Part 1: 🔮 An Overview of Emoji Domains
A Digital Marketer’s Guide to the Power of Emoji Domains
On the same day, about a month ago, 2 emails stood out more than any others. One was from my dad and the other was from my accountant. Both of these men are in their late fifties and both of them included emoji in their messages to me for the first time.
My accountant was telling me to get some sleep as I often have the habit of emailing him questions at 03.00 in the morning. He used the ‘face with stuck-out tongue’ emoji.
My dad had stood on a wasp while answering the front door and greeted the postwoman with a 4 letter profanity beginning with the letter ‘f’. He was regaling the family with his wasp-horror story and signed off with the ‘smiling face with sunglasses’ emoji perhaps to show he’s cool with pain. Most of his emails now include that emoji at some point and he does wear the same style of sunglasses.
For those of you that follow the work of Gary Vaynerchuk you may have heard him say that even the tech-averse, late-adopting ageing population who can’t open email attachments have sent the poop emoji in texts to their children.
The point is that emoji have permeated their way through all our lives- not just the millennials- and in liquid-like form have filled the allowable space. Emoji are in our inboxes, on Facebook, in Twitter streams, on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, Slack and most other websites and apps you visit daily.
You can buy emoji cushions, emoji keyrings, emoji bomber jackets, emoji leggings, emoji watches, high-quality emoji lining for suits and the list goes on leaking across all product types. Type the name of a random object into google, add the word ‘emoji’ and there’s a good chance the product already exists.
But, beyond all this, I’m excited about something else. I’m excited about the infiltration of emoji in domain names.
Emoji domains? ?
This may be news to some so yes, emoji domains are possible in a few restricted extensions, the most adopted being the country code for Western Samoa, .ws. I mean, if Coca-Cola chose to go to market with an emoji domain on .ws then it’s pretty clear .ws is the go-to extension for emoji.
In my Medium profile bio I also have an emoji domain. Check out where 🔧.ws goes to get an idea of how they work.
That emoji is currently forwarding to the homepage of the company, Watchcoat- an educational resource linked to a Messenger chatbot that teaches men how to use style as a tool (🔧) to make a better first impression.
The choice of emoji for Watchcoat is somewhat abstract, yet, when you hear the elevator pitch it makes sense. Imagine, if instead of selling style, I sold watches. How powerful and how valuable is ⌚.ws to me?
Here’s how any emoji domain can bring value to a business
First of all, they are short as hell. A single character emoji domain is only 4 taps away. The emoji, the dot, the ‘w’ and the ‘s’ It’s one of the shortest possible ways to link to your company. But why is short good? To start with, just like regular domain names made of boring letters and numbers, the shorter they are, the easier they are to remember. Take the watch brand, Audemars Piguet, for example. What’s easier to remember? Their brand name or ⌚.ws?
We’re all vying for the attention of the customer so businesses must make it easier for people to instantly recognise and remember their message and call-to-action. Businesses need to make it super-easy for those customers to pass that message on to their friends and family.
Additionally, an interesting and proven fact is that the human brain recalls images more easily than than words. It’s called the ‘picture superiority effect’ which essentially says a picture is coded more easily than a word which needs a dual coding process. A picture’s ease of coding means its also more easily retrieved.
This has obvious implications for advertising. Several studies cite interesting facts but one from 1997 conducted by Percy and Rossiter states:
“The picture is the most important structural element in magazine advertising, for both consumer and business audiences.”
Childers and Houston in 1984 follow up with:
“Visual ads require less exposure than verbal ads for long-term memory effect.”
These studies were completed in the pre-consumer internet era but could the effect extend to online advertising and emoji domain names?
Another reason that having a short emoji domain makes business sense is that a lot of the time space is at a premium in the places we want to speak. Twitter’s 140 character max limit is a good example, as are profile bios on most social media platforms and the enlarged text of a shorter Facebook text post.
I can even fit the link to EmojiHQ.com in the surname section of my linkedin profile. Every time I post or like something on Linkedin and my name pops up it’s followed by the ‘4-tap’ link to my business website.
Being able to say what you want in text and have the link take up very little space but also be pertinent to your business while at the same time being more memorable are huge business advantages.
Another obvious but extremely powerful benefit emoji domains have is that they transcend language. The words الة تصوير, Kamera, 相機, Камера and camera are all summed up by this one domain, 📷.ws.
There are potentially massive cost savings to be made if businesses can talk to people across multiple languages at the same time using emoji domains. What one thing means to the Chinese consumer can now mean the exact same thing to the Russian, Japanese, Icelandic and American consumer. A business can have one place online to truly speak to the citizens of the world at the same time.
To better understand the potential of emoji domains we need to better understand emoji themselves. For many, they are superfluous creatures clogging up traditional ways of communicating. The problem is people like to use them. Nobody has been forced to integrate emoji into their messaging. The market has spoken! Originating in Japan in the late 1990s, the characters had their overnight success moment when they hitched a ride on the back of the Apple iPhone mega-success. With its market penetration more people were introduced to and seduced by emoji.
They crept into our social interactions starting with younger generations and, much like the way Facebook has evolved, traded up to older generations until you receive that first emoji in an email sent from a parent.
This worldwide phenomenon has been granted with much credit to the rise in smartphone adoption. We’ve all read the headlines about mobile first search and how developing countries are switching their browsing behaviour from the desktop to the mobile. You may also have read about developing countries coming online mobile-first. They aren’t going through the same process. They join us at the point we’re already at. And, you’ll likely have seen the countless 5–10 year olds who know nothing other than tablets, smartphones and VR headsets. They aren’t going through the same technological shifts that the 25, 35 or 45 year old is going through. We can respectively remember MySpace, Lycos and fax machines. These kids are starting their tech journeys with emoji a natural part of life. So, an emoji domain isn’t going to be so shocking. In fact, they will probably expect it.
