Everything You Need to Know About Emoji Marketing

One of the most important marketing trends in 2017 was emoji marketing. It is safe to say that the same will be true for 2018. It doesn’t look like it will die down anytime soon. In fact, it has reached unprecedented proportions with tactics like emoji merchandising and an emoji motion picture.

In case you were wondering how emoji can be incorporated into your own marketing campaigns, we’ve put together a guide with everything you need to know about emoji marketing.

These are the topics we will cover in this emoji marketing guide:

What Are Emoji?

We are pretty certain you know what emoji are, but just to make sure, let’s review. Emoji are the small pictures or pictographs used in chat messages and all over social media; for example, the smiley face, the thumbs up and so many more.

Emoji were invented in 1990 by Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita. The first emoji were inspired by Japanese kanji and designed as tiny black-and-white images. Apple introduced their first emoji collection in a hidden keyboard inside the first iPhone. Users quickly caught on and started using emoji in their messages. Soon after that, Android created their own set of emoji for their own devices.

The use of emoji is so widespread that even grandparents are communicating with them in text messages, which is why emoji is being called the real universal language.

What is the Difference Between Emoji and Emoticons?

Before the era of emoji, we had emoticons. Emoticons are smiley faces, frowning faces and other creative compositions created with symbols available on your keyboard. They have been used for years on the internet via messaging and email.

For example:

These two sideways faces were the first emoticons ever used, invented in 1982 by Dr. Scott E. Falham. He created them as a way to communicate what was and wasn’t a joke in the science department at Carnegie Mellon University.


Not surprisingly, emoji and emoticons were joined together so that users could “emote.” This means that you can use keyboard shortcuts to easily communicate with emoji on social media and messaging. The keyboard shortcuts are reminiscent of the original emoticons. When you type a colon and a right parenthesis, it will automatically turn into a smiley face on any handheld device.

Emoting is particularly helpful when using Facebook, Twitter and messaging apps on computers. But what most people don’t know is that their computers actually do have an emoji keyboard to use on social media.

Emoji Keyboard on Mac

Press CTRL+CMD+SPACE and the emoji keyboard will pop up in a new window.

Emoji Keyboard on Windows

Click on the touch keyboard icon at the bottom-right corner of your screen, then click on the smiley face next to the Control button.

You can use these shortcuts when posting social media updates from your computer!

Why Do Emoji Look Different on Different Devices?

For an emoji to exist on the internet, it first has to go through the Unicode Consortium. This non-profit organization codes emoji to work on all devices. When a user sends an emoji with an Apple iPhone to another user with a Samsung, the emoji is sent as a code that both devices can read. The device on the receiving end then shows the emoji according to the set designed for that operating system.

In the last year, different communication companies have come to terms with the fact that they need to maintain a similarity in design. The Unicode Consortium has been insisting upon it for some time.

Emoji have become so popular that the differences between emoji sets have become more and more apparent. For example, the happy face on Apple devices was completely different to the smiling blob on Android. In the latest Google update for Android, designers have finally changed the “yellow blob” into a “squishy circle” that looks more like the common-shaped happy-face emoji.

Emoji look different across different platforms.

Emoji are so important now that even little details, like how a hamburger emoji is designed, can start a Twitter feud. If you look at the image below, you will notice that the Google version of the emoji hamburger has the cheese below the patty.

The hype was so widespread that Google quickly redesigned it and put the cheese over the patty!

Emoji Are Everywhere

Even though emoji started out on handheld devices, they have expanded into other areas of our lives. Not only do we see them on social media every single day but also on the big screen with the release of a motion picture aptly called “The Emoji Movie.” We have seen social media campaigns that include emoji in the wording and others that use emoji as part of the campaign itself. We have seen emoji pillows and emoji clothing. There is no limit to the reach of emoji!

