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The Smiley Way

Sonal Khetarpal

You may not have heard of Shigetaka Kurita but you have him to thank for the smiley - and other emojis you use to substitute putting your feelings into words. Emojis have been around since the late 1990s, but they became ubiquitous only in the past few years. Now brand strategists and marketers are beginning to use them in their communications as well.

According to a paper published in the Social Neuroscience journal, the brain processes emojis the same way it does real faces. Emojis, says Rajiv Dingra, founder of WATConsult, help brands define the emotions they want to be associated with and evoke specific responses from users. They enable brands to add an element of fun and personalisation in their communication.

"Brands that target consumers in the 13-25 age group are quickly scripting their strategies to capture the enthusiasm around virtual emotions," says Ranjeet Kumar, founder of digital marketing company Team Pumpkin.

According to social media analytics company Unmetric, in May 2016, the top 100 brands (based on the number of Twitter followers) used emojis in 309 tweets. In May last year, emojis appeared only 10 times in these brand tweets. Kingfisher, ZoomTV, MTV India and Red Bull India use them extensively.

Brands are also turning emojis into marketing campaigns. For its campaign #PepsiMoji launched during the IPL, the brand developed 38 emojis and used them across TVCs, outdoor and digital films. These patented emojis were also put on the packaging of Pepsi and Diet Pepsi cans, and on PET bottles. The idea for using emojis, says Vipul Prakash, VP, beverage category, at PepsiCo India, is to "let consumers buy Pepsi based on their mood and use it to express what they are feeling".

Interestingly, Pepsi did not use a single emoji in its tweets, but used #PepsiEmoji 104 times, according to data from Unmetric. The campaign generated 2,901 retweets, new hashtags and 40,000 selfies with Pepsi bottles. Its five-second ads on YouTube generated 15 million views.

Vodafone turned its brand mascot ZooZoo into an emoji on Twitter as a part of its SuperNet campaign to promote its 4G network. ZooZoo was linked to the hashtags #BeSuper and #HakkeBakke to create buzz during the IPL season. The company claims to have garnered 90 million impressions in four days since its launch on April 25, increasing the brand's positive sentiment by 70 per cent. "The rationale of using ZooZoo was to increase the brand love and, hence, its talkability on social media," says Siddharth Banerjee, National Head, Brand and Consumer Insights, Vodafone India.

This has encouraged several brands to join the emoji bandwagon. Kingfisher used 90 emojis in its tweets in the month of May, whereas two months earlier, it used none. While these emoji campaigns help brands increase engagement with consumers, the jury is still out on whether they really impact a company's revenue. Yet, emojis cannot be dismissed as a fad. "No one will stop using emojis in future, although the initial euphoria may die," says Prathap Suthan, Chief Creative Officer, BangInTheMiddle. He anticipates that emojis will evolve in shapes and formats such as GIFs, which are moving pictures in a digital format.

Emojis mean serious business for social messaging apps such as Line. According to reports, from its annual revenue of $1.1 billion last year, $268 million came from selling stickers - larger and more expressive emojis. While these are encouraging signs, too much reliance on emojis, Suthan cautions, could be seen as marketers' laziness to make up for the lack of verbal expression.

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Listening Post

Breaking News

A new study by Columbia University and the French National Institute claims that six in every 10 people who share links from news websites on networking site Twitter do not read them. The research, which studied 2.8 million shared links from news websites BBC, CNN, Fox News, The New York Times and The Huffington Post, found out that around 59 per cent of these links have never been clicked by users, though they were shared many times. The study also revealed that users are more likely to click on a link shared by an individual than a media outlet. Considering news is the main topic of discussion on Twitter and trends are decided based on these shares, the findings could be worrisome.

Rise of the Bots

Bots have been around for a while now, but with the launch of chatbots on Facebook, the artifiialintelligence-based application is once again in the limelight. Some have gone as far as to predict that bots will replace apps in future. Facebook is already working on teaching its bots common sense, which would help them be more human-like. At the Wired Business Conference 2016, Yan LeCun, Director of AI Research at Facebook, said the company is also working at making languages understandable to bots. Facebook isn't the only tech company chasing an AI-driven future. Apple, too, recently announced many improvements to its digital assistant, Siri.

Reproduced From Business Today. © 2016. LMIL. All rights reserved.