Best Practices For Incorporating Emojis in Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Marketers are using emojis to “humanize” their brands and add a personal touch to the content. According to Digital Trends, the rise of “emoji marketing” grew by 557 percent from 2015-2016. Brands are taking note of this growth as corporations have increased their emoji usage by 777 percent since January of 2015.


Do you remember the first time you saw an emoticon? In 1982, the first emoticon was used on a Carnegie Mellon University online message board to differentiate between jokes and serious posts. According to Reader’s Digest, it all started when faculty member Scott Fahlman added a “:-)” to humorous posts and told his readers to “read it sideways.” Subsequently, more serious posts earned a “:-(“ and thus a new form of communication was born!


Flash forward to 1998 when Shigetaka Kurita, an engineer at a Japanese phone company, was trying to create a way for customers to communicate through icons. Kurita eventually developed a set of 176 icons he called “emoji.” The word comes from two Japanese words: “e” (picture) and “moji” (character).


Nowadays, emojis are well-integrated into our culture. As social media has grown, and character counts have shrunk, these icons are representations of our own feelings and play an important role in communication. Today, more than 1,800 emojis exist. The best part? We don’t need to tilt our heads sideways to understand them.


Brands Continue to Leverage Emojis


Emojis are paying off for brands that utilize them. One study found that ads featuring emojis earned click-through rates 20 times higher than the industry standard. Consumers seem to react positively to the surge of emoji usage as a recent study found that 68 percent of consumers say they receive one or more emojis from some medium every day. Of those surveyed, 51 percent said they had a positive impression of brands using emojis and perceived these brands as being “fun or relatable.”


The Medium is the Message


There are some platforms where emojis perform better than others. For example, according to ClickZ, Instagram posts that used emojis received 17 percent higher interaction rate than posts without emojis during 2016. The use of emojis on Instagram increased by 20 percent in 2016, so this pictorial method of communication doesn’t appear to be fading away anytime soon.


Twitter is another medium that’s experiencing higher engagement rates associated with emoji usage. According to Adweek, one marketer ran an A/B test on the Twitter ad platform of two tweets: one with emojis and one without. As a result, the emoji version of the tweet received an engagement rate that was 25.4 percent higher than the non-emoji tweet. Moreover, the tweet with emojis also had a lower cost per engagement.


The Problem With Emojis


There are times when emojis are simply not appropriate. For example, in 2015, USA Today supplemented the top headlines with sad and angry face emojis. According to Fusion, many readers felt like USA Today was telling its audience how to feel about the story instead of remaining objective and delivering the news in a journalistic manner.  Consider holding back on the use of emojis if you’re aiming to remain non-partisan and neutral over a given topic. Emojis may implicate that you or your brand feels one way or another about it.


Another prominent issue with emojis has to do with the way they’re interpreted by different people. According to, one study found that while one emoji may mean “shocked” to one person, it could have translated to merely “surprised” to another. Interestingly enough, even when most of the survey respondents reached a consensus on an emoji’s meaning, it wasn’t in agreement with the emoji’s actual intent.
Emoji usage is a great way to humanize a brand and make your audience feel like they’re communicating with a real human and not a robot. However, with all tactics, there should be a strategy, outlining the reasons for using emojis and carefully selecting which mediums should contain messaging that features emojis. Keep in mind that using emojis may implicate that your brand feels one way about a given topic and that emojis can mean different things to different audiences.