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ROB MURRAY & EMILY TWOMEY
CULTIVATINGVISUAL
LANGUAGEINNOVATION
WITHEMOJIABLE
MARKETING
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 2
The last few years have seen an
explosion of emojis and visual language...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 3
Behaviors driving visual
language innovation
Currently, 80% of the time...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 4
At the end of 2015, messaging apps
like WhatsApp and Facebook Messen-
g...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 5
This movement towards messaging
and, now, image-based messaging
– altho...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 6
The nearly ubiquitous state of emoji
and sticker usage depicts consumer...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 7
Platforms such as Apple, Facebook,
Microsoft, Samsung, Twitter, Yahoo,
...
In 1999 in Japan, people were beginning
to use small picture messages in their
text messages. But what we now take
for gra...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 9
Opportunity-ripe, image-based
messaging platforms
A majority of the key...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 10
The Japanese language has a set of
characters that includes a number o...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 11
Similarly, Aloft Hotels launched
“Text it, Get it” in their Manhattan
...
Emojis continue to grow in sociocultural
importance, a fact that becomes evident
when perusing through current news.
Not o...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 13
Which brands are doing it right?
As our visual language expands, sever...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 14
#ShareaCoke
And Snaps is not the only one. Swyft
Media, another small ...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 15
Offering utility via emoji tools
As marketers and parents alike
scramb...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 16
Innovating with animation
For those marketers looking to play in
the e...
TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 17
Context is critical. With a deeper under-
standing of consumers’ onlin...
Emily Twomey
Senior Account Director Luxury & Beauty,
SapientNitro New York
etwomey@sapient.com
Emily is a Northeast marke...
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Cultivating Visual Language Innovation with Emojiable Marketing | By Rob Murray, Director of Consumer Intelligence and Emily Twomey, Senior Account Director Luxury & Beauty

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The last few years have seen an explosion of emojis and visual language innovation. In 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary declared an emoji – the face with tears of joy – the word of the year. YELP, Bing, and Instagram have emoji-enabled search. You can order a pizza, get room service, and even fight bullying with emojis.

For digital marketers, this presents an incredible opportunity. We are witnessing the beginnings of a new language and, if we want to stay close or get closer to our consumers, then we will need to learn how to use it.

Emojis and stickers are more than cute platforms for campaigns targeted at the coveted Millennial. This evolving, visual communication language is becoming a natural – and highly useful – part of our digital conversations. Through emojis and stickers, people have found a shortcut for expressing complex feelings and are thus achieving a new kind of digital intimacy.

And, while some are already seizing this, more marketers should want in on the opportunity that lies ahead.

Published in: Marketing

Cultivating Visual Language Innovation with Emojiable Marketing | By Rob Murray, Director of Consumer Intelligence and Emily Twomey, Senior Account Director Luxury & Beauty

  1. 1. ROB MURRAY & EMILY TWOMEY CULTIVATINGVISUAL LANGUAGEINNOVATION WITHEMOJIABLE MARKETING
  2. 2. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 2 The last few years have seen an explosion of emojis and visual language innovation. In 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary declared the face – with tears of joy – the word of the year. YELP, Bing, and Instagram have emoji-enabled search. You can order a pizza, get room service, and even fight bullying with emojis. For digital marketers, this presents an incredible opportunity. We are witness- ing the beginnings of a new language and, if we want to stay close or get closer to our consumers, then we will need to learn how to use it. Yet, while emojis have been at the intersection of story and technology for around twenty years, consumers are now speaking with emojis, stickers, and images more and more. This evolving, visual communication language is becoming a natural – and highly useful – part of our digital conversations. Is this just another temporal, digital mini-trend like screensavers, ringtones, or Second Life? We do not think so. We now live in a world where the most popular word is an image. Marshal McLuhan was prescient when he said that the “medium is the message.” We are all speaking on our phones less, while emailing and texting more. It is no wonder, then, that people are using these visual tools to add nuances to their communication. LOL and JK can only go so far. Emojis and their brethren (i.e., stickers) will certainly continue to evolve and, while the concept of visual language is not a new one, this contemporary man- ifestation looks to have staying power. Emojis and stickers are more than cute platforms for campaigns targeted at the coveted Millennial. Through emojis and stickers, people have found a shortcut for expressing complex feel- ings and are thus achieving a new kind of digital intimacy. And, while some are already seizing this, more marketers should want in on the opportunity that lies ahead.
