Here’s something disturbing. According to data gathered by marketing agency Deep Focus, four out of every 10 millennials would rather engage with pictures than read. Yes, you read that right. Nearly half of history’s most educated generation would prefer to revert to some sort of cave painting-esque proto-language than bother to parse through a couple of sentences.
Of course, most prominent among this shift to pictorial communication is the emoji. We detailed its rise to prominence last year, but in short, the emoji as we know it started in 2011 and reached near-ubiquity in the past year or so. Now, in 2016, seemingly every millennial peppers their texts or tweets or Facebook messages or Instagram posts or college essays with yellow faces of varying temperaments.
And because millennials are such an important demographic to reach, brands have been trying to capitalize on the emoji craze. It has gotten so pervasive that an entire industry has cropped up dedicated to measuring the ROI of these type of visual images on campaigns.
However, we’re taking a decidedly less scientific approach to judging brands' emoji usage. Below we’ve recounted our picks based on such subjective criteria like cleverness or memorability.
But before we begin our countdown, we must include a quick disclosure. These below examples are of brands using the standard emojis found on most smartphones, not instances of companies such as Coca-Cola or Disney creating and using their own custom emojis. That’s too easy.
One of the biggest problems arising from a brand’s use of emojis is the tendency to get overcomplicated. Try to do too much and risk creating a string of would-be clever emojis that take longer to decipher than to read a Tweet or a tagline. (We're looking at you Chevy.) That’s what makes this Baskin-Robbins tweet so perfect. It’s an ice cream cone. Nothing fancy, but it helps break up a wall of text.
6) Bud Light
On the Fourth of the July, Bud Light tweeted an emoji American flag composed of fireworks in place of Old Glory’s stars and American flags and beers for the red and white stripes, respectively. It was clever, original, and took advantage of the existing emoji language.
On World Emoji Day (yes, it’s a thing), NASCAR Tweeted a photographic (emoji-graphic?) mosaic of some of the sport’s most famous drivers. Art? Maybe. Cool to look at? Certainly.
4) General Electric
Hosted on the website emojiscience.com and modeled after the periodic table of elements, General Electric’s “Emoji Table of Experiments” invites users to click on individual emojis to explore “DIY science, videos with special guests, and everything else emoji science.” For example, clicking on a smiley face will bring visitors to a video of Bill Nye the Science Guy explaining evolution through the use of emojis, while clicking on a rocket ship pulls up information about NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. Emojis as a teaching tool? Who knew!
Sure, this example may be a little crass, but so too is the character the movie is promoting, and that type of on-brand messaging works. Besides, when you have famous comedians tweeting about how brilliant your emoji usage is, you must be doing something right.
2) Smithsonian Institution
Here's another example of emojis as education: On World Emoji Day, the Smithsonian tweeted an emoji that corresponded to a particular piece in their museum along with a link to more information. An emoji trumpet, for instance, brought visitors to facts about Louis Armstrong’s trumpet. No word on if any of the millennials actually read the content.
1) Domino's Pizza
The goal of any business should be to reduce friction during the purchasing process. By co-opting the pizza emoji into a food ordering mechanism, Domino's Pizza reduced the time it takes to order to five seconds. And that’s perfect because the only thing millennials like more than emojis is instant gratification.
What are your favorites examples of emoji marketing? Let us know in the comments below!
Originally published Feb 16, 2016 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017