In a few short years emojis have become a part of our language, a fact that was confirmed by the Oxford Dictionary when they named “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji as the official word of 2015, much to the dismay of English professors everywhere. Naturally, emojis have integrated smoothly into visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, in some cases even shaping the content that appears on these platforms. Emojis have also been popular on Twitter where they can help users express themselves with less words, allowing them to limbo under the 140 character cap.
In an effort to stay on-trend and connect with millennials, digital marketing teams have been experimenting with emoji-based campaigns. However, simply identifying a trend is not enough – as Hillary Clinton’s PR team found out after alienating their support base with an abysmally out of touch tweet asking young people to describe their student debt in 3 emojis or less. Ouch. Another example is Kim Kardashian’s highly anticipated KIMOJI app which left fans feeling disappointed when they discovered that her emojis only work on one platform. What good is a language that no one else can speak?
The key is to create an emotional connection between the brand’s message and the emojis that have become a part of our language. It’s no coincidence that two of the most successful emoji campaigns this past year involved the oh-so-adorable animal emojis. Recognizing the pre-existing fondness many mobile users have for these particular icons, both WWF and PETA developed the link between emojis and animals in need. They followed up by establishing easy ways for users to donate or get involved with their causes directly from their mobile devices.
But every rule has an exception. The most innovative emoji marketing campaign of 2015 involved a petition to create a new emoji. Taco Bell began an online petition that called for Unicode Consortium – the body that regulates computer text standards – to introduce a taco emoji, in a move that generated a lot of buzz and even more cravings. After several months of quirky campaigning, the taco earned itself a home on the emoji keyboard. Taco Bell invited their avid supporters to tweet at them using the taco and any one other emoji. Fans were treated to a reply that included a personalized mash up of the two emojis from a collection of over 600 GIFs and images the brand had commissioned for the release. The brand also created a series of coveted emoji-inspired taco wrappers to celebrate their victory which brought in customers eager to share their meals on Instagram. The true victory is that the taco emoji will forever remind users of the brand that introduced it to our visual lexicon.