emoji keyboard

Want pizza? Text an emoji.

That’s the message from actress Sarah Hyland, best known for her role on ABC’s Modern Family, in a new TV commercial for Domino’s pizza.

All she has to do is text a delicious-looking piece of clip art to Domino's, and they know to deliver her a pie.

Emojis are powerful — and they can do a lot more for marketers than make it easy to order pizza.

Fast Growing Language

Emojis are a visual language. The word literally means "picture" (e) + "character" (moji) in Japanese.

And since the first emoji was created in 1999 by a team working on Japanese mobile phone provider;s messaging features, they’ve embedded themselves into popular culture.

In fact, they’ve become the quickest developing form of language in human history, as one recent blogger, Emily Gallagher, noted, citing research from Linguistics Professor Vyv Evans of Bangor University.

Before you dismiss Evans as a liberal arts crackpot whose first name resembles an emoji of a hiking boot — and emojis as the communication of choice for teens, pre-teens and preschoolers — note that the Bangor faculty member has some hard data behind his statement. 

Nearly three in four people in Evans' findings believe emojis allow them to better communicate emotion than words.

Earlier this year, Philadelphia-based visual marketing firm Curalate analyzed hashtag use on Instagram. It found that users hashtagged single-use emojis more than 6.4 million times.

Now you can find emojis just about everywhere. 

Linkmoji even lets you turn your links into emojis ... like

Marketers Take Notice

Marketers, besides just those delivering pepperoni and cheese-filled crusts at Domino’s, have not dismissed this power or prevalence.

“Emojis give brands the opportunity to express themselves in the same colloquial language that their audiences use," said Jen Gray, SVP of Marketing and Creative Services at HelloWorld, a marketing solutions company that powers digital, social and mobile campaigns for brands like Coca-Cola, General Mills and Microsoft. 

"Successful branded emojis are accessible on both personal and emotional levels allowing fans to laugh, reminiscence and converse over their favorite products."

More great examples, according to our sources:

  • The TV show RuPaul's Drag Race partnered with Logo to create an emoji keyboard, an app that included images of cast members. The goal: buzz about the impending seventh season.
  • Foot Locker released a Shoemoji app. Not only did it allow users to run with 80 sneaker images, the app aimed for longevity by allowing users to know when new sneakers are being released and where they would be available.
  • GE partnered with Bill Nye the Science Guy to introduce an Emoji Table of Experiments, which allowed fans to SnapChat emojis to Bill and receive in response science experiment videos.

Getting It Right

With anything that's trending, though, the risk of chasing the trend is appearing shallow and ineffectual. 

Emojis are a dialect best used in their native habitat — quick online communications on social and mobile, said John Turner, CEO and founder of UsersThink, a website optimization tool. Chasing cool may lead marketers to stretch emojis beyond their means, putting them on printed materials, on billboards and, yes, on TV.

"Instead of staying with the times, that type of usage screams that you can't keep up, and makes any efforts to communicate seem outdated and out of touch," Turner said.

But what about a TV commercial in which a young woman talks about using emojis in an SMS to order pizza?

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  Title image by The All-Nite Images.