5 Key Insights Every Marketer Needs to Know About Emojis

Aug 3, 2018 · 6 min read

Ever since Apple introduced the iOS emoji keyboard back in 2011, emojis have enjoyed nothing short of a meteoric rise. Last year, emojis even staked their claim in mainstream media with a full-length feature film.

Marketers and big brands continue to connect with audiences by leveraging emojis in creative marketing campaigns. Emojis have even been labeled the first truly global form of communication, transcending borders and language barriers.

To celebrate the recent passing of the 5th annual World Emoji Day, Leanplum pulled together five fascinating facts about these iconic little pictograms that detail their path to world domination. These relate both to the use of emojis in marketing, as well as to emojis’ general dominance in popular culture.

1. Dictionary.com is the First Major Reference To Document Emojis 📚

It seems that we’ve officially recognized emojis as a real, definable language.

In 2018, Dictionary.com became the first major reference to document emojis, providing robust definitions and context for these lovable pictograms.

Take this definition of the 😍, for example. “All the meanings for the smiling face with heart-shaped eyes emoji are very positive and warm. This emoji is associated with adoration, love, or extreme positivity toward a specific subject (romantic or not).”

Image: Emojipedia

As lexicographer Jane Solomon puts it, “There’s a sophisticated linguistic system around how people are using emojis, and this is something that we take very seriously as people who study language… these are real ways that people are communicating with each other.”

2. Emojis Evolve… Just Like Any Other Language 🗣

Language evolves. Some linguists even consider language a living thing that grows and changes. In its short-lived history, emojis have been proven to be no different.

Unicode is the international programming language that translates emojis between platforms like iOS, Android, and Windows. Due to licensing concerns, each platform uses its own set of symbols to represent the Unicode counterparts.

This often results in comically different visuals for emojis that are supposed to represent the same meaning. Imagine if the letters of the alphabet varied depended on which phone you use!

Image: Chatbots Magazine

Significant design differences in emojis can lead to confusion at best, and horrible misunderstandings at worst. There is even a term for this modern communication phenomenon — emoji fragmentation.

Though still not perfect, the issue of emoji fragmentation is being addressed. Over the years, we have seen emoji designs converging across platforms, with new emoji sets from Android and Microsoft adapting to look more similar to Apple’s iOS designs. The evolution of the famous Woman Dancing emoji is a good example:

This ultimately helps the world’s emoji users (an estimated 92 percent of the online population) communicate with less ambiguity. And we spectators get to watch a new language grow and evolve right in front of our eyes, all on the real-time platform of the Internet.

3. Marketers Can’t Get Enough of Emojis ❤️

Emojis seem to be in every marketing campaign these days.

In 2017, Domino’s encouraged customers to order pizza from their franchises by texting the 🍕emoji. As part of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Hillarymoji was launched for voters to “show solidarity for Hillary, support the causes you believe in, and celebrate history in the making.”

But if you thought that emojis have already reached the height of popularity, think again. Emoji usage in marketing continues to skyrocket year-over-year with no signs of stopping. Especially in the mobile industry, where the phenomenon arguably began.

From 2017 to 2018, the average number of emojis used in emails and push notifications doubled from 1.22 to 2.23. The percentage of messages using at least one emoji also doubled, rising from 15% to nearly 30%.

This is not surprising. Marketers are becoming increasingly savvy about the irresistible draw of emojis. And the pool of emojis from which to choose is getting larger. 157 more emojis are scheduled to be released before the end of 2018, bringing the total number of emojis to 2,823.

4. Emojis Seriously ⬆️ Mobile Engagement

In Leanplum’s latest Mobile Marketing Trends report, it was found that emojis turbocharge email and push notification engagement.

Emails with emojis see a 66% increase in open rates, and push notifications with emojis see a whopping 254% increase. When done right, sprinkling a few emojis into marketing messages can even lead to 26% fewer app uninstalls.

🌮’bout some serious app engagement.

However, with literally thousands of emojis out there, how do marketers decide which to send?

When a person sees an emoji, their brain lights up in the same way as when they see a human face. The brain recognizes emojis as nonverbal information — therefore, emojis are processed as emotions. Naturally, more people will want to tap on something that delights them, so positive emojis consistently make an appearance in the emoji repertoire of marketers.

The following emojis (which all invoke feelings of wealth, excitement, or surprise) see high open rates across app verticals:

Try a few of them in your next marketing campaign, and see if they make a difference.

5. It’s a Diverse 🌎… of Food Emojis

It’s probably not surprising that emojis transcend cultures — but some emojis are more popular in certain regions.

Interestingly, all countries analyzed in Leanplum’s emoji study used food-related emojis distinctive to their cultures, meaning they didn’t appear in any other country.

So what is each country hungry for?

  • The US is passionate about its 🍕
  • Brits sure love their beer — two beers, to be exact 🍻
  • From pasta to pizza, it’s hard to imagine Italian cuisine without the tomato 🍅
  • The chili pepper, a fundamental flavor-building ingredient in much of Mexican cuisine, is the country’s spice of choice 🌶
  • In Japan, noodles — an ancient and beloved dish all across Asia — are consistently present 🍜

⬆️ Your Emoji Game

Intrigued about how emojis can play a role in your marketing strategy? Download Leanplum’s new Mobile Marketing Trends report, Un🔓Engagement & Growth With Emojis, for all the latest and greatest data to deliver real impact in your next campaign.

About Leanplum

Leanplum is a mobile engagement platform built for forward-looking brands to meet the real-time demands of their customers. Our platform transforms data into an understanding of users’ context, empowering brands such as Tinder, Grab, Tesco, and Zynga to deliver unified experiences that are timely, relevant, and tested — creating the customer loyalty that fuels business growth. Leanplum is recognized as Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For, SF Business Times’ Best Places to Work, and Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America by Entrepreneur magazine. Learn more at leanplum.com.


Written by

CMO at Ironclad. We’re on a mission to power the world’s contracts.

Mobile Growth

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