  3. 3. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 3 Behaviors driving visual language innovation Currently, 80% of the time a consumer spends on their smartphone is with 4 or 5 chat and social apps – the environments in which the popularity of emojis skyrocketed.1 However, when it comes to growth rates, the leaders in online, social behavior are no longer the social networks themselves, but rather the social messaging platforms (see Figure 1). 1 Forrester Research. “US Consumer Technographics Study.” 2 Activate. “Tech and Media Outlook 2016.” http://www.slideshare.net/ActivateInc/activate-tech-and-media-outlook-2016?ref=http://activate.com/. The growth of messaging now trumps that of social networks.2 One of the largest shifts in consumer behavior related to the evolution of visual language usage is that of the overall growth of messaging. Messaging has been the fastest-growing online behavior within the social landscape over the past five years, passing social networks. FIGURE01 Growth of messaging platforms vs. network platforms Monthly Active Users (MAUs) 2001-2015E* ­ *Messaging defined as communicating primarily in real time with other contacts; social defined as broadcast sharing of status updates, images, videos, or other content. All data measured from Q2/Q3 each year. ** Became standalone app in 2014. Source: Activate. “Media, Journalism and Technology Predictions 2016.” http://digitalnewsreport.org/publications/ 2016/predictions-2016/. Aggregate sources from: Fortune, Business Insider, Mashable, Instagram, AppAnnie, AdWeek, Quartz, Yahoo Finance, Experian, TechCrunch, Forbes, Tech in Asia, eMarketer, Compete, Activate analysis. MonthlyActiveUsers(millions) Year 900 750 600 450 300 150 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015E WhatsApp Launched 2009 FB Messenger Launched 2011** WeChat Launched 2011 Instagram Launched 2011 Snapchat Launched 2011 Pinterest Launched 2010 Social Messaging Social Network Hybrid Messaging / Network
  4. 4. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 4 At the end of 2015, messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messen- ger rose at significant rates, with varied success across different regions (see Figure 2). This is one of the largest shifts in consumer behavior for the evolution of visual language usage and is setting up the emoji (along with its visual kin) to become one of the most engaging tools in marketing communications. 3 Activate. “Tech and Media Outlook 2016.” http://www.slideshare.net/ActivateInc/activate-tech-and-media-outlook-2016?ref=http://activate.com/. Geography of messaging apps' dominant user bases3 Clear leaders are emerging in the messaging landscape: Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are global, while others dominate locally. FIGURE02 Name Monthly Active Users (in millions) Geography of dominant user base WhatsApp 900 Global Facebook 700 Global WeChat 600 China QQ Mobile ~600 * China Gchat >425 * USA iMessage ~400 ** USA Viber 249 EMEA LINE 211 Japan Snapchat 200 USA & EMEA Kik 200 EMEA Telegram 85 EMEA Tango 80 APAC KakaoTalk 48 South Korea Hike 35 India Zalo ~18 * Vietnam Path Talk 10 USA FireChat <5 * EMEA & APAC YikYak 4 USA SOMA <2 Saudi Arabia Jott <1 USA Nimbuzz N/A India Microsoft Send N/A USA Vurb N/A USA While founded in the U.S., both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have attracted global audiences. The third largest messaging platform is Chinese – WeChat (and its predecessor QQ Mobile owned by Tencent). ­ *Indicates estimates. **Estimated based on number of iPhones sold. Source: http://www.slideshare.net/ActivateInc/activate-tech-and- media-outlook-2016?ref=http://activate.com/. It is a rare privilege to observe the rise of a new language. Emojis are becoming a valid and near- universal method of expression in all languages. – Thomas Dimson, Software Engineer, Instagram
  5. 5. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 5 This movement towards messaging and, now, image-based messaging – although originally fueled by teens – has spread across demographics (see Figure 3). To quote Thomas Dimson, a software engineer on Instagram‘s data team, “It is a rare privilege to observe the rise of a new language. Emojis are becoming a valid and near-universal method of expression in all languages.” And a new language it is. Emojis now stand where Internet slang once did – LOL, remember? This shift can be seen clearly on Instagram, where nearly half of all comments and captions posted to the platform contain at least one emoji.6 And, while emoji usage has seen a boom in the past three years (especially after Apple introduced the emoji key- board on iOS in 2011), the usage of Internet slang is continuously dwindling (see Figure 4). Other behavioral data depicts the same clear, strong push towards future inno- vation in image-based communications. According to Swyft Media, 41.5 billion messages and 6 billion emoticons and stickers are sent around the world every day on mobile messaging apps.7 In fact, one 2014 study conducted by Sean Dolinar, a predictive analytics specialist, found that 10% of Tweets contain at least one emoji.8 Facebook, another big player in the messaging field, paid $19 billion for WhatsApp, and their bet on chat apps as the next big wave seems to be right. WhatsApp took 21 months to grow from 200 million users to 700 million. Facebook took 25 months.9 4 Emogi. “2015 Emoji Report.” http://emogi.com/documents/Emoji_Report_2015.pdf. 5 Ibid. 6 Instagram Engineering. “Emojineering Part 1: Machine Learning for Emoji Trends.” http://instagram-engineering.tumblr.com/post/117889701472/emojineering-part-1-machine- learning-for-emoji. 7 Digiday. “The emojification of brand advertising.” http://digiday.com/brands/emojification-brand-advertising/. 8 STATS[dot]SEANDOLINAR[dot][com]. “The Most Popular Emoji Characters On Twitter.” http://stats.seandolinar.com/popular-emoji-on-twitter/. 9 Facebook. “June 2015 Investor Meeting.” Emoji users by age4 FIGURE03 Emoji users by gender5 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% <25 25-29 30-34 35+ Age Non-user Occasional user Frequent user 80% 40% 0% Women Men Non-user Occasional user Frequent user Emoji usage vs. Internet slang FIGURE04 Emoji and Internet slang usage by join date 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 2012-07 Internet Slang 2013-01 2013-07 2014-01 2014-07 2015-01 2015-07 Emoji
