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We’ve come a long way from using :) or :s when trying to use visual language in social media communication. Emoticons were adopted across pretty much all the leading communication platforms and have evolved into what we now know as emoji.

Emojis have evolved rapidly and now provide the opportunity to let brands use custom emoji as a way to connect with consumers. They even provide an opportunity to create huge PR buzz as was shown by Microsoft who announced their new ‘flipping the bird’ emoji that will please grumpy people across the world. The lewd gesture will come in all skin tones that will appease those calling for diverse emojis and also is quite literally putting the middle finger up at competitors, most notably Apple.
Emoji such as the new middle finger emoji show the shift that has occurred that lets users replace words with visual language. Instagram have tracked the massive increase in usage of the past few years and noticed that certain slang terms are not used as much due to corresponding emoji being adopted more regularly. The emotive implications and language that are implied through emoji cross traditional language barriers and appear to be globally understood. Understanding subtle nuances such as sarcasm in written language can be tricky; visual language seems the natural answer to that problem. There are such a wide range of emoji available that people can use simply only emoji to create whole phrases or sentences such as shown below. Understand any of them?

About six billion emojis are sent every day and are becoming a powerful tool for gathering insights for brands. They represent every day behavior and can reveal trends. Brands can track the language and emoji used in relation to their products or industry in order to get a direct view of their consumer’s opinions. Tracking emoji can capture people’s emotional connections and behavior to give brands insights into their customers. This allows the brand to feel more in contact with their customers.

Tracking emojis on platforms such as Instagram can give incredibly up to date information on consumer opinions which can be used for future consumer targeting. Emoji then could be another step forward in the future of market research and consumer insights. However this still could be aided by further development of emoji. There may be many already but a further maturing could help to give more detailed insights. The range of expressions can be expanded and a consistency of meaning is vital in the future of this innovative idea. The tracking across multiple platforms will need to be updated with technological advancements in order to get a broader understanding of emoji usage.
The end result could mean a new way to follow the exchange of ideas and feelings, that ultimately will bring brands closer to the people they want to reach. 

About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at
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