Consumers are constantly encountering millions of visual messages that consist of emojis, memes and GIFs every day. Visual platforms like Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat have changed the way the average person creates and shares content. What started as a simple emoticon in the 90’s that looked something like this – :D – has now morphed into something much more detailed, meaningful and heavily ingrained in consumer’s lives.
Online users from ages 13 to 60 are utilizing emojis as a shorter way to communicate and get their emotions across. So why should brands do the same? An August 2015 study from trend-forecasting and brand-strategy firm Trendera revealed that over half of consumers said they wish brands would treat them like a friend, instead of a consumer. They also said that a brand's social media presence influences their impression of the brand.
In a world where every character counts, emojis allow us to say more, with less. Whether you use the occasional smiley face in a message or can fluently speak emoji, there’s an incredible shift happening in the way that we communicate that’s crucial for brands to pay attention to. The cute smileys and hearts were introduced in 2007, but you wouldn’t know it. It hasn’t been until the past several years that emoji-heavy communication has really taken off.
92% of the online population use emojis – all of whom believe emojis express their feelings more accurately than words. Emojis are so ingrained in digital and social language, particularly among young people, that it’s naturally becoming an element of brand’s digital efforts. And as a brand, you should be dedicated to engaging people by means of which they prefer to communicate. SO, what’s a brand to do? Jump on the emoji bandwagon and ride the wave?
Not exactly. First, figure out what makes the most sense for your brand. Then, learn how to utilize emojis to get the most bang for your buck. Although it may seem pretty simple (start using emojis in all of your communication) it’s not that black and white. One little misinterpretation of what a symbol means and your brand could be dealing with an all-out PR crisis.
Take a pointer or two from Taco Bell – a brand that has never been afraid to push the envelope and adhere to what their audience prefers.
They saw an opportunity when the taco emoji was released last year and created an entire campaign around the exciting news. Part of the campaign was to tweet them two different emojis, and an animated GIF would return translating what the two emojis combined meant using the hashtag #TacoEmojiEngine (Don’t worry - We’ll talk about GIFs in a minute).
Or what about Domino's? You can literally tweet or text the pizza emoji to them and order a pizza! Now, that’s cool.
Memes are those hilarious images you see splattered all over social media. Grumpy Cat is a classic, and so are all of the Ecards you see with hilarious, inappropriate messages.
The majority of memes are meant to be funny or sarcastic, but because they grab our attention, brands can benefit from them if executed in a smart or clever way. According to Trendera, “brands that participate in using GIFs, memes, etc. make US teens and adults more interested in a brand.”
Coming off of a wildly successful marketing campaign for a beer brand, “the most interesting man in the world” was immediately turned into thousands of different memes. The benefit for Dos Equis? Every time a new meme is created, it creates brand recognition for them. The beer is generally always in the memes and the man himself is the pure essence of the brand.
GEICO is another good example of this. When they released their hump day campaign, memes immediately started circulating the Internet. Now, every Wednesday, most people will be talking about hump day and saying “guess what day it is”. Don’t worry, you can also celebrate emoji style with
The key to an effective meme is finding the right image to use. It can be a picture you take or a spin on a popular meme from the Internet. Don’t worry, most popular images that are all over the internet are not copy written, so once you add your own text and watermark, it makes it your own to use.
Think about your goals and the feeling you want your audience to have when they associate the meme with your company, and have some fun!
Not new to the scene, GIFs are almost 30 years old and have come a long way. Over the past 10 years or so, millennials have really grabbed hold of GIFs and more often than not, use them to express themselves with very little text content. GIFs are quick, one-liner responses to all kinds of web conversations. There are even GIF keyboards like the emoji keyboard that can be installed on a smartphone.
GIFs are becoming the go-to tactic for brands seeking higher engagement.
As marketers look for new ways to stand out in the ever- changing digital landscape, GIFs are becoming the go-to tactic for brands seeking higher engagement. GIFs, which loop endlessly, let brands tell a story to their consumers similar to emojis and memes. When creating an animated GIF, it's not as simple as throwing a 15-second spot up or even quickly editing a video. Where the GIF is going on social media also matters and will affect the content you’re developing. The GIF is a more advanced form of visual communication that allows an every day user to form a deeper connection with a brand.
Domino's created this fun GIF to hypnotize their pizza-loving audience and they definitely liked it!
Don’t be intimidated by the process of creating a GIF. While not as easy as making a meme or researching emojis, GIFs can leave a lasting impression on your audience that emojis and memes can’t. You can learn how to make a GIF on Photoshop from videos on YouTube, check out some GIF-making websites or have an agency-partner help produce the content for you.
So what does all of this mean? Emojis are relatively easy to implement. Just be extremely careful when deciphering what they mean. Memes are an effective and inexpensive way for your brand to connect with your audience by combining your brand values and pop culture, relevancy and wit. And, GIFs may take a little more time to create but are a fun way to engage with your audience and tell stories.
As always, ask your team what your communication objective is? Do these tactics make sense for your brand? Above all, strive to market less and matter more in the digital world of clutter and chaos.