  6. 6. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 6 The nearly ubiquitous state of emoji and sticker usage depicts consumers’ desires for increased personalization across their digital interactions. These idea-graphs or pictograms, along with the platforms and offerings that pack- age them, allow users to gather and communicate with the images that best fit each of their identities and emotions. And, as the paradigm continues to shift away from voice communication (even email) and leave off a significant amount of contextual information, these pictograms arm digital consumers with new tools for expressing themselves in confined digital spaces.10 How do emoticons, emoji, and stickers differ? Emoticons Emoticons are punctuation and ASCII text-based icons that represent facial expressions – such as the happy face :). They serve to improve how messages are interpreted by drawing recipients’ attentions toward senders’ tempers. For example, a terse text message without a wink can be read as something far more serious than if the sender adds a simple wink. If you have been in a serious text or chat discus- sion, then you surely know the feeling. The one benefit of emoticons is that they are based on text. Your :) will show up exactly the same on your friend’s device regardless of its operating system or the program being used – a universality that made emoticons very popular. However, while emoticons can get fairly complex, their text-based nature is also what limits them in usage 10 Coke recently announced the end of voice mail in their corporate headquarters. Bloomberg. “Coca-Cola Disconnects Voice Mail at Headquarters.” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-12-22/coca-cola-disconnects-voice-mail-at-headquarters. and understanding. These limitations may have been the catalyst for the next innovation: emojis. Emojis What began as a non-standardized form of sending picture messages through text (see the sidebar entitled “The origins and evolution of emojis” on page 8), emojis – or “picture words” – have become a world-renowned language. The Unicode Consortium, the international standardization body for the unicode markup language for text (what allows both sender and receiver to see the same image for each emoji), sets the rules for what code gets turned into emojis.
  7. 7. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 7 Platforms such as Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung, Twitter, Yahoo, Google, and many others agree to use the same Unicode source to define things like a hat, a dog, or even poo (don’t pretend that you don’t know…). The Consortium thus makes emojis platform-agnostic. But this work is never quite done. The Consortium periodically releases an update with new emojis added to the Unicode. Though there are hundreds of emoji, there seems to be a continuous appetite for more. In 2014, for example, questions were raised about the lack of diversity (lack of certain gestures or faces) in emojis, so changes were published. Brands began taking a liking to emojis, as well. Taco Bell, for example, successfully petitioned the Unicode Consortium for a taco emoji through a Change.org campaign. Then, in 2015, childhood bullying became the first cause with a dedicated emoji (see Figure 5). The eye in a speech bubble was created to raise awareness for childhood bullying – the thought being that if you see it happening, then you should let others know. Perhaps emojis will become the new postage stamps. Stamps were traditionally used in a similar fashion to commemorate or celebrate causes, events, locations, and people. The Consortium has accepted 74 new emoji characters as candidates for Unicode 9.0, scheduled for release in mid-2016. However, now and again, you may hear mention of Apple or Android releasing their own emojis. These individual operating systems 11 As of August, 2013. TNW News. “Japanese Messaging Company Line Makes Over $10 Million Per Month From Selling Stickers.” http://thenextweb.com/asia/2013/08/21/ japanese-messaging-company-line-makes-over-10-million-per-month-from-selling-stickers/. (OS’s) periodically add additional code – beyond the Unicode standard – to their own systems, allowing their users to access even more emojis. As you can see, things can get confu- sing. Now, let’s talk about stickers. Stickers Stickers are non-standardized icons with no governing consortium. They are not code-based, but rather individual images that a user can access via a proprietary text or chat system. Instead of having an emoji keyboard, stickers are little images downloaded by users directly to their devices. Thus, platforms such as LINE, WeChat, WhatsApp, KakaoTalk, and Facebook Messenger (among others) create and distribute their own stickers. They generally come in sets and, while some are free, many are available for purchase in exchange for a few dollars. For example, LINE (a Korea-based chat platform popular in Japan) makes $10 million a month by selling stickers to its consumers.11 “Stickers” is a great descriptor for these images. Stickers are more than mere pictograms and isotypes that describe an object or function. They are much more emotive, funny, and branded. And within the last few years, animated stickers have become even more popular. These stickers are just what they sound like; they have text, an emotive action, or simple animations of an action. So now, instead of sending a heart emoji, you can send a beating heart or a broken heart or a heart that is given by a character. In fact, the power of stickers lies in their characters. The “I am witness” anti-bullying emoji campaign The “eye in a speech bubble” emoji represents an anti-bullying campaign called “I am a witness” launched by The Ad Council in 2014 in collabora- tion with Adobe, The Bully Project, and Behance. The campaign flips the equa- tion by targeting those who witness bullying and empowers kids to go from passive to active. FIGURE05 #IAmAWitness
