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Emojis have become a major component of how we communicate and express ourselves, prompting brands to start using them in their marketing – some more successfully than others.

We can now order pizza and win competitions using nothing but emojis, but they’re not necessarily a good idea for all intents and purposes.

You just need to take a quick glance at a subreddit called r/fellowkids – designed to make fun of companies missing the mark when communicating to young people – for evidence of how not to use emojis. Or watch The Emoji Movie…

So that your brand doesn’t make an appearance on that subbreddit – or encounter the dreaded eye-roll emoji – you should spend some time weighing up whether emojis are a good way for you to engage your customers.

Here are five things to consider:

1. Do they fit your brand?

Some brands can get away with using emojis, some can’t – life isn’t fair like that. If your company works in fashion, sport, music, marketing etc., you’ll probably be alright. If you work in a more serious sector like financial services or funeral services, you risk offending people by using emojis, as your customers may see it as wrongly making light of something.

But, it’s often not as cut and dry as that. It very much depends on the brand you have created. For example, if you’re a financial services firm that is tailored to millennials and is maybe seen as a bit of a disruptor in the industry, emojis could work very well for your brand. If you’re HSBC, on the other hand, which is seen as a more traditional bank, emojis are unlikely to be deemed appropriate.

2. Do they fit the context?

At the end of the day, context is key. The decision of whether to use an emoji in a social media post or marketing campaign depends on a series of contextual factors, including:

  • your brand
  • your audience
  • the nature of the subject
  • where you’re communicating

You want to get to a point where you instinctively know whether or not an emoji would work, without having to sit down and go through these determining factors. That comes with time. Until you get to that point, you should rigidly assess whether an emoji is right for the context. If you’re unsure, refrain.

3. How many should you use?

If you’ve come to the conclusion that emojis match your brand’s tone of voice, your audience would be receptive to them, and the context is appropriate, the next step is to consider how many you should use.

More often than not, less is more. Chucking as many emojis as you can at a post can come across as try-hard; as if you haven’t quite grasped what they all mean, so you’re over-compensating.

Sometimes, even when you do know what an emoji stands for, you can be made to look foolish: we’ve all seen examples of parents awkwardly using the aubergine emoji, blissfully unaware of its NSFW connotations.

So, know your emojis and use them creatively – don’t make your audience wince.

4. Do they add value?

Flippant use of emojis makes it look like you’re just trying to get on the bandwagon and only using emojis because others are. To some extent, we’re all guilty of following trends in marketing, but the trick is to use trends to add value to your campaign.

One of the most impressive examples of a brand using emojis to add value to a campaign was Durex for World AIDS Day in 2015. In fact, its entire campaign was built on one particular emoji: a condom emoji. The campaign was a raging success, notching two million views on YouTube. The brand’s videos usually generate views in the thousands on the platform.

5. Do they bring a sense of fun?

Emojis are designed to be a bit of fun. Even the sad emojis tend to be used somewhat tongue in cheek and not entirely seriously. This is probably the reason why serious brands, talking about serious subjects, don’t find themselves suited to emoji usage – it’s just too risky.

If you’ve decided that emojis are a good fit for your brand, you don’t have to overthink which ones you should use and when; it’s largely common sense. As long as you’ve gauged the audience and the context correctly, you should be well set to use emojis as you see fit.

Emojis aren’t going anywhere – their usage is only going to increase, with Googling now allowing users to include them in their searches and new emojis being introduced with every software update. So, get using them to full effect! 💯