Are emojis reinventing how businesses connect with their customers?

#6: Emojis can boost clicks on digital advertisements by 241%

Samuel Tan

10 Oct 2021

More cute than classy, emojis weren’t always enthusiastically embraced by businesses. But as their popularity among smartphone users persisted, a growing number of brands warmed up to these colourfully cartoonish characters, in an effort to speak the language of their customers.

Studies by marketing agencies have crunched a compelling case for emojis. Their arresting presence in advertisements across online platforms have led to some:

Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of the emoji effect was reported by Scoro, a Software-as-a-Service start-up. It had published two Facebook ads, which were nearly identical, except that one had the ‘Triangular Flag’ 🚩 emoji added to its headline. The results of the A/B test were astounding: the emoji-marked sponsored post attracted 241% more click-throughs than the emoji-less one!

Flagging attention: the extraordinary effect an emoji made

But emojis aren’t just used to funnel social media users to sign-up pages. Both the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have cleverly used these little icons to raise public awareness about animal endangerment and animal cruelty.

In 2015, WWF ran a fundraising campaign that matched 17 animal emojis ‘living’ on smartphone keyboards with 17 animals living in the wild – and at risk of impending extinction, due to habitat destruction or human consumption. Twitter users who shared WWF’s #EndangeredEmoji campaign tweet, which featured these 17 animal emojis, would receive a month-end summary of how many #EndangeredEmoji they had used, with a prompt to donate €0.10 for every instance.

Virtual not Fictional: WWF’s list of #EndangeredEmoji

PETA conducted a more elaborate hybrid campaign in 2014, which began with OOH billboards featuring disquieting images – like a knife dripping with blood – that were composited from numerous animal emojis (like the ‘Pig’ 🐖, ‘Pig Face’ 🐷, ‘Pig Nose’ 🐽), above a message to text “❤️” or “HEART” to 73822. Readers moved to do so received a link to PETA’s #BeyondWords campaign video to share on social media – which itself used emojis to explain their cause.

PETA’s emoji art on animal cruelty that’s #BeyondWords

While PETA told a punchy story in a single image formed from emojis, McDonald’s created short ‘comics’ using emoji strings. The fast-food giant’s “good times” campaign used emojis in a particularly authentic way – just like how real-life users would in a text – to narrate a short story that branded McDonald’s as a place of happiness and relief from everyday troubles.

No drawing required: one of McDonald’s emoji ‘comics’

But to simultaneously raise awareness about a product launch and reinforce their brand image, Spotify opted to use an emoji that was authentically theirs. To spread the word that music by the Beatles had arrived for its subscribers, the audio streaming platform created a silhouette emoji of the band’s iconic Abbey Road photo, with the platform’s familiar green shade as the background colour. Twitter users were encouraged to tweet the hashtag #BeatlesOnSpotify to unlock the gorgeous graphic.

Iconic integration: Spotify’s custom emoji blends the band with the brand

Not to be outdone, soft drink giant PepsiCo created an entire set of custom emoji, which it even pulled out of cyberspace and placed on its repackaged drink bottles and cans. These “Pepsimoji” were used for both branding and for marketing their drinks to curious customers, who could pick up a Pepsi with a specific emoji they fancied.

Still other businesses have taken emojis even more seriously: not just as a marketing tool, but as part of their daily sales operations. Travel-service provider KAYAK allows its users to search destinations by keying emojis like the ‘Statue of Liberty’ 🗽 / ‘Shamrock’ ☘️ / ‘Police Car Light’ 🚨 / ‘Moai’ 🗿 / ‘Maple Leaf’ 🍁 in place of “New York”/ “Dublin”/ “Amsterdam”/ “Easter Island”/ “Toronto”. Meanwhile, Domino’s lets its loyal customers order their favourite pizza by simply tweeting the ‘Pizza’ 🍕 emoji.

But for all the wonderful ways that emojis can support businesses, it’s not impossible to take things too far. Yat Labs, a hard-to-describe privately-held tech company, offers perhaps the most outlandish example yet. It has persuaded speculative investors to part with thousands of dollars in exchange for “owning” specific strings of emoji for perpetuity, which the company has suggested can be used as a kind of universal online handle ⁉️🤔🤷🏻‍♀️.

What the Yat: the fastest way to turn emojis into earnings?

Emojis, at heart, help brands sound more human. In a snap, they convey feelings and sentiments 🎭, express tone of voice 🎤, provide emphasis to key points ⏰, and inject colour and visual pop to chunks of digital text 🎈. They remind customers that businesses are run by people with emotions, attitudes, perspectives – and make consumers more interested in hearing what enterprises have to say.

How brands use emojis are ultimately about the kind of identity they wish to project: 😇 or 😎 or 😈? Enterprises seeking the personability boost that emojis offer could do no worse than tap on an 🏆 award-winning creative agency with deep expertise in helping businesses define and articulate their distinctive brand identity.

This is part 6 of the 6-part series: “Do you speak Emoji? 6 surprising facts about the world’s digital tongue.”