  8. 8. In 1999 in Japan, people were beginning to use small picture messages in their text messages. But what we now take for granted was somewhat difficult at that time. The bandwidth required to deliver even small images was signifi- cant. So NTT DoCoMo, a Japanese mobile provider, asked their engineers to come up with a way to send images while saving on bandwidth. They came up with a markup protocol for emojis. With this, a colon alongside a bracket sent to a friend’s device (if using the same protocol) would be interpreted client-side as a smiley face. However, just like any markup language, that interpretation had to be embedded in both the sender and receiver's messag- ing programs for it to work. And that is where things got interesting. Emojis, or “picture words”, were then standardized and a set of 180 emojis was created. Before there was a universal device and OS-agnostic set of emoji codes, your emoji might have looked like a box with a question mark on another person's device. And, although they were popular in Japan, emojis did not begin to take off in the West until there was a tipping point. As the story goes, that tipping point was Steve Jobs. When the iPhone was introduced in Japan, it was not an immediate best- seller. So Steve Jobs went to Japan to to promote the iPhone by meeting with carriers and device manufacturers. One of them was SoftBank who, although had agreed to sell the iPhone, wanted it to have the same features that their cus- tomers had already grown accustomed to – emojis. Thus, emojis were added to the iPhone for SoftBank, the Japanese market, and – subsequently – the global market. This highlights two of the reasons why emojis became even more popular: availability and ubiquity. THE ORIGINS AND EVOLUTION OF EMOJIS 8TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY Standardization, however, was still missing. The Unicode Consortium is the international standardization body for the Unicode markup language for text. This is what easily allows a Mandarin speaker to choose Mandarin on a device and have the device interpret different keyboard inputs to create Chinese cha- racters. That code is then sent via text or email and is, in turn, re-interpreted as Chinese on the receiver's device. Even with this standardization, there are still misinterpretations across platforms and that is why quotes may look strange on another device. Given the number of devices and operating systems across the globe, it is truly remarkable that there are merely a handful of tiny errors. (^_^) :) What began as a non-standardized form of sending picture messages through text, emojis – or “picture words” – have become a world-renowned language. Emoticons, such as the smiley face, are interpreted into symbols by users tilting their heads to the left. Thus, a colon alongside a bracket becomes a smiley face. Kaomoji (Japan’s ASCII set), on the other hand, is designed so that the user does not have to tilt their head. Emoticon vs Kaomoji
  9. 9. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 9 Opportunity-ripe, image-based messaging platforms A majority of the key players in image- based messaging have not only contri- buted to the proliferation of emoji and sticker usage, but are also standing at the forefront of the subsequent branded content trend. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, LINE, and KakaoTalk (among others) have all added branded pictograms to their partnership offerings in some capacity. Facebook Messenger, who dove into the sponsored visual content game back in 2013, is a good illustration of how this overarching visual com- munication hype comes together.13 Along with its default collection of 32 Meeps (larger, static, and more emotive smiley-like stickers), Facebook Messenger’s sticker search reveals a sub-menu of ten categories including In Love, Active, Angry, Confused, and more (see Figure 6). These categories comprise the platform’s sticker store, which houses dozens of third-party sticker packs based on themes – from Star Wars and Disney to Naughty Foods and Hacker Girl – and marks the sponsorship business on which emoji and sticker advertising stands. But if you really want to see where visual language innovation is occurring, then you need to go back to the com- munity that invented emojis – Japan. In Japan, LINE is the most popular chat platform with over 215 million monthly active users.14 12 CNBC. “Messaging apps hit gold as ‘emojis’ head west.” http://www.cnbc.com/id/100976844. 13 TechCrunch. “Facebook Launches First Branded Stickers, Previewing a Potential Sponsorship Biz.” http://techcrunch.com/2013/06/27/facebook-branded-stickers/. 14 Statista. “Number of Monthly Active LINE Users Worldwide Q4 2015.” http://www.statista.com/statistics/327292/number-of-monthly-active-line-app-users/. The breadth of visual language options available via Facebook Messenger. By clicking on Facebook Messenger’s “Sticker” option (the smiley face), users open the default menu of Meeps (pictured on the left). These caricatured faces look like smileys, but are larger, static, and show a wider range of emotions from happy to sad to aggravated. Though there are currently 32 of these Meep images avail- able, a user can reach even more options by searching through the sticker store (pictured on the right). FIGURE06 This fun, quirky communication method has developed as a kind of 'digital slang' for young teens, delivering the rapid, image-led messaging mirrored in apps such as Snapchat. – Tessa Mansfield Senior Vice President, Stylus12
