It used to be easy to dismiss emojis as a passing, winky-faced fad. Then along came a 2015 survey from marketing tech company, Emogi, that revealed 92% of online consumers use the tiny digital pictures when communicating online or over text messaging. And when Oxford Dictionaries later named “emoji” Word of the Year, the deal was sealed. Emojis are here to stay.

But the question is, do they belong in your marketing? Marketers across industries are beginning to give this question serious consideration. 

Marketers Connect with Audiences Thanks to Emojis ? 

Many brands are already testing the waters to see how emojis resonate with consumers. In fact, according to Econsultancy, 2% of emails now contain emojis in their subject line (although the jury is still out whether they really do boost open rates). 

Images make up a large part of today’s effective marketing strategies, and emojis are a useful way to change things up while still providing the visual appeal customers crave. We already know the brain processes images much faster than text, and research suggests that emojis elicit nearly the same positive response in people as viewing a human face ?.   

Emojis can breathe fresh air into visual marketing strategies, and they send a message to consumers that your company is contemporary and understands the language of today. Given their ubiquity and flair, using emojis responsibly (more on that in a minute) can be a way of meeting customers where they are. 

So that settles it. Marketers should cover every ad campaign with emojis, right?

Caution: Emojis Aren’t for Everyone ? 

Not all brands, campaigns, and businesses lend themselves to emoji visuals, and not all consumers appreciate them. This is particularly true in organizations that focus on business-to-business sales  or other serious transactions where professionalism is preferred over cutesy imagery.

It’s difficult to imagine taking a neurosurgical supply company seriously when it peppers sales emails with emojis of hospitals ? and ambulances ?. Likewise, it’s tough for the financial services industry to inspire confidence in corporate account holders by issuing quarterly reports filled with smiley faces ?  and dollar bills ?.  Yeah, emojis may work well in an email alert about a brand new shade of nail polish, but not in one about upgrading your life insurance policy. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that despite their prevalence not everyone likes emojis. “Emoji marketing success hinges on more than just concept and execution. Incorporating the language into your campaign is, all said, a judgement call based on knowing your audience and respecting your customer,” recommends Contently’s Tessa Wegert.

Like many emerging marketing strategies, incorporating emojis into your sales and advertising plans depends heavily on your target audience and overall business goals. If there is a compelling reason to avoid them then don’t force it. Otherwise,  it’s worth it for marketing teams to learn why organizations worldwide use emojis to engage customers.

4 Tips for Using Emojis?

If you want to give emojis a whirl, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Start small. Do a test run in a low-risk environment to see how well your target audience responds to emojis. Sprinkle a couple into your social media messages, or include one in your next A/B test email before incorporating them into larger campaigns.

2. Keep it light. Research shows positive emojis ? are much more popular than negative depictions. Be sure the emojis you choose are friendly and fun, not sad or angry.

3. Check for clarity. When Chevrolet issued a press release last year written entirely in emojis, there was a strong backlash across the internet. While the idea was clever, its execution fell flat because the emoji-laden press release was nearly impossible to decipher. Chevrolet ultimately released a translation of its original message to clear up the confusion.

4. Verify meaning. While most emojis clearly represent the sentiment they’re meant to convey, a handful are commonly used in pop culture to signify ideas that aren’t meant for all audiences. Double check the meaning of the emojis before using them to avoid accidental embarrassment ?.

Using emojis in marketing campaigns is an idea that may take some getting used to, but consider this: over 90% of consumers are already familiar with them so very few of your customers will be left scratching their heads over what they are or why they’re there. As long as you follow the tips we’ve outlined here, it’s a pretty low-risk way to connect with consumers in a whole new way. 

Omnichannel Marketing Lookbook
Lisa McGreevy

Posted by Lisa McGreevy

Lisa McGreevy is a professional freelance journalist and blogger with more than 18 years experience covering enterprise products and services, brand marketing, and emerging technology. Lisa is based in Tampa, FL. Follow her on Twitter @LisaH.