Why Have Emoji Taken The Digital World By Grinning Cat Face With Smiling Eyes?
- Everyone is getting involved in emoji from mums to advertisers to politicians.
- ...it’s nigh on impossible to be truly negative with emoji...
It was recently announced that emoji is the fastest growing language in the UK, and in all likelihood the world. It’s already hugely surpassed the other famous pictorial language – hieroglyphics – which took centuries to develop.
At Go Up we are somewhat invested in all things digital and it seems that, HTML aside, emoji is the language of the digital age. We wanted to understand the inner workings of emoji and discover what has made the popularity of smiley faces and happy poo pics reach dizzying heights.
And of course we then wanted to share all our knowledge with the digital world.
A very brief history of emoji
In the late 90’s a guy was working for a Japanese mobile internet firm and they needed an edge to beat down their competitors. Shigetaka Kurita took to the challenge and lo! Emoji were born! He thought that it would be hard to fit enough text on the tiny mobile phone screens so little images would surely make things simple, concise and bright.
Emoji quickly took flight in Japan and when Apple released their iPhone they knew they’d have to support emoji, at least in Japan. Then some wonderful nerdy American’s cottoned on to the fact that if they downloaded a Japanese translation of their operating software they too could access the magic of emoji.
From there emoji killed off semi-colon-winkey-face and most of its emoticons friends too, beginning its climb to one of the most popular written communication methods since, well, words.
The ‘softening effect’ of a winking cat face
Millennials have grown up with digital communication, in fact teenagers spend more time messaging than they do interacting with people face to face. This can be a little stunting when it comes to communicating effectively – things get lost in translation.
I’m sure we’ve all had an ‘are you mad?’ text because tone of voice cannot be inferred via text and a message has been misconstrued. How do we avoid offending these days? Well we insert a Face With Stuck-Out Tongue And Winking Eye or Grinning Face to deliver our tone and the facial expression that are lacking from written digital communication.
Many have referred to the ‘softening’ effect of emoji on messages. It makes light of things and allows us to insert intonation in our screen-based communications.
Now back to those millennials – a few of whom work here at Go Up so we consider ourselves experts on them. They are the pioneers of emoji communication for a few possible reasons.
One is this ‘softening’ effect. Another is that they have grown up in the realm of the internet and let’s face it, sometimes it can be a hotbed of negativity. Emoji are fun and silly. Even sad or angry faces have a humorous quality to them, so much so that it’s nigh on impossible to be truly negative with emoji. Not without it also coming across as at least slightly amusing. Thus those young internet dwellers were thirsting for some positivity and emoji quickly quenched them.
But it’s not just the younger generations that are embracing pictures of aubergines, love hearts and turtles. Older digital device users are just as keen. After the digital generation anecdotal evidence suggests that mums were next in line to love the emoji, often believing sending hearts and smiles to their kids was less intense than saying ‘I love you’ in every other text.
Everyone is getting involved in emoji from mums to advertisers to politicians. They are a tool for communication used everywhere from marketing to marriage proposals. They may look cute and silly, but emoji are to be taken seriously if we are to understand our digital landscape.
In part two we will look at how Emoji can be seen as a global language, why some negative ninnies hate them and how all of this is relevant to digital marketing…