  10. 10. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 10 The Japanese language has a set of characters that includes a number of pictograms for words. And the culture is one that both loves cute things – “kawaii” – and has an animist history of anthropomorphizing objects including trees, rocks, plants, and animals. This can be seen in action through the use of numerous “cute” characters across the nation’s advertising. LINE has one of the most robust and diverse collections of sticker and ani- mated sticker sets among the world’s chat platforms. In addition to the expected Hello Kitty and Disney sticker packs in its store, LINE is also aggres- sively signing deals with celebrities to incorporate more exclusive stickers. Paul McCartney, for example, has two sticker sets on LINE: One set uses his image together with words like “won- derful”, while the other has him voicing words in both English and Japanese. And he’s definitely not the only one. Many of these branded stickers are for sale and drive a lot of revenue for LINE – as we noted, $10 million a month.15 Most interesting is that there is also a character set, named Brown and Cony, that was created just for LINE. Brown is a bear, Cony is his girlfriend, and together they are part of a larger story involving several other characters. The consistent updating of the story, along with the fact that it’s published on a regular basis, creates a preference and stickiness for the chat platform through the branded experiences (like Brown and Cony) that it provides. More importantly, success like this is also an indication of what is possible: Brown and Cony became so popular that they leaped over the digital divide into physical merchandise (e.g., plush toys) and now generate offline sales of millions of dollars.16 Brands are increasingly speaking visually The movement towards image-led communication presents a multitude of opportunities for marketers to drive differentiation and service communica- tion. By using this visual language and participating in its continued evolution, brands position themselves as allies of the technological disruption curve. They literally show that they speak the language of their consumers and, so, depict their ability to consider behavioral data and act accordingly. Not to mention the fact that speaking visually can incite higher engagement from consumers – either in conversa- tion with the brand itself or through downloads (and usage) of branded stickers in personal communications. Both are great examples of proactively introducing your brand into users’ stories, rather than waiting for them to become part of yours. Dominos Pizza, for example, seized the emoji opportunity when it enabled ordering via the sending of a pizza emoji. Along with making its process easier and faster, the brand displayed its ability to speak with and function at the speed of digital change. Piggyback- ing on that success, Dominos further committed to this shift by offering emoji flashcards to parents who wish to communicate better with their kids. 15 NAs of August, 2013. TNW News. “Japanese Messaging Company Line Makes Over $10 Million Per Month From Selling Stickers.” http://thenextweb.com/asia/2013/08/21/ japanese-messaging-company-line-makes-over-10-million-per-month-from-selling-stickers/. 16 SapientNitro estimates based on sales figures. Fast Company. “How Japan's LINE App Became A Culture-Changing, Revenue-Generating Phenomenon.” https://www.fastcompany.com/ 3041578/most-innovative-companies-2015/how-japans-line-app-became-a-culture-changing-revenue-generat.
  11. 11. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 11 Similarly, Aloft Hotels launched “Text it, Get it” in their Manhattan Financial District location to streamline guests’ experiences and personalize their interactions with the hotel’s services even further. TiGi, for short, integrates consumer behavior trends by allowing guests to make their room service selections, request wake up calls, and even notify the hotel that they are locked out of their rooms – all by texting 2 or 3 emojis (see Figure 7). Put simply by Paige Francis (Vice Pre- sident of Global Brand Management for Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands), “Our guests can now talk to us like they talk to each other.”17 We are only now beginning to see brands tiptoe into this opportunity. And, while this is not the new and improved Internet of Apps, it is a shift in how we speak to each other and to brands. Consequently, it requires far more than updating your logo to be more “emojiable” as iHop has done or hoping that people will say, “That meal was so Starbucks,” and add a coffee icon. Other brands, for example, are using image-based platforms just as they would Facebook – you can friend a brand and opt-in to receive push communication. These are nascent efforts. To become associated with unique service in their industries, brands should take further steps of proactive integration with their consumers’ language behaviors. Brands need to be thoughtful and empathetic. A deep 17 Mashable. “Emoji room service is now a thing if you’re too lazy to call the front desk.” http://mashable.com/2015/10/21/emoji-room-service/#69tTxr6Wx5qT. understanding of people’s context will reveal opportunities to create icons, story systems, games, tools, and a host of other services that people will willingly and delightfully adopt into their communication habits. The true opportunity lies in recognizing that there is a fundamental shift in how we are communicating and that brands have a unique opportunity to become a relevant part of their consumers’ conversations. But let us say it again: Brands have to be thoughtful. This is not a one-off campaign, but rather an investment. And this is not a digital fool’s gold rush (i.e., Second Life Part 2.0). This time, brands are (and should be) treading carefully. Aloft Hotels and their “Text it, Get it” emoji menu TiGi offers several services via emoji requests, alerting the hotel of asks ranging from toiletry refreshers and tech needs to hangover cures and the munchies. FIGURE07
