Start a Project
Call Us  0161 505 1048

Social media

Emoji Marketing: Doing it Well and Doing it Wrong

1 March 2016
cover-emoji | Emoji Marketing: Doing it Well and Doing it Wrong | Neon

Emojis are part of everyday vocabulary these days. Not only is it the world’s fastest-growing language, with the word emoji making it into the Oxford dictionary back in 2013, but 17th of July is now celebrated as World Emoji Day.

It’s fair to say that emojis have seeped into mainstream culture, and with that, of course, they would seep into marketing culture and become part of a growing number of emoji marketing campaigns by some of the world’s most loved brands.

Whether you love them, hate them, or even use them yourself, chances are you’ve seen them and are familiar with them. But as with all new marketing trends, some brands have got it right, while others have got it colossally wrong. With emoji-led marketing campaigns comes the added risk of brands looking like they’re ‘trying too hard’ to be young and ‘down with the kids’ which can ultimately tarnish their reputation and spark ridicule amongst the industry. And with social media being real-time, it’s impossible to hide a mistake with social followers being a brand’s worst critics.

Why Emoji Marketing Works

So why would brands want to use emojis in their marketing campaigns? Apart from being ‘cool’ and speaking to millennials, emojis have proven to be an effective method of portraying or evoking emotion. Scientists discovered than when we look at a smiley face, the same parts of the brain are activated as when we look at a real human face. For marketers, emojis provide a powerful tool to evoke emotions and humanise the message being communicated.

Also, in a limited word-count context like on Twitter, they provide a powerful way to evoke emotion without the need to use too many characters. They’re visually engaging and cast a friendly and human brand image. This takes simplistic messaging to a new level, allowing brands to also build in a playful ‘puzzle’ or curiosity-inducing element conducive with engagement, virality and sharing.

Although fun and creative, embarking on an emoji marketing campaign should be no different than embarking on any other campaign, deserving of planning and thought going into it before pushing the button to go live. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best and some of the worst emoji marketing campaigns, and round off with some tips on how to make sure your brand doesn’t end up on the second list!

Doing it Well

Domino’s Pizza

Domino's Imagery | Emoji Marketing: Doing it Well and Doing it Wrong | Neon

Domino’s tweet to order scheme was made all the more engaging through the use of emojis. Basically, once customers have registered an ‘easy order’ account with Domino’s, all they need to do is tweet a pizza emoji @Domino’s and their pizza will be delivered straight to their door! This takes convenience, simplicity and engagement to a whole new level and truly speaks to the target audience in a way that they will not only engage with the campaign, but also shout about it and tell all their friends! A truly great use of emoji marketing by one of the world’s most recognisable names.

WWF’s Endangered Emoji

When WWF launched its endangered emoji campaign, it not only showed the social commerce potential that emoji marketing can have (in a similar vein to the Domino’s example above) but also how it can bring awareness of good causes to an audience that perhaps doesn’t respond to traditional marketing methods employed by charities and preservation organisations.

#EndangeredEmoji recognised that 17 animal emojis that people use every day depict endangered species, and so the campaign was launched to allow people to donate to the WWF by tweeting one of these emojis and agreeing to donate £0.10 for each one used.

Another great use of emoji marketing, it’s engaging, simple to use, easy to understand and all for a good cause. WWF really got it right with this one.

Marvel Entertainment’s Deadpool Marketing

In a more recent campaign, Marvel took the use of emojis offline by unveiling the above billboard in Los Angeles. A clever blend of bringing the online world to a more traditional medium, and spoke to the target audience in a way that immediately connected with them. Deadpool’s marketing campaign has been outstanding overall, and this is just one more way the campaign has shown creativity, while knowing exactly who the audience is and how they should be communicated with.

Deadpool movie emoji campaign billboard | Emoji Marketing: Doing it Well and Doing it Wrong | Neon

Doing it Wrong

Some examples of where emoji marketing didn’t quite go right…

House of Fraser’s Emojinal Takeover

Luxury department store House of Fraser confused the world with its emojinal campaign, which included some off-brand tweets stuffed with random emojis and strange imagery, a stark contrast to the brand’s usual elegant and refined messaging. According to various reports, the reasoning behind House of Fraser’s sudden move was as a reaction to a Bangor University report which revealed that 72% of 18-25 year olds find it easier to show their feelings with emojis than words. With that revelation in mind, House of Fraser decided to embrace emojis and jump on the bandwagon by switching its messaging to include some weird and wonderful emoji laden tweets, leading some to question whether the account was hacked – it wasn’t.

