Why Have Emoji Taken The Digital World By Grinning Cat With Smiling Eyes? Part II

In our last emoji instalment we gave you a brief history of emoji, we discussed how millennials have both affected the rise of the emoji and how the emoji has shaped a new era for digital communication.
  • Unicode have officially encoded 722 symbols in their standard 6.0 character set which is recognised by most operating systems, and there are many more on the way due to popular demand.
  • Studies have proven that different countries and cultures engage with emoji in different ways.
  • All communication is important in marketing – digital or otherwise – thus understanding how different cultures engage with emoji can be valuable for business.

But of course, there is more. We’ve barely scratched the surface of their grinning faces. Here we will look at global language, cultural context, emoji haters and, naturally, digital marketing.

The closest to global language we have ever reached

Thanks to the wise folk at Unicode, emoji can be translated on to a variety of operating systems. They have officially encoded 722 symbols in their standard 6.0 character set which is recognised by most operating systems, and there are many more on the way due to popular demand.

Because of Unicode’s work, emoji, though represented through different artwork, have a similar presentation on any supporting operating system. They are largely image-based, and thus people from a whole host of languages and cultures can understand to some extent what a given emoji is portraying.

However it does have its limits. For one, emoji’s Japanese foundations and therefore their cultural connotations are often lost on much of the Western world. For example Pile of Poo is actually related to good luck – not just toilet humour. Though the reason it has a smiley face on Apple operating systems is probably down to the fact that somebody thought it was amusing.

Despite this, the emotional language of emoji remains fairly universal – the majority of the world using emoji will understand the basic intent of Grinning Face, if not the nuances of Face Savouring Delicious Food.

Studies have proven that different countries and cultures engage with emoji in different ways. The Australians, for example, use drug, alcohol and junk food related emoji far more than the average. The French, perhaps stereotypically, use more hearts than most European countries who prefer smiling face based emoji.

In response to this we have been tweeting the Go Up team’s most frequently used emoji, to give you an insight and introduction to the staff in our Shoreditch office – and to name and shame the Kissing Face abusers.

But still haters are gonna hate

It’s not all plain sailing in the life of an emoji. They have their critics. It has been argued that emoji is plain stupid, it is not a language and it has no place in sensible communication.

The argument that emoji only represent a very narrow avenue of human interests is legitimate. The limitations of emoji can be seen in the fight for everything from better race and gender representation to their lack of a cheese or taco emoji. Though I think we can all agree on which of these issues is more important (it’s cheese).

But this is another reason for the excessive growth of emoji: technology is trying to catch up with the world we live in. Of course you’ll never be able to express the whole array of human experience through emoji, but as a language supplement they are undeniably effective.

And what does this have to do with digital marketing, design or development?

Well, everything. Understanding the zeitgeist is key to what we do here at Go Up. Learning about language and communication is incredibly important to us and to our clients.

All communication is important in marketing – digital or otherwise – thus understanding how different cultures engage with emoji can be valuable for business. As explained in our article on emoji’s PR power, they can provide an important tool. From Twitter campaigns to interactive video and even change.org petitions, companies have been successfully engaging with this form of communication.

As the language of the internet becomes increasingly saturated with emoji, companies that explore the digital landscape need to get to grips with Face Throwing A Kiss and the innuendo involved in many people’s use of Aubergine to understand their own market.