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How brands can capitalise on our modern digital language

30 August 2018

By Dennis Kay

When was the last time you used a meme or emoji? Not that long ago huh?

The 1970s saw the dawn of a new age – the digital age – and with it we have seen the evolution of a new language comprising of memes (if you pronounce it ‘mee mees’ you are simply the worst) and emojis.

But how did these come to fruition and how have they become such a staple in modern communication?

Cast your mind back to the early 1990s when phones actually had buttons and chatrooms were widely used. Instant messaging was common place and I’m sure I’m not the only one who ended near enough every message with one of these bad boys; :), ;), -_-, :o, :p.

Forged in chatrooms the world over, we had created the emoticon, the “OG” emoji if you will.

Countless messages sent everyday contained combinations of colons, semi-colons and parenthesis (to name a few), enabling us to add emotion to messages.

Messages that – prior to the use of emoticons – could often be perceived as cold, or misinterpreted altogether.

I mean, it shouldn’t be surprising that visual elements were slowly integrating into our everyday language, after all, these guys started doing it 5,000 years ago…

The dawn of emojis

The emoticon developed into what we now know as an “emoji”, with the creation of the first emoji in 1999 – designed by Japanese artist Shigetaka Kurita.

Twelve years later, Apple launched the emoji keyboard, giving easy emoji access to millions of consumers and setting them up to be a staple in our modern digital language.

As a natural evolution of the emoticon, emojis have the power to bring emotion and context to messages (and generally spice them up a bit!).

Imparting emotion and perceptions

Emojis can set the emotional tone and bring context to your message.

Let me give you an example. Here we have the same sentence, but with three different emojis to cap it off:

I had a great time ?

I had a great time ?

I had a great time ?

Do you read all three in the same light?

Probably not.

The use of the emoji completely changes the tone and context of the sentence: a regular happy face suggests you actually did have a great time (yay!), the inclusion of a winky face adds a sense of cheekiness mixed with some fairly promiscuous undertones, and the juxtaposition of the ‘not impressed’ face delivers a touch of sarcasm.

Emojis. Magical things, aren’t they?

"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"

In a similar visual vein, we have seen the continual rise in the popularity of memes – chiefly down to the relatability of their humour.

Memes may seem like images with mildly humorous captions that continually clog up your feed, but they’re so much more than that.

Memes have the power to bring like-minded people together and create a sense of online community among millions of people around the globe, capitalising on feelings or scenarios that are easily relatable.

They can be a way for brands to bridge the gap between themselves and consumers, helping tap into modern pop culture and be seen as ‘relevant’.

With ever dwindling attention spans, the window of opportunity on social media for brands to connect with consumers is getting smaller. Memes allow brands to take full advantage of that small window with easily digestible and humorous content – content that can easily be shared at an exponential rate (“go viral”) if done well.

Check out these examples from Gucci’s meme ad campaign, ‘#TFWGucci’, which launched last year.

Gucci capitalised on classic meme formats and catapulted themselves into pop culture. Overall, the campaign was a phenomenal success and helped Gucci to appeal to a younger audience.

The stats:

TOTAL REACH: 120,089,317

TOTAL LIKES: 1,986,005



Considering Gucci’s average engagement was 0.41% and one of the thirty memes posted became their most engaged post of all time, I think it’s safe to say the campaign didn’t shape up too shabby!

Communicating in the right language

So what’s the significance of this evolution in digital communication?

In a generation where 53% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands who are transparent on social media, and 85% saying they’d stick with brands during a crisis when they are more transparent overall, it’s clear that speaking to consumers in ‘their language’ is crucial.

By highlighting a more humorous and endearing side, emojis and memes have the power to give brands a more ‘human’ appeal and bolster brand loyalty.

Not to mention that one successful meme could skyrocket brand awareness!

They are no longer only found in chat rooms and used by teenagers. Visual language is a powerful communication tool that marketers can harness to bolster their campaigns.

Want to know more about brand perception? Check out our podcast, BDA chat, where we delve into how brands have grown into powerful, emotional consumer experiences.

You can check out more of our blogs here.

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