I mentioned Gary Vaynerchuk previously and I would urge anyone interested in business and marketing to listen to what he consistently says. He has been historically right on his marketing advice and admits that none of it is prediction. He simply watches where people pay their attention and then talks to them where they are, in the way they expect. A couple of Gary’s often repeated mantras come to mind here.
‘Market for the year you live in’
Phrases like these that often appear in his keynotes never get old. Businesses need to market for the year they live in, concentrating their efforts in the places people naturally inhabit. Right now, people are in their phones. While watching TV, when they’re in a taxi, waiting for a bus, at work, just before bed and probably upon waking. Even while they are on the toilet. Each one of us carries around a little box through which millions of other people can reach us. An increasing amount of us are using emoji in these communications.
To me it makes plain, logical sense that an emoji domain is going to resonate with people and reflect how they are already communicating. Its one way a business can show that its a collection of people with ideas rather than a robotic profit-making machine. Remember the sentiment ‘people do business with people, not businesses’? Shouldn’t businesses do all they can to communicate like people? Emoji on their own are a massive part of that in that they are the sprinkle of magic dust on conversation. They give nuance to the text they accompany.
Emoji domains, however, get deeper. They become part of the architecture. They are a place to build a structure. They are the linking highway between the customer and your business.
What’s equally interesting to note is the integration and acceptance of emoji across companies. Twitter, for example recently allowed emoji search functionality. What if people are searching for conversation about watches using the watch emoji? Using ⌚.ws to link to your business and having it in your bio could lead to your discovery by new customers.
If used cleverly, the emoji domain becomes something you make the audience want to click on. What’s there? How can you get your customers to share that emoji domain so when people search the watch emoji conversation on twitter, your watch company is at the forefront?
And equally recently, Slack- the work place messaging app for teams- opened up the floor to emoji. As a work based app, the 5 default emoji were chosen to evoke the meaning of certain businesses circumstances. Working remotely, on holiday, commuting, out sick or in a meeting.
Could emoji domains act as fast gateways to other services from Slack? Could the bank emoji act as a short and app-appropriate link to a business payment service?
Leanplum teamed up with App Annie to deliver a report showing how simply adding emoji to your push notification marketing increases consumer engagement. The results are astonishing. Engagement increased by 85%. Just by adding little pictures. I mean, that’s crazy isn’t it? We’re sophisticated people. Nothing as childish as a smiling face and a thumbs up would make us more likely to click a link, would it? I guess we’re not so sophisticated. Our basest of instincts still win out. We still judge people by their appearance, we still tune into our lizard brain and we’re more likely to click a link from a company because of a cute, round, yellow blob. Ha! We’re so dumb!
With that noted what happens when a customer is presented with a clickable emoji domain? An emoji that takes you by the hand and leads you somewhere? We just don’t know yet. No test has been conducted and although the signs I’ve outlined point to a profitable outcome more testing has to be done in the same way Leanplum and App Annie did to prove the power of the addition of emoji in notification marketing.
On a recent Mixergy interview ✎ Andrew Warner quizzed Ezra Firestone of Smart Marketer about the power of chat bot marketing. Ezra revealed that by reaching his customers in Facebook Messenger he had 99.6% delivery rate of his chat bot message, a 96.8% message open rate and a 55% click through rate. To anyone that has sent any sort of marketing messages to their customers and had a less than under-whelming experience these numbers will sound outrageously good. Even adept marketers are only achieving a 25% open rate on their email marketing- a place we consumers traditionally guard highly. (note: Ezra does make it clear that these customers are engaged, bottom of the funnel customers so percentages will naturally be higher than those further up the funnel. However, chat bot Facebook Messenger marketing is showing his highest engagement rates)
I’d heard about the fact that we’re spending more time in messaging apps than social media platforms but chat bot marketing was new to me and I immediately thought about how emoji domains fit in this lucrative new marketing environment.
Chat messaging tends to be shorter, neater, faster and more succinct which plays into the hands of the emoji domain. Emoji are native to messaging platforms anyway which would look naked without them. They add nuance to our text conversations giving them emotional context.
Canva, the drag and drop graphic design app A/B split tested notifications with pictures and emoji. The emoji version outperformed the image version by 9%. My theory: Emoji are more native to the chat or message environment. What feels native, and therefore comfortable, wins. What feels like a friend’s message wins.
If emoji usage in push notification increases engagement by 85% what could emoji domains do to the click-through-rate of a message?
If chat bot messaging is where big brands are going then I feel emoji domains have a very real and powerful role there.
Short memorable urls are going to be in much higher demand to send prospective customers to Messenger. Emoji domains will be a perfect candidate for high conversion.
Shane Mac, co-founder of Assist- a company that powers brands in a conversation first world writes:
Adding short URLs that link directly to Messenger could have a tremendous impact on a brand’s ability to convert their shoppers into buyers. Social media teams could change every bio, post or image link to land directly in a message thread with a brand or business.
Steve Greenwood, who’s company Brewster was brought internally to RBI (who own the Burger King and Tim Hortons brands) to run their digital transformation, writes an impassioned article about the potential of chat bot messaging for these mega-brands. What about food delivery service chat bots? Could they take advantage of 🚚.ws or could Papa John’s use 🍕.ws for example? What could Burger King do with 🍔.ws?
These ideas are ever-changing as the digital marketing landscape evolves. One thing we know for sure is that emoji aren’t going anywhere!
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