  12. 12. Emojis continue to grow in sociocultural importance, a fact that becomes evident when perusing through current news. Not only are brands referencing the rising relevance of this visual language, but the little icons themselves have even become means of social and politi- cal commentary. SOCIOCULTURAL REFERENCING IN ADVERTISING For 2016's Super Bowl, Avocados from Mexico created an ad (targeted to the 111.9 million viewers of the Big Game) in which aliens roam through a space- ship’s museum full of 20th and 21st century human relics – one of which is an emoji display.18 Upon reaching the digital display, the tour guide refers to the emoji language as “[humans’] alpha- bet” and goes on to explain how “a few symbols could express the vast extent of [human] emotion.” SOCIOPOLITICAL COMMENTARY In an effort to counter the unbelievable popularity of Kim Kardashian’s Kimoji (an emoji set, based on the celebrity, that still remains one of the top-selling apps on Apple’s iTunes), U.S.-based web designer Ben Gillin created an emoji set mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong- un (along with his father and grand- father). The creation of these Kimunji was triggered by Gillin’s pure amaze- ment at the success of Kimoji and his disgruntled reaction to the thought of young people actually using them (and, subsequently, being influenced by them). The Kimunji, similar in their terrible na- ture, are said to be based on the “news or fears that we have” regarding North Korea (see Figure 8).19 THE CULTURAL AND POLITICAL NUANCES OF EMOJI USAGE 12TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY POLITICAL RACING Emojis are popping up in a few places relating to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Twitter, for example, released an official “iVoted” emoji for its plat- form, allowing users to wear the digital badge proudly by simply typing in #iVoted or #iCaucused (see Figure 9). Emoji usage across social media not only presents data around who votes, but what their sentiments are prior to voting. The Atlantic, for example, creat- ed a realtime tracker of how presiden- tial contenders are coupled with Twitter emojis – giving viewers a peek into the Internet’s current voter sentiment.20 18 Statista. “TV viewership of the Super Bowl in the United States from 1990 to 2016 (in millions).” http://www.statista.com/statistics/216526/super-bowl-us-tv-viewership/. 19 BBC. “Kim Jong-un emojis take on Kim Kardashian Kimoji.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-35557192. 20 The Atlantic. “The Presidential Race in Emojis.” http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/12/emojis-2016-presidential-election/420840/. Kim Kardashian's Kimoji faces new competition from Kimunji FIGURE08 Twitter released an iVoted emoji for its platform FIGURE09 Kimoji Kimunji
  13. 13. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 13 Which brands are doing it right? As our visual language expands, several brands are highlighting the various applications that this evolution offers. Shareable ingenuity on social media Emoji usage on social media may soon become table stakes for brands attempting to penetrate their consumers’ ongoing interactions. We have already reached the point at which users expect brands to do more than simply throw in the occasional emoji into their posts. Consumers now applaud brands and may award them with higher engage- ment for displaying emoji ingenuity. Bud Light’s Fourth of July emoji flag remains a great example of this trend. The brand celebrated Independence Day by recreating the American flag using only three emojis: the American flag, fireworks, and beer mugs. The Twitter post alone has garnered over 145,000 retweets and 109,000 likes.21 Emoji keyboard generation The creation of branded emoji keyboards remains one of the most prominent use cases for this visual language in marketing. Indeed, several startups have seen great success by offering emoji-based messaging services. Snaps, for example, opens the door to 800 million monthly active users across platforms such as Kik, Tango, WeChat, and Viber. Its end-to-end messaging 21 Bud Light’s Twitter page. https://twitter.com/budlight/status/485050295517335552?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw. 22 Snaps. https://www.makesnaps.com/. solution means that not only can brands create emoji content, but Snaps will also distribute that branded content across its partner platforms and provide metrics around the emojis’ usage. The list of brands using Snaps contin- ues to grow, now counting Pepsi, MTV, Victoria’s Secret, L’Oreal, and Sony Pictures (to name a few). Burger King, possibly the most renowned brand using Snaps, saw its Chicken Fries keyboard result in 55% more favora- bility towards its product and depict the value of pictograms in a successful launch strategy (see Figure 10).22 Burger King's Chicken Fries keyboard FIGURE10
  14. 14. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 14 #ShareaCoke And Snaps is not the only one. Swyft Media, another small startup in the branded messaging space, has also partnered with several top messag- ing platforms including KakaoTalk, Facebook Messenger, BlackBerry Messenger, and LINE.23 Swyft offers the creation and targeting of emojis, digital stickers, GIFs, photo filters, and more across 1.5 billion monthly active users around the world.24 Their clientele includes the likes of Disney, Dreamworks, Universal, Miller, Warner Communications, and Coors – among a slew of others. User-generated content Oreo gained quite a bit of attention and credibility as a visual innovator when it ran a user-generated emoji campaign in China, at a time when emojis were still nascent in the market. The brand built a custom WeChat app that allowed families to create their own emojis – an effort stemming from parents’ worries around decreasing communication with their children. The app prompted parents to snap photos with their 23 Fortune. “How one startup is turning emoji into cash.” http://fortune.com/2015/01/28/swyft-messaging-emoji/. 24 Swyft Media. http://swyftmedia.com/. 25 Marketing Magazine. “Oreo connects Chinese families through custom-built ‘Emoji’ app on Wechat.” http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1296558/oreo-connects-chinese- families-custom-built-emoji-app-wechat. 