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Emoji Marketing: Why It Works and How To Leverage It👍

Emoji Marketing: Why It Works and How To Leverage It👍

4 minute read

-        In order to find an emoji that you can take ownership of, pick one that you consistently leverage in your brand communication.

-        Include emojis in newsletter subject lines and push notifications to humanize messages and stand out.

-        By incorporating emojis in social posts, your brand will evoke emotion and increase engagement with consumers.

Brands use emoji’s to enhance their communication with consumers. Where we see best practice of this is within the music industry as many popular albums have an emoji associated with it. Drake set the precedent for this practice by attaching the battery emoji to his 2015 track Charged Up, resulting in a reported 20% increase in this emoji’s usage on the app in just one week. Drake repeated this strategy when he teamed up with rapper Future on their collaborative album What a Time to Be Alive – with the diamond emoji accompanying each social media post.

drake emoji.jpg

Several artists have learned from this including Rihanna who used the balloon emoji to promote her album ANTI and, more recently, Beyonce leveraged the Lemon emoji for her 2017 album Lemonade and the emoji-pioneer Drake with his album Scorpion using the Scorpio emoji. Why do artists love to use emojis to power their album promotions?

To understand the benefits of emojis, one must realize the origins of their popularity through a semiotic lens. Emojis were introduced in the 90s as a way to communicate messages through pictures, typically between friends. Emojis became so popular that the heart emoji and crying emojis were the most used “words” of 2014 and 2015, respectively. With the increasing prevalence of communication through devices in consumers’ day-to-day lives, emojis have become a way for people to easily convey a message to each other, without having to overtly say it.

When an artist uses emojis it is a way to talk directly to their fans as though they are friends and, from a branding perspective, take “ownership” of an emoji because fans will start to associate said artist with their given emoji. This association essentially acts as a free marketing and promotional tool. Given how over 1 billion emojis are used in conversations daily, consumers will often attach emojis to conversations regardless. When brands leverage emojis in communication with consumers, it can help brands drive and influence the conversation. Another reason why brands should use emojis is because it helps make their content more relatable as though they are a friend, or familiar message as well, rather than just a brand promoting a product or service. If brands want to keep up with consumers they must communicate with them in ways that are relatable and familiar, as evidenced by the fact that emoji usage in marketing messages increases at an annual rate of 775% YOY (AdWeek).

MKTG will outline three ways brands can effectively communicate with consumers through emojis:

Make emojis more than a symbol but a purchase trigger for real-life transactions


It is easy for food brands to find an emoji that fits their brand as many food emojis are currently available. Dominos took this one step further by introducing their award-winning Dominos Emoji Ordering system. For a limited time, consumers who had saved orders on their Dominos accounts could instantly place orders by texting or tweeting a pizza emoji. This simple campaign was well revered by industry experts due to its comparison to Amazon’s one-click service. Consumers liked it too and the likelihood of users associating Dominos with the pizza emoji likely increased after participating.

Incorporate emojis in social posts, newsletter subject lines & push notifications to humanize messages and stand out.

Facebook posts with emojis have a 57% higher like rate, and are 33% more likely to get both shares and comments than those without. In order to achieve increased engagements it is important for brands to utilize emojis effectively for each platform. For example, the grinning emoji receives the highest engagments on Facebook, however it not suitable for all contexts: be sure to select emojis that are relevant to your content. Zappos used a heart emoji to promote a product in a light-hearted manner, driving the conversation towards that of “loving” both the post and product.

Newsletter and push notifications are another area where emojis can be easily incorporated in brand communication. Mac Cosmetics Canada consistently utilizes emojis in email subject lines. This practice has a positive impact on consumers because it helps emails to visually stand out in the clutter of promotional emails in one’s inbox. It also makes the message seem friendlier, adding a human component to the brand, thus positively affecting consumers’ brand impression. In the above push-notification example from RetailMeNot, they opted for a house emoji to creatively complement a sale on home décor.

Leverage branded emojis to encourage online dialogue surrounding your event.


 When an emoji appears on Twitter after a #hashtag for specific occasions or events its referred to as a “branded hashtag”.  The cost of purchasing one from Twitter is unclear, however it apparently cost Pepsi $1 Milllion USD for their branded hashtag during the Superbowl. Although it is a pricy endeavor, campaigns with branded emojis are proven to increase both emotional connections and interest in ads: Twitter reports that branded hashtags increase the attention ads receive by almost 10%, and branded emojis paired with videos receive more than 6X the focus from consumers than plain hashtags.

Major brands are seeing incredible success with branded hashtags during live events such as Samsung’s #TheNextGalaxy hashtag. Conversations hit 600 Tweets per minute on launch day, with 99% positive or neutral sentiment. The NBA is another brand that often resorts to branded hashtags for each team during playoffs, cleverly encouraging increased activity from fans during a time when emotions already run high, furthering the conversation and thus the success of the associated branded hashtag.

Emojis are a powerful, free tool to leverage in brand marketing as it humanizes brands and makes content more light-hearted for consumers. By using tactics such as including emojis in newsletter subject lines and push notifications, messages will stand out amongst clutter and increase consumer engagement.

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