It’s World Emoji Day. Yes, it's a real thing. And whilst I don’t suggest your re-write your brand strategy to include aubergines and smiley ghosts, the savviest business are aware that the nature of communication is changing.
Arguably, emojis have more in common with cave paintings or ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs than they do with words. They are also the end product of a progressive society that is obsessed with speed and compression: centuries of lengthy books eventually turned into magazines. Magazines turned into online features, SEO-optimised at 500 words. Letters and editorial turned to characters and Tweets, articles turned to listicles and now our vocabulary has been translated into micro-cartoons that elicit sentiment without saying a word.
In the evolution of our communication, we appear to have ended up right back where we started: communicating with pictures.
As a copywriter who earns her crust from words, perhaps you think I am spending World Emoji Day wringing my hands, wailing into my laptop and panic eating M&Ms. I am not. And if you are a brand owner who is used to communicating with your clients in words, nor should you be.
Emojis are not going to replace words because emojis are another language. French did not die out with the introduction of Italian. China has eight major dialect groups and they all continue to thrive – that’s without including the sub dialects. The vast majority of English speakers can hold a conversation without resorting to the blue-sky ideation of marketing gobbledegook. One language does not replace another.
Yet businesses work best when they communicate with each other. Successful networking requires a basic understanding of other languages. Brands that ‘write-off’ (you’ll be glad to know that awful puns aren’t going anywhere, either) emoji language are likely to come a’cropper because it suggests they aren’t interested in progress or finding new, better ways to communicate with their colleagues, cohort and customers.
Emojis are not just ‘for the yoof’ so don’t think for a second that emojis aren’t relevant to you and your business. My parents have both conquered emojis in their sixties. Common parlance eventually filters into the workplace and is gradually absorbed into our professional communication. Think back to the emails you received in the last year: I bet a smiley face popped up in at least one.
No, this doesn't mean beginning every press release with a lightning bolt. It doesn't mean instructing your customer service team to respond with crying faces. Indeed, it may not be appropriate to use emojis in any of your corporate communication, even internally.
As a copywriter I would certainly never incorporate them into my text and would find it unusual to find instruction in a brief.
For other brands, limited emoji use may prove fruitful (though should still be approached with caution).
This is not about 'talking 'emoji'; this is about remembering that communication is a both a passive and reactive act. Effective communication depends as much on one’s ability to listen as to broadcast.
The rise of emojis is a clear message that communication is changing. Is your brand listening?