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Emoji Branding: From Smiley Faces to Thumbs Up

SMBs emoji analysis
Credit: Mego Studio/Shutterstock

Emojis are the new acronyms. If you were just getting used to LOL ("laugh out loud," not "lots of love!"), OMW ("on my way") and the countless other abbreviations we used in texts, you should familiarize yourself with the friendly faces we call emojis.

According to social intelligence firm Talkwalker, there were 13 percent more posts containing emojis in March 2018 than there were in March 2017. It's become a modern way of speaking, and companies of all sorts need to adjust. If your business doesn't use an emoji analysis, you might not be trusted as a progressive brand.

According to recent research by the Wisconsin School of Business, the use of emojis will likely continue to increase in marketing communications.

"Brands are trying to be authentic, to come across as personable, and project traits like warmth and competence," Joann Peck, associate professor of marketing at the Wisconsin School of Business, said in the press release. "One way to do that is to mirror everyday conversation, and that means taking the non-verbal cues we use in face-to-face communication into the online environment."

However, you need to find a balance. You want to be friendly and relatable, but you don't want to appear informal. This might raise concerns about professionalism and competence, said Peck.

"When companies market on social media platforms, they are seeking to promote brand engagement, providing content that will be liked and shared, while building stronger relationships with their customers," Peck added. "Using emojis and other TPL [textual paralanguage] on the right platforms and targeting the right audiences may be a very effective approach for brands that are motivated to create a young, relatable, or warm image.”

Miscommunications are more common online than in person, mostly because it's difficult to ascertain a person's tone or intentions through a screen. The same goes for emojis, which can be interpreted differently, depending on the person.

"Because emoji use is so pervasive, understanding the meaning behind emojis is vital to successfully managing employees and risk management, and is part of being an effective communicator today," said Andrea W. S. Paris employment attorney of Andrea Paris Law and co-author of "Emoji and Deciphering Intent in the Digital Age." "If you don't understand the intent behind various emojis, you may misinterpret a message entirely."

For instance, some people might interpret the upside-down smiley face emoji as goofy or silly, while someone else might assume it means the person is annoyed or inconvenienced. Not everyone uses emojis as they are intended, and some are more versed than others.

"Emoji is used to provide nuance and emotion, and can change that meaning of the preceding sentence; not catching that tone could lead to misunderstandings and cause rifts among employees," said Paris.

Focus on context and be sure to understand how emojis are used in a day-to-day interaction to avoid any miscommunications.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a Purch B2B staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. The only time Sammi doesn't play it safe is when she's writing. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.