Emojis Lost in Translation?

Apple rolled out a series of more than 150 new emojis in their iOS 9.1 update, much to the joy and surprise of many iPhone users. Users had been waiting for a middle finger, taco and burrito emoji, among others.

As many iPhone (and even Andriod) users know, emoji has become its own kind of language in the past few years. So, how can marketers and public relations practitioners use this “new language” to their advantage? Marketing Magazine looked into the best emoji marketing campaigns to date, and ranked McDonald’s as number one, with Domino’s Pizza, Ikea and WWF also making the list.

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Also listed was Chevrolet, which, as I noted in a previous blog post, penned an entire press release in emojis. While I understand the generational implications of the emoji stunts, these types of technological outreach attempts are targeted at the Millennial generation. Are Millennials capable of buying their own cars? Of buying furniture to fill a house? As a member of the Millennial generation, I know I’m not.

When someone with a reputable business uses a consortium of emojis, it ends up looking sloppy. Take Goldman Sachs, for instance:

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Are brands using emojis just for the sake of using them? In the Goldman Sachs case, it looks that way. They even single out Millennials in the tweet.

While the new emoji keyboard just released contains taco and burrito emojis, the creation of a taco emoji was due to a change.org campaign asking for Taco Bell customers to sign a petition to create the taco emoji. Is a personalized emoji that imperative to a successful marketing campaign?

What do you think?

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3 Responses to Emojis Lost in Translation?

  1. Taylor Nelson says:

    I think the emoji craze has gotten a little out of hand. While I am a huge fan of the icons in my personal text messages, and even my personal social media accounts, I think there is a fine line between playful and unprofessional. A pizza-shaped tweet of pizza emojis is one thing (particularly since Dominos also instituted using the pizza emoji to order a pizza via Twitter), whereas and entire press release of emojis is another. The former can be entertaining and used as a way of keeping a company’s Twitter handle on the front page of someone’s feed. The latter is rather unprofessional and, frankly, probably annoying to anyone trying to interpret the release. I look at it as if they had put out a release in Chinese in a country whose reporters and citizens spoke primarily Spanish. Talk about getting lost in translation.

    As far as personalized emojis or all-emoji tweets are concerned, I think that highly depends on the brand. As you say, it’s strange that a car company would try to relate to Millennials in that way because, honestly, a lot of us are incapable of being one of their patrons, at least on our own. But in terms of Taco Bell and McDonalds, it’s more understandable. It’s more relateable. We know those brands, we love those brands, and we are used to those brands using Millennial-focused communications tools to outreach (i.e.: McDonalds’ primarily social-media-based launch of All Day Breakfast).

    Ultimately, it all really comes down to the same things that most messages do: who is trying to communication with whom. Some companies can pull off the emojis… others simply can’t.

  2. Alyssa Hillman says:

    I think the new emojis are definitely opening a door of communication for companies to their consumers. In my personal experience, all age group use the cute little figures to enhance their messages.

    These new emojis, including the long awaited middle finger, were a great additions by Apple and showed that they have been listening to the public.

    Taco Bell pushing for a taco emoji was maybe to be able to include it in future campaigns and posts, but I think it was also to identify with their consumers. It shows likeness and that they care about the interests of their consumers.

    Taco Bell will have to use this taco in a pretty creative way after asking for customers’ signatures.

  3. Connor Johnson says:

    Emojis seem to me like they are a bit of a slippery slope. I see emojis being used by the Twitter accounts of sports teams more frequently than ever before. The reason for their usage being dangerous is that they are directed almost exclusively toward a younger audience. Huge portions of audiences above the age of 30 do not fully understand why emojis are used and what they mean. By making it seem like emojis are a foundation of Millennial communication, I worry that large companies will create large divides between audience types. What do you think? Do you think emojis have a place in more professional communications?

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