26 Coca-Cola Company. “#ShareaCoke Twitter Chat: @CocaColaCo Q&A on the Coke Twitter Emoji and World Record ‘Cheers’.” http://www.coca-colacompany.com/coca-cola-un- bottled/shareacoke-twitter-chat-cocacolaco-q-a-on-the-coke-twitter-emoji-and-world-record-cheers/. Standing on its well-oiled platform for visual and real-time communication, Twitter continues to promote its custom emoji designs as premium ad offerings reserved only for its biggest partner brands. Along with Coca-Cola, other big spenders include PepsiCo, Verizon, Starbucks, Spotify, Dove, and Anheuser-Busch – all of which are taking the leap into visual language innovation. FIGURE11children, place them onto the emojis, and then share their creations with others. This visual initiative, supported by Oreo-branded bus stops that allowed for the projection and printing of users’ emoji creations, saw 99 million emojis created in the first 11 weeks (with approximately 10 million of those then being shared).25 Co-branded partnerships Coca-Cola and Twitter teamed up to create the platform's first branded emoji, an actual paid ad placement. If you type #ShareaCoke into a tweet, two iconic bottles of Coca-Cola appear in a clinking, “cheers” position (see Figure 11). This is the first emoji media buy, so to speak, as (unlike previous custom emojis for branded properties) it is part of an ad deal. And a good one at that: According to Coca-Cola, the branded hashtag and resulting emoji were mentioned over 170,000 times globally within the first day – a record that Coca-Cola deemed the “World’s Largest Cheers”.26
  15. 15. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 15 Offering utility via emoji tools As marketers and parents alike scramble to learn the emoji language that their consumers and children are speaking, SapientNitro decided to build a tool that would make the process a bit easier (see Figure 12). We introduced SpeakEmoji, an app that allows users to translate what they say into the iconic language of emoji – perfect for sending off to members of younger generations (whose attention spans seem to only decrease).27 Breaching the physical world Seamless activity across the physical- digital divide remains a priority for brands. And, for a communication tool that is so visual and versatile, it was only a matter of time before consum- ers’ desires for emojis – along with the efficacy of the language itself – pushed the little pictograms into the physical world. Case in point, Pepsi- Mojis – probably the first iteration of branded emojis on physical products. Pepsi first tested PepsiMojis (cans and bottles featuring customized emojis) in the summer of 2015 in Canada – a country who has more than one official language and, therefore, can vie for the effectiveness of the pictograms. The strategy led to such good results, it seems, that PepsiMojis (all 70+ of them) are making their global debut in over 100 markets in the summer of 2016.28 SapientNitro's SpeakEmoji App FIGURE12 I like to read in the sun everyday In an effort to capitalize on the visual communication trend (and compete with Coca-Cola’s Share-a-Coke campaign in which unique phrases and names were placed on bottles and cans), Pepsi is betting heavily on emojis’ ability to connect its playful brand to consumers in their natural habitats. In the case of Pepsi’s younger target audience, these environments include concerts, sports games, travels abroad, or something adventurous of the like – all moments better served by quick and fun interactions. Paired with their merchandising and adverts, Pepsi created a robust, cross-platform emoji campaign: Say It With Pepsi. 27 SapientNitro. “SpeakEmoji: The voice-to-emoji translator.” https://www.speakemoji.co.uk/. 28 AdvertisingAge. “Pepsi Preps Global Emoji Can and Bottle Campaign.” http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/pepsi-preps-global-emoji-bottle-campaign/302748/.
  16. 16. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 16 Innovating with animation For those marketers looking to play in the emoji sandbox, an awareness and understanding of Graphic Interchange Formats (GIFs) is key. GIFs – which are short, looping videos used across social media and messaging platforms – have come to be considered the animated siblings of emojis, often deemed the “next step” in visual language innovation after emojis them- selves. Propagated by a similar user base, the popularity of GIFs is also growing at a rapid pace, riding on the explosion of video consumption across social media, messaging, and (in fact) the Internet. Several brands have noticed this trend and are, again, seen innovating in the space. ESPN, for example, has compiled a library of animated GIFs commemora- ting moments and players, such as the top 10 U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) players.29 Preparing for hyper-personalization The next stage in image-based commu- nications, beyond animation, will belong to the world of hyper-personalization. Take Snapchat, for example, a leading proponent of visual language innova- tion and the importance of creating authentic, timely, and creative branded content. Not only have brands evolved their strategies to fit the platform, but the platform itself has also matured to encompass users’ habits and desires. Its collection of lenses and filters 29 Visit ESPN to get a glimpse of these animated GIFs. ESPN. “NBARANK Animated GIFs 5-1.” http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/11777975/nbarank-animated-gifs-5-1. prompts users to introduce their faces – their selves – into the visual commu- nication tool itself. Much like user- generated content, this ability to combine physical realities with digital language pushes the boundaries of technology and storytelling into the hy- per-personalized realm that consumers revel in (hello, Millennials). Success is thinking like an “anthromojist” Like an anthropologist, brands need to study the social customs, artifacts, rituals, patterns, and values of their consumers to understand (and even anticipate) their changing tastes. Brands should deeply monitor emoji, sticker, GIF, and all visual language usage in order to identify opportuni- ties for meeting and exceeding users’ expectations through relevant content, tools, and services. The imperative is clear: Language is changing. Emojis, stickers, and GIFs – along with their adoption and use – are signals that a communication shift is well underway. Brands should pay heed to these visual tools and the plat- forms that facilitate their usage. In order to communicate with their consumers and remain relevant, marketers need to know where people spend their time, how they express themselves, and what tools they turn to. Language is changing. Emojis, stickers, and GIFs are signals that a communication shift is well underway.
