Say What You See: We Decipher The Relentless Rise Of Emoji Marketing

by Alicia Simpson

Friday, August 21st, 2015

If you’re stuck for words, our PR experts explain how to communicate without them.

Emoji marketingTo see the translation of our emoji sentence on the left be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the post.

AS ANY experienced traveller, translator or modern languages student will attest, the task of switching from one tongue to another is no easy feat.

Brands have fallen foul of language loopholes and twisted translations, often with hilariously unintended consequences.

Like the case when Coors Light saw its slogan “turn it loose” translated into Spanish as “suffer from diarrhoea”. Or consider when Chinese KFC’s translation from English became “We’ll eat your fingers off” and failed to attract hordes of hungry diners.

But what if a campaign is scripted in a language that no country can stake a claim to and that virtually anyone can understand (at least with a wee bit of help – see the emoji dictionary project!)?

Such is the case of the world’s fastest growing digital language – the emoji.

First invented in Japan in 1999, the digital dialect has since snowballed in popularity, particularly among the younger generations, with 72% of 18-25 year olds now stating that they find it easier to express emotion through emojis than written word.

Desperate not to be left abandoned in the prehistoric world of just words, brands have recently been undertaking all manner of weird and wonderful emoji-based campaigns in an all-out attempt to reach and communicate with millennials.

As PR professionals we were interested to see US car giant Chevrolet recently issued a press release entirely in emojis, to announce the launch of its 2016 model Cruze. Read on for more details on this and be sure to check out the full release (and the translation).

Such is the hype around emojis at the moment that July 17 was declared World Emoji day and saw dozens of big name brands jumping on the bandwagon, many in clever, entertaining ways.

Which raises the question – can we really consider these hieroglyph-inspired icons as a serious marketing tool? Has communicating its key messages using sushi, snowmen and syringes ever actually benefitted a company? To answer, here are a couple of tried and tested examples:

Domino’s Pizza

emoji marketingTo save the world from the gruelling struggle that is ordering online or picking up the telephone, Domino’s presented the inspired solution of simply tweeting the pizza emoji when you find yourself in desperate need of your favourite Italian-influenced snack.

Unfortunately, the super convenient system is only available to pizza lovers residing in the USA. It does also require the user to have set up an account before hand and have already entered their topping preferences in advance.

So… pretty much just like ordering online then?

The high point of the campaign was that it encouraged 500 people to sign up in one day. Which is unlikely to have made a huge impact on Dominos bottom line.

However, the move did earn the company global media coverage – and also earned the campaign a Titanium Award at the Canne advertising awards.

So it must have been good


A much more worthwhile, beneficial use of the trendy emoji is that of the WWF, which recently launched its #EndangeredEmoji campaignemoji marketing .

With the ultimate goal of raising awareness of the uncertain future of 17 dangerously threatened species, the wildlife charity has created a clever fundraising campaign.

With cute emoji versions of the most endangered animals, it encouraged Twitter users to pay 10p for each time they tweet them.

As a respectable and deserving cause, the WWF’s emoji-based campaign is certainly the more thought-provoking and commendable of the emoji-exercising PR stunts.

It’s also another example where clever thinking not only helped their fundraising cause by transcending language barriers, it also earned WWF huge amounts of global media coverage.


emoji marketingWith emoji use rapidly escalating, it was really only a matter of time before the humble press release was also subjected to an iconic makeover. Under the tagline ‘Words alone cannot describe the new 2016 Chevrolet Cruze’, Chevrolet issued a press release almost entirely in emojis and challenged online enthusiasts to have a go at cracking the code.

Though very few were able to work out what it actually said, and many considered this to be the world ‘reaching peak emoji’, there was little doubt that the stunt had its desired effect: getting as many news outlets as possible instantly talking about the clever car manufacturer.

Although not brand-based, it is also worth noting that emoji fever has also reached the bonnie Scottish homeland of our PR agency; this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival is featuring a show by multi-award winning comedian Adam Kay, written – you’ve guessed it – entirely in emojis.

Adam has translated classic one-liners, such as the traditional ‘knock knock’ joke, into the digital language and will be challenging his audience to decipher the clever clips. Adam also predicts that more and more Fringe shows are likely to take this format in the future… Personally, I preferred the lousy, drunken, acoustic guitarists.

Did you guess correctly what our emoji sentence said?

Emoji marketing for businesses

Whether you want pretty pictures or plain speaking, find out how our Scottish PR agency can help your business to communicate more effectively

Fortunately, our award winning PR agency in Edinburgh understands how important communication is to your business and won’t speak in tongues or secret codes.

We practice what we preach. We’re always happy to be on the other end of the phone or, better yet, to meet up in person for a chat.

So if you would like to know what PR could do for your business, contact us on 0131 561 2244 or fill in the simple form below to say hello – we’re a friendly bunch – and we’ll get straight back to you:

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Private: Alicia Simpson

The profile and biography of public relations professional Alicia Simpson, a junior account executive with award-winning Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh.

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