The way we communicate evolves. It always has. Yet the internet has brought an explosion of new communication channels, which has (arguably) brought bigger, faster changes to how we communicate than most past generations faced. A notable example of this: the rise of emojis.
Emojis are undeniably a part of modern communication. But should they be part of your marketing?
Finding the line between speaking the language of your audience (good👍) and appropriating trends you don’t understand (bad👎) can be tricky. You run the risk of looking out of touch, like you’re trying too hard. And sounding inauthentic will distance you from your audience, when the whole goal is to connect with them.
Emojis can be a useful linguistic tool for showing personality, conveying tone, and communicating more with fewer characters. And they’re ubiquitous enough in our communication that most brands can trust their audience will recognize and understand them. For many marketers, using them just makes sense. But they’re only worth including in your marketing if you use them thoughtfully and accurately.
3 Questions to Ask Before Including Emojis in Your Marketing
Emojis won’t make sense for every brand in every context. To use them effectively (and avoid embarrassing yourself), consider three questions before you include an emoji in your marketing materials.
1. What would your audience think?
Whether emojis make sense in your marketing content has everything to do with who you’re communicating with. What’s their age? What kind of internet and communication habits do they have? Do they spend a lot of time in channels where emojis are common, such as texting and social media?
If your audience is likely to see emojis as unprofessional and take your brand less seriously because of them, then steer clear. If they’re of a generation that’s not familiar with them and may just be confused by them, same deal. But if they’re in the many categories of people that liberally pepper emojis into their everyday conversations, then including them in your marketing makes sense.
2. Is it appropriate to the channel?
Emojis show up more often in some channels than others. And in some instances, they’d feel really out of place. Your company’s annual report? Probably not the best context to throw some emojis in. But on social media channels? Emojis abound, so it’s more natural and expected for brands to use them as well.
Figuring out if a channel is a good fit for emojis depends entirely on your brand and audience though; there aren’t solid guidelines that fit all scenarios here. Consider what you know about how your audience interacts with different marketing channels in deciding what works for your brand.
3. Does it serve a purpose?
Before you insert that emoji, ask yourself why.
Does it help you convey a tone that words alone weren’t managing? Sometimes an emoji can completely change the feel of a line of text—in a good way. Something that could be read as sarcastic otherwise becomes clearly earnest if you add a 😀.
Do you want to see if it increases engagement? Adding an emoji to an email subject line or in a social post could help it stand out in a crowded inbox or feed. Gaining attention could lead to increased interactions.
Marketers should never make decisions based on a sense that they’re supposed to be following a trend. Make sure you understand why first, and you’re much more likely to use emojis in a way that helps you accomplish that goal.
How to Use Emojis Effectively
If your answer to those three questions has you convinced emojis are a good idea, follow a few best practices to use them well.
1. Only use them where they make natural sense.
Don’t try to shoehorn them into your marketing. You don’t need an emoji in every tweet or email subject line. But when you’re saying something that you know an emoji can add something too— a joke you can tack a 😂 to the end of, or a comment about the season that can benefit from a 🍂,❄️,🌱, or ☀️to add a visual to it—then include one.
2. Make sure you understand the emoji you’re using.
Some emojis have a popular meaning other than their straightforward appearance. Make sure you know what an emoji will mean to your audience before you use it.
You do not want to innocently add an eggplant emoji to a piece of brand content 😬. And the hand signal many grew up understanding to mean “OK” has been adopted by some white supremacist groups, so it’s a good emoji to steer clear of as well.
Emojipedia is a good resource for checking to see if an emoji you’re about to use could be communicating something other than what you intend.
3. Stick with emojis that have obvious meaning.
Emojis should help you convey meaning or tone. You don’t want them to cause confusion.
The library of available emojis is large and growing. But a lot of them are unfamiliar to most audiences. When including emojis in your marketing, stick with the ones that you know your audience will recognize and understand, whether because they’re frequently used or because their meaning is straightforward.
Your audience shouldn’t have to try to Google an emoji to make sense of what you’re saying. And frankly, most won’t bother.
4. Measure audience response in each channel.
Pay attention to the kind of reaction you get to content that includes emojis. Do they increase engagement with your social posts, emails, or blog posts? Are they accomplishing the purpose you had in mind? Based on what you learn, you may want to reduce or cut out your emoji use in some channels, or increase it in others.
Emojis have a place in marketing, but whether they have a place in your marketing is a different story. Consider whether you can use emojis in a way that adds something to your content. And if you do use them, tread carefully. Used well, they can enhance your brand personality and increase engagement with your content. Used badly, you could end up looking like 😳.