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House of Fraser's #Emojinal social media campaign invokes ridicule

House of Fraser's brassy attempt to jump on the emoji bandwagon has left many of its Twitter followers bemused and some even wondering whether the brand has been hacked.

The department store’s #Emojinal social media drive on Monday has seen it hijack trending topics such as Pep Guardiola's move to Manchester City and Harry Styles' birthday with a flurry of emoji-filled photoshops. It’s the crux of the retailer’s campaign in the lead up to Valentine’s Day.

A number of brands have tried to tap into the emoji's popularity, but House of Fraser's campaign has invoked surprise and in some quarters dismay from web users taken aback by the drastic shift in tone from the retailer.

Gadgette founder Holly Brockwell was critical of the campaign's strategy.

It is always easier to be negative when a brand makes bold moves, and it should be noted that not everyone was critical.

House of Fraser approached content agency BrightSpark for the seasonal push as it looked to take a more humorous and fun approach to the traditional valentine’s sentimentality. Social media followers will be asked to crack a code which will be made up of a sequence of emojis symbolising a romantic comedy. Once the code has been cracked, the successful social media followers will unlock a 10 per cent discount to spend online.

The campaign will also be supported by other emoji ‘Love Stories’, that tell famous love stories through emoji such as Prince William and Kate Middleton and Elton John and David Furnish. BrightSpark said that it went down the emoji route after a study by Bangor University found 29 per cent of people with smartphones use them in half of their messaging.

The campaign comes as House of Fraser continues its bid to push its ‘edgy’ credentials. For its Christmas campaign it steered away from the traditional festive fuzzy ads and created a music video rather than a box-standard ad.

Chris Bishop, founder and chief executive of 7thingsmedia and former House of Fraser employee analysed the campaign so far claiming it was an attempt to "reach a new younger audience" that "has completely tanked".

He said: "Positioned between Debenhams and Selfridges the department store’s social activity was so off their image that they’ve been ridiculed by the trade, their competitors (namely ASOS) and more to the point their potential consumers.

"I’ll bet Gordon Young’s flat cap the word “millennials” was used more times than Andy Murray has lost the in an Australian grand slam final."

"Crucially though, it is how the 167 year old brand respond that is key. Yes, House of Fraser should be on social. Yes, old heritage brands can be on Twitter and engaging with all audiences but the effort into the message, the tone, and creative has to be at the same intensity of a heavily scrutinized TV, print or digital ad campaign."

He argued that it is a lack of consistency in the move, although that could change if the campaign exits its infancy: "Is this a one off or a major move? They need to respond accordingly throughout. Are they going to merchandise their Buchanan Street store with interactive digital show windows with selfie #Emojinals? Are they going to sack their agency or in-house junior and revert back to pushing Howick jumpers?"

If you subscribe to the all publicity is good publicity school, then you might even suggest the campaign has been a success.

The question remains, is this a conversation the company, founded in 1849, really needed to be a part of?