‘Emoji’ the fastest growing language with 80% of Brits now using symbols to communicate

The number of Brits turning to colourful symbols over text to communicate has risen, with 62 per cent claiming to use emoji more than they did a year ago. A further 80 per cent say they use them regularly, according to a study by TalkTalk Mobile.

Meanwhile, four in 10 people claim to have sent messages made up entirely of emoji.

“Emoji is the fastest growing form of language ever based on its incredible adoption rate and speed of evolution,” explained Vyv Evans, linguistics professor at Bangor University, who teamed up with TalkTalk for the study into 2000 mobile users.

“As a visual language emoji has already far eclipsed hieroglyphics, its ancient Egyptian precursor, which took centuries to develop.

“Unlike natural languages such as English, emoji is almost universally recognisable because it exploits the visual representation system. Emoji won’t replace traditional languages but it will increasingly be used to enhance them.”

A quarter of Brits (29 per cent) are using emoji in at least half of all text, instant messaging and social media communications they send.

The younger generation (18-25) are among the fastest adopters, with 72 per cent saying they find it easier to express their emotions with the pictorial symbols than words. However, over half (54 per ent) of over 40s admit to having been confused about what the symbols mean, with 31 per cent claiming to have avoided using emoji in text, instant messaging and social media apps like Facebook because they lacked the confidence to use them appropriately.

“Given the utility and added value provided by emoji, their usage is expected to increase exponentially across all age and cultural groups,” said Professor Evans. “While the uptake will differ by specific type of communication and function, it is not inconceivable that the majority of digital communication will feature emoji in future.”

The research echoes comments made earlier this year by Facebook EMEA boss Nicola Mendelsohn. She said that over 350 million Facebook ‘stickers’ – illustrations or animations of characters – are shared everyday on the platform, signalling a new way of communicating that brands have yet to harness.

However, brands are beginning to tap into the trend, with Dominos recently revealing users would now be able to order pizza by tweeting an emoji, and wildlife charity WWF allowing users to donate using them. Apple has also expanded its emoji set to meet demand.

The research into adoption of the visual language was conducted as TalkTalk launched Britain’s lowest priced unlimited SIM earlier this month.

Tom Ollerton, marketing director at We Are Social, has also outlined how emojis have evolved in marketing communications. Read his opinion column here.

Jennifer Faull

The Drum senior reporter Jen Faull provides news and insight on the latest developments in retail and FMCG.

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