This campaign took the marketing world by storm and sparked an interesting conversation about tone of voice, and how to approach social media if you’re looking to target a new audience. Whether you loved it or hated it, it’s impossible to deny that House of Fraser’s campaign achieved one thing: publicity. Whether this was the original goal or not is unclear, but the brand was the talking point for over a week, which no doubt will have ticked off the awareness target and then some. However, at what expense? Publicity was mostly negative, which may not have been great for the brand’s legacy.

Goldman Sachs

When Goldman Sachs tweeted the above message, the thought process probably centred on the fact that millennials use emojis, this report in the link is about millennials, therefore the tweet should include as many emojis as you can fit in 144 characters. What the social media team failed to notice was the seriousness of the attached report and that the social media world writes back!

Most communication accompanied by emoji is light-hearted and humorous, and therefore choosing emoji as a medium to convey a serious subject matter like the above can result in audience backlash. This obvious attempt at millennial targeting didn’t quite work for Goldman Sachs and was hopefully a lesson in how not to use emoji.

Chevrolet’s Press Release Written in Emoji Form

Emoji Image Chevrolet | Emoji Marketing: Doing it Well and Doing it Wrong | Neon

Although not a total fiasco, this idea by Chevrolet depicts how the concept of emoji marketing can be taken too far. When announcing its 2016 Cruze model, Chevrolet decided it would be fun to put out its press release written entirely in emoji form. While its #ChevyGoesEmoji campaign may have sounded like a good idea at the time, most journalists probably didn’t enjoy having to take the time to decipher the code in this message, especially those who may have been less familiar with the language of emoji.

In this case, just because the language of emoji has transcended cultural barriers, brands shouldn’t assume that all their customers are fluent speakers. Although Chevrolet did follow up the press release with a decoded explanation and a series of YouTube videos, it was still perhaps a step too far. The best emoji campaigns to date have all had one thing in common: simplicity. And this just wasn’t the case with the Chevrolet example.

How do you Get it Right?

Stick with these 10 rules, and you’ll reap the rewards of a successful emoji marketing campaign.

  1. Make sure your emoji messaging is: timely, relevant and straight to the point
  2. Keep it simple to maximise the chances of engagement.
  3. Ask yourself: Is there a purpose to your emoji message? If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t be using emoji.
  4. Don’t overuse emojis: if you have more than 5 emojis in your message, that’s already too many!
  5. Don’t complicate the message or write in a code that will take your audience too long to decipher.
  6. Don’t force your customers to use an emoji too, let them decide if they want to!
  7. Take a step back and look at your emoji messaging from all angles. If there is a chance that the message could be misrepresented or misconstrued by others, don’t do it!
  8. Don’t use any threatening or violent emojis.
  9. If your reason for jumping on the emoji bandwagon is that ‘everyone is doing it’ then you’re better off staying away from it. Don’t do it just for the sake of it! If you can use emojis to tap into emotions, then great! But don’t just randomly add emojis into every piece of content just to have them there.
  10. Finally, test everything! Start small, and test an approach that may work for your brand.

What do you think about emoji marketing? Get in touch via our Twitter @createdbyneon, emojis optional!

Related Items

How Does Social Media Impact Our Mental Health?

How To Grow Your Instagram Audience in 2020

Five Reasons Why Your Facebook Ads Are Getting Disapproved

We are here to help

Want to be at the top of the search ranks? How about a website that’ll give your audience a great experience? Or maybe you’re looking for a campaign that’ll drive more leads? Get in touch to find out how we can help.

Start a project
The design and dev team making notes | Start a project with Neon | Neon
Employee on telephone
Group work
Designer laughing
Computer typed on
Sausage dog
Writing on white board
Designer planning sitemap
Employee posting notes on board
Developer working
Group photo of CEO and Brand Ambassador
Employee in meeting
Employee in Meeting

Stay up to date

Privacy Policy

© Neon Digital Agency Ltd 2021. Part of

Inc & Co Logo