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McDonald's Emoji

Can you read Emojis? - a look at the fastest growing language that isn't going away


By Stephen Lepitak, -

October 19, 2015 | 9 min read

Facebook, Twitter, Apple – they all agree: Emojis are a thing. Love them or loath them – there’s no doubt they are here to stay. So, The Drum decided not only to write a feature about them, but also worked with JWT London and its emoji producing app to translate the English language into the titular format for our readers to attempt to digest.

Translation: Anyone calling emojis a ‘fad' is likely over the age of 40 and completely off kilter with communications.

Translation: These little illustrations have gone from occasional smiley faces at the end of our text messages to a language in their own right, inspiring games, movies and even books – Emoji Dick anyone?

Translation: Renowned linguist Noam Chomsky surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, considering he is 86) told The Drum he has no knowledge on the subject, but there is absolutely no doubt that emoji use continues to grow in cultural importance.

Translation: From Paleolithic cave paintings to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, using pictures to convey messages is nothing new, but, in the modern developed world where time becomes ever more a commodity, communicating through pictures is proving more popular than ever.

Translation: Brands have been quick to recognise the power of this new language, Domino's winning awards for its service that allowed users to order dinner using its pizza emoji. McDonald’s adopted them for its latest outdoor campaign (admittedly not always to public’s taste, with a graffiti artist in Bristol seizing the opportunity to ridicule the brand).

Translation: Twitter, meanwhile, has integrated emojis to appear alongside popular hashtags such as #StarWars, where a red lightsaber appears automatically when used.

Translation: Tom Ollerton, marketing director at social media agency We Are Social, describes emojis as "an addendum" to already established languages and declares them a modern accessory, "to language what smartwatches are to smartphones”.

Translation: As to whether they can ever be viewed as a legitimate language, BBDO New York's executive creative director Tom Markham believes so, explaining that “people use Emojis as a shortcut rather than doing the hard work of writing copy”.

Translation: Sarah Cameron, head of marketing at Coley Porter Bell, meanwhile asks, “if a photo can say a thousand words, why bother writing anything at all?”

Translation: In a visually mediated world where Instagram has more followers than Twitter and 64 per cent of millennials regularly communicate using only Emojis, she might have a point.

Translation: Bud Lite has been a huge adopter, using them in tweets celebrating Independence Day for example, while General Electric has created a periodic table on Snapchat with emojis. Buzzfeed meanwhile attempted to interview Scottish Labour Party leader challenger Kezia Dougdale using them.

Translation: Which leads to the question, how can brands best exploit emojis?

Translation: Living in a product obsessed consumer society, consumers express their personality and social status through brands, according to Allan Blair, head of strategy for Tribal Worldwide London.

Translation: “With the rise of the branded emoji, consumers can demonstrate their brand loyalty – and therefore how their discerning product choices define them – in even their most private and intimate forums.

Translation: "In fact for many brands whose content probably wouldn't be watched or shared in social, a branded emoji may be a more natural entry point into conversation. Think a Warburton's branded sandwich emoji or a Domestos branded toilet emoji.

Translation: "Of course, brands jumping on the emoji bandwagon may just kill the whole thing off," he concludes.

Translation: It is a point echoed by Kevin Lan, design director for The Partners, who questions the credibility of using emojis within branded communications.

Translation: "Acting cool and being cool are very different things. The worst thing that can happen is that the brand ends up looking like a dad at a disco.

Translation: In the circumstance of the McDonald’s ad, I can’t help but feel a slight amount of cynicism that is only going to be attacked, like it already has. Just because you speak the lingo, doesn’t mean we’re best buddies now."

Translation: Sometimes, perhaps, brands should just leave well alone.

Translation: Emojli, the social network that only allowed users to communicate through emojis, shut down at the end of July after just a few months of existence. Despite some 60,000 downloads of the app, it was well known to have been founded as a joke – one which got old fast. The cost of keeping the site going wasn't worth the effort for the founders, which places doubt into the long-term viability of emoji as a language in itself.

Translation: Despite this the first World Emoji Day saw social media platforms explode with related messages, especially from brands, making it clear that many enjoy the fun of translating the icons. The day drew over 271,000 mentions, according to social analytics company Spredfast, with brands including Nasa and Sprite proving particularly influential.

Translation: “Emoji adoption has grown exponentially with the upsurge of smartphone ownership," says Nigel Carlos, social media director at Doner, who goes on to explain the outright reason why brands are so interested in mastering the language:

Translation: "Generation Y & Z have been notoriously tricky to market to, however this cultural shift in communication is an opportunity for brands to talk to digital natives in their own language and be part of their everyday conversation.

Translation: “For brands to connect with their audiences they need to emotionally connect with them. Emojis give marketers another way of expressing a corporate message in a fun and relevant way.”

Translation: Emojis have been called the fastest growing language of the early 21st Century, and while it is uncertain how long their popularity will continue, as long as it does brands will be right alongside looking to exploit.

McDonald's Emoji

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