  17. 17. TRENDS AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY & STORY 17 Context is critical. With a deeper under- standing of consumers’ online behav- iors, especially in social and chat apps, brands can discover relevant ways of connecting with their consumers via visual language tools that have yet to be envisioned. As with any new language, intimacy builds over the course of multiple conversations as opposed to one-off campaigns. When a brand does decide to create stickers, for example, it should think more like a publisher and less like a campaign marketer. Part of the success of the Brown and Cony cha- racters on LINE is that there is a steady stream of new sticker packs in themes like Valentine’s Day and Christmas. There’s longevity in forming that kind of brand-to-consumer relationship. To begin innovating within this visual language space, cultivate emojiable strategies, and become a part of consumers’ conversations, marketers should: LEARN Study your consumers’ current and future visual vocabularies to understand what words and images are appropriate to use when talking to them. LISTEN Expand your social listening efforts to include visuals. CREATE Create opportunities where you can engage with or fuel your consumers’ conversations. Work with your agencies and identify new vendor partners for both ongoing and visual campaign opportunities. EXPERIMENT Engage with visuals to explore and measure engagement. For example, start a pilot program that allows your consumers to text customer service us- ing emojis. Better yet, could you write an agency brief that was all in visuals (like emojis)? QUESTION Can your brand guidelines incorporate how to handle emojis, stickers, GIFs, shareable images, and others of the sort? TRAVEL Get off your butt and go to Asia, espe- cially Japan and China. Witness the cultures who use – better said, propa- gate – these tools first-hand, meet with their citizens, and talk to local agencies. These insights will be a source of inspi- ration and will allow you to lead, instead of copying what others are doing. CATALYZE Remember that this is your customers’ language. You want to help people tell their own stories with some of your content. It’s not about burger and fries emojis, it’s about helping your consumers to tell their nuanced stories with delightful and thoughtful images, tools, and services. Our biggest suggestion, however, is for marketers to simply walk the walk – or text the text. The first step is to stop thinking of the news and trends that you read as being just fads for young kids. Then, you and everyone in your team, department, or agency should start exploring the visual language landscape. Prompt them to download and use WhatsApp, LINE, WeChat, Snapchat, or others. Prompt them to learn by doing.
  18. 18. Emily Twomey Senior Account Director Luxury & Beauty, SapientNitro New York etwomey@sapient.com Emily is a Northeast marketing lead for SapientNi- tro. She is responsible for driving regional integrated marketing strategy and execution in line with SapientNitro's business goals. SapientNitro® , part of Publicis.Sapient, is a new breed of agency redefining storytelling for an always-on world. We’re changing the way our clients engage today’s connected consumers by uniquely creating integrated, immersive stories across brand communications, digital engagement, and omnichannel commerce. We call it our Storyscaping® approach, where art and imagination meet the power and scale of systems thinking. SapientNitro’s unique combination of creative, brand, and technology expertise results in one global team collaborating across disciplines, perspectives, and continents to create game-changing success for our Global 1000 clients, such as Chrysler, Citi, The Coca-Cola Company, Lufthansa, Target, and Vodafone, in thirty-one cities across The Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. For more information, visit www.sapientnitro.com. SapientNitro and Storyscaping are registered service marks of Sapient Corporation. COPYRIGHT 2016 SAPIENT CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. INSIGHTS WHERE TECHNOLOGY & STORY MEET The Insights publication features the marketing intelligence, trend forecasts, and innovative recommendations of boundary-breaking thought leaders. The SapientNitro Insights app brings that provocative collection – now in its digital form – to your on-the-go fingertips. Download the full report at sapientnitro.com/insights and, for additional interactive and related content, download the SapientNitro Insights app. Rob Murray Director of Consumer Intelligence, SapientNitro New York rmurray@sapient.com Rob leads the experience strategy team for SapientNitro’s Consumer Intelligence practice. The practice uses best-in-class strategy and insight methods, frameworks and tools to provide rich stra- tegic insights informed by a contextual understand- ing of people’s behaviors. His team of strategists help clients drive transformative omni-channel customer experiences and digital business transformation.

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