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If we did the social media for... House of Fraser

Last Monday was an #emojinal day for everyone. House of Fraser interrupted its scheduled programming to vomit the entire emoji lexicon on Twitter, apparently as a premature Valentine’s Day celebration. The campaign came out of nowhere and had the Twittersphere up in arms.

But before I even had time to post my ‘U OK hun?’ reaction, the circus had packed up and left town. After just 12 hours and 32 minutes, the department store was back to pushing luxury beauty gifts.

If you haven’t seen it, House of Fraser’s Twitter feed went from this:

...to this:

...then back to this:

House of Fraser definitely succeeded in getting its name out there, with Twitter mentions up roughly 2600 per cent compared with January’s daily average. It’s a bold move for a heritage brand to leave people convinced that its feed has been hacked – or that the community manager appeared three sheets to the wind, à la JCPenney.

It’s clear that House of Fraser’s intention was to draw in a younger audience, but there are some things the social media team may not have considered. Here are a few questions I would have piped up with, had I been in that fateful ‘emojinal’ brainstorm...

Who are we talking to?

Why did House of Fraser even decide to go down the emoji route? Because ‘a study by Bangor University found 29 per cent of people with smartphones use them in half of their messaging.’ Is this 29 per cent the slice House of Fraser should be targeting?

Attracting younger shoppers is obviously important, but there are ways for a brand to talk to a new audience without alienating their existing one. The key is to channel the tortoise – slow and steady. Bring in new content features or adjust the tone of voice ever so gently, to avoid an, ‘Oh god, Mum’s just discovered emoji’ situation.

What’s the social insight?

If House of Fraser had a checklist of ‘young’ things to say and talk about, it ticked off the lot on Monday. Netflix and Chill, Harry Styles, every single emoji… they were all there. The issue was that House of Fraser jumped on all the trends, from Transfer Deadline Day to Gigi Hadid’s night out. And it did so without any real meaning.

If the brand had looked into what makes its target audience tick, it could have talked about specific trends with authority and relevance. Here’s where a brand like Asos comes into its own. The clothing retailer knows exactly how its audience shops and talks, from pay-day binges to Monday morning struggles, so it always says the right thing.

As Asos knows, we’ve been speaking ‘emoji’ for more than two years now. This new language exists on top of English (or Spanish, or Japanese), rather than instead of it. It’s just one part of the way young people speak. Shoving those little cartoons down the cool kids’ throats without good reason is only going to elicit a puke face and thumbs down.

Are we taking this seriously?

Right, so… we’re really doing this? We’re getting emojinal? In front of the whole world? OK, then let’s really go for it. If you plan a campaign, you have to commit to it and sell it in, otherwise it does look like you’ve been hacked. You can’t go back on yourself, even if you use a cute bear to do it.

If I had to implement this campaign, I’d leave the big reveal ‘til Valentine’s Day, not two weeks before. Is a young audience really going to be thinking about this holiday, created by Hallmark, on 1 February? No. They’re thinking about how Monday morning is the worst.

What’s next for House of Fraser? I’d like to say that the brand is done being so emojinal. But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that somewhere on the House of Fraser cutting room floor, lies a monkey emoji. It flickers with the faintest signs of life, ready for a Valentine’s Day resuscitation.

Charlotte Miller is a writer at We Are Social

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Charlotte Miller

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