Emoji Language

Younger generations (mostly Millennials and Generation Z) use an emoji language in which they communicate using only, or mostly, emoji. Some emoji are pretty obvious in their meaning, like smiley faces, frowning faces and hearts. Other emoji have acquired double meanings, like the eggplant and peach emoji. This new emoji language has become so important that there are now emoji translators, most famous of all being Keith Broni. His work involves helping businesses use emoji properly to avoid the dreaded “emoji fail.”

“Only in Emoji”

An entertaining way to use emoji is in prompts asking for an answer “only in emoji.” Questions like “How do you feel about the winter?” or “What is your favorite movie?” have been making the rounds all over social media. These began as simple tweets but now our Facebook feed is full of them.

Emoji Movie

In 2017, “The Emoji Movie” came out. The film didn’t receive great reviews but that is besides the point. The fact that a motion picture was made about emoji goes to show just how important they are in our present society.

BONUS QUIZ: Can You Decipher These Emoji Movie Titles?

Emoji Merchandise

One of the most iconic emoji merchandise are emoji pillows. Apart from these, you will find emoji on t-shirts, stickers, keychains, phone cases, urban backpacks and all sorts of other products. In 2015, the word “emoji” was registered by The Emoji Company, a company that gained ownership of the emoji.com domain. This company has their own set of emoji that resemble all the ones we see on social media everyday. Brands hire The Emoji Company to use emoji with a legal license in product merchandising.

What is Emoji Marketing?

Now that we’ve covered how emoji came to be and how their influence has grown exponentially over the years, let’s take a look at emoji marketing.

Emoji marketing is the practice of creating marketing campaigns which involve the use of emoji. These include social media posts with emoji used along with words, emoji used as hashtags, emoji used in graphics, emoji merchandise, emoji domains and any other creative way that a marketer or designer can think of to use emoji.

Examples of Emoji Marketing

Facebook Reactions

One of the largest emoji campaigns of the last couple of years is the introduction of the Facebook reactions emoji. It might not seem like a marketing campaign at first, but if you think about it, everything about Facebook is marketing and business. Their Facebook reaction emoji are most definitely a marketing campaign, one that we have accepted as a daily and normal part of our scrolling, liking, smiling and, well, reacting.

It is the most successful of all campaigns to date. It also paved the way into a new era of emoji marketing.

Successful Emoji Marketing on Twitter

Some emoji marketing campaigns have become internet famous for their utter creativity. Let’s take a look at three of the groundbreaking campaigns that used emoji on Twitter, one of the greatest emoji platforms.

Domino’s Pizza

Domino’s revolutionized pizza delivery when they incorporated “emoji ordering.” They created a way in which consumers could send a pizza emoji in a tweet to get the pizza to their house in less than 30 minutes. Consumers first needed to set up a “pizza profile” with an “easy order” option on the Domino’s website.

After tweet emoji ordering came SMS emoji ordering, confirming Domino’s as the greatest pizza emoji genius.

If you follow Domino’s Pizza on Twitter, you will see that they always use emoji in their tweets to great success.

World Wildlife Fund

In 2015, the World Wildlife Fund launched an emoji campaign like none other. They chose 17 of the animals included in the animal emoji database and used them as representatives of 17 endangered species.

WWF posted the image below to Twitter. The prompt was simple: Retweet and join in the #endangeredemoji campaign.

When someone retweeted this message, they were instantly signed up. After that, whenever that person used one of the 17 emoji, a tally was counted and sent to the user with a suggested amount to donate.

The Campaign was a success and it gained the WWF plenty of donations and many new Twitter followers.


Budweiser used emoji in a tweet for the Fourth of July, which was retweeted hundreds and thousands of times. Budweiser used three different emoji to create an American flag composition — a very creative and ingenious way of using emoji marketing which mimics the way that emoji are used in emoji art.

Emoji Marketing Tactics That Are Making Waves

Emoji Domains

The newest emoji marketing tactic is the use of emoji domains. This trend might look unimportant right now but is gaining influence. Companies that are already using emoji domains are Budweiser (www.🍺🍺🍺.ws), Hodinkee Watches (www.⌚.ws), Bobby Brown Cosmetics (www.💄.ws) and Ray Ban (www.🕶.ws).

