis, this new, digital and visual method of communication is transforming the way people and businesses connect with one another. Introduced in the U.S. in the early 2000s, emojis are used to convey attitudes, emotions, and even complex ideas, using a wide range of customized icons, from a simple smiley face to salsa dancers, peace signs, dogs, pizza slices, and much more. Brands like Chevrolet, Dominoes, Bud Light, and Goldman Sachs have incorporated the emoji into their social media and broader marketing strategies in an effort to engage millennials and boost the virality of online content.
Why the sudden emergence of the emoji? And is it just a flash in the pan marketing gimmick destined for the dustbin? That first question is quite simple: 1) the average person today consumes an ungodly amount of information within a 24-hour cycle; 2) our brains are wired to understand images much more so than text; 3) we have short attention spans – hovering in at just around 8 seconds. According to a number of reports that have come out over the past few years, “…today, we receive five times as much information as we did 30 years ago…as of 2009, it was estimated we consume 34 gigabytes of information or 100,500 words, outside of work on an average day” (SproutSocial, 2015).
Exposure to this near-constant assault of information means the average person has little time to read and process longer messages, no matter how entertaining they may be. That’s why it should come as no surprise that today, 63% of social media is made up of images. And it’s not just youth/teens who’ve embraced this new form of communication (though, they do comprise a significant base). Audiences 40 + have caught on, appreciating the ease of delivering a concise message in just a few short characters.
So, the next time you’re brainstorming a marketing/advertising campaign, consider testing out messages with emojis, particularly if your audience is young and tech-savvy.
And, as for that last question about the emoji’s staying power? We think it’s here to stay. Communication platforms will continue to proliferate. Devices will evolve to capture and produce more data and information than ever before, meaning the reliance on visual tools to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of a brand’s message will become increasingly important.