To learn more, watch this video by Vice about a guy who sells emoji domains:

Google #KnowNearby

Google is now able to give you local business search results when you tweet them an emoji.

Post a tweet with an emoji and Google’s handle (@Google) and they will reply with a link of results of local businesses that are close to your location.

Duolingo: Learn Emoji Language

Duolingo, a free online language-learning app, has incorporated a Learn Emoji course, which is a fun and engaging way to learn the meanings of emoji. It starts as single emoji and moves on to entire sentences.

Apple Animoji

The newest emoji creation is the Apple Animoji. If you have an iPhone X with facial recognition, you can now use the new animated emoji for messenger and video. You can even create video with animoji and post it on your Facebook page or stories.

How Can You Incorporate Emoji in Your Own Marketing Campaigns?

Emoji are no longer exclusively inside our phones but are pretty much everywhere. This is why all businesses should consider incorporating emoji in their marketing campaigns. This can range from simply adding emoji to tweets and emails, to full on emoji merchandising. We have seen so many creative ways in which emoji can be used successfully, so we believe that there is a lot more to be explored with emoji in the years to come.

Apart from the examples above, here are some more ideas on how you can use emoji for your business.

Twitter Emoji Ad Targeting

In 2016, Twitter introduced emoji targeting for Twitter Ads. If for example you own a shoe store, you can target anyone that uses the shoe emoji. Your ads will then be shown to them when they use Twitter.

Emoji Domains

Introducing an emoji domain for your business can be a fun and innovative way to attract attention. Just imagine what a conversation starter that would be, to have an emoji domain on your business card or on the header of your emails. If you like the idea of emoji domains, you should act fast because emoji domains are quickly getting more expensive.

Branded Emoji

Some brands like IKEA, Burger King, Mentos and even Kim Kardashian created their own set of emoji. These branded emoji work best when they are set up as a downloadable keyboard. Snaps offers this service.


Now you can create products for your brand which include emoji in them. You can produce clothing, accessories and more. The emoji brand offers licensing of emoji for all sorts of products.

Feedback Emoji

Create feedback emoji for your website. Ask any question and let your clients and readers answer with emoji.

Tips on How to Use Emoji Marketing Effectively

If you’ve been convinced that emoji marketing is something you’d like to do with your business, here are some things you should consider first:

  1. Nobody likes an emoji fail. Know what emoji your clients are using. Do some research on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
  2. Make sure you know what the emoji you intend to use actually means. Here is a handy little tool just in case you aren’t sure: Emojipedia.org
  3. Don’t overdo it. Emoji marketing might be the new way of doing things but it’s best to always maintain a balance.

In terms of legal use of emoji in your marketing campaigns, it’s not too complicated. It is completely legal to use emoji in social media, emails and messages. If you’re using emoji in merchandising, then that is where things get tricky. You cannot create emoji pillows under your brand using the Apple iOS emoji. For merchandising, you should either use public domain emoji or buy a license with emoji.com.

BONUS! A Few More Creative Emoji Projects to Inspire You

The Emoji Book

The Emoji Book is a collection of artwork created by artists from all over the world. The artists chose an emoji and created an illustration inspired by it. The book was being crowdfunded on Kickstarter but did not reach its goal. Nevertheless, the book is a great idea and the website has plenty of beautiful artwork.

Emoji Dick

Emoji Dick is a great project by Fred Benenson. It’s a version of Moby Dick with every single sentence translated into emoji.

Emoji Printer

Emoji Printer is a dropshipping company that offers printed posters of your favorite emoji combinations. The process is simple: You pick the emoji, they print it and then mail it to you.

The original version of this post first appeared on Visme’s Visual Learning Center.




I’m helping the world communicate Visually. #VisualContent Master, Designer, #Entrepreneur, #startups. Founder: Visme & HindSite Interactive

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Payman Taei

Payman Taei

I’m helping the world communicate Visually. #VisualContent Master, Designer, #Entrepreneur, #startups. Founder: Visme & HindSite Interactive

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