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Do you speak emoji?

Louisa Osmond, Teaching Fellow

Faculty Blog

Ahead of the launch of the new 2016 Chevrolet Cruze, GM’s PR team has distributed a press release to the world’s media written entirely in emojis. No words, only pictures. They have even created an emoji in the shape of a bow tie to represent their famous logo.

For those of you who don’t speak Millennial, an emoji is a little picture typically used in emails and SMS messages to express a common sentiment (such as a smiley face to convey happiness). They are not to be confused with emoticons, which are images generated using keystrokes and punctuation marks, for example : ) for a smiley face.

However, if you fancy yourself as emoji-literate, you can attempt to decode the press release here.

And you can see how you did by reading the ‘official’ translation here.

The release divided the opinion of the media, but – love it or hate it – it achieved its overarching aim of generating thousands of column inches and online impressions prior to the release of the car.

For Chevy, creating the first emoji press release may have been a bit of fun to raise awareness of a new car, but for marketers emojis could have a far deeper meaning. They are very quickly becoming a global language.

Aside from a few culturally specific emojis, it is likely that someone in Japan could read and gain the same meaning from a billboard written in emojis as someone in Poland. This has huge implications for global brands that have traditionally struggled with international advertising strategies. There are thousands of examples of marketing faux pas caused by literal translations or cultural nuances. For example, Pepsi’s tagline ’Pepsi brings you back to life’ was translated into Mandarin as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’ – probably not the message the soft drink giant was trying to convey to its potential customers in China. Unsurprisingly, the campaign was pulled at great expense – in terms of both outlay and brand damage.

Emojis are currently considered the domain of Millennials and Generation Z. However, Generation X and Baby Boomers are increasingly adopting them to communicate with younger family members and friends.  People are now even vocalising emojis, for example by saying, ‘I had a terrible weekend, sad face.’ Consequently, they are quickly becoming part of a collective global consciousness and it won’t be long before marketers move on from using them as a quick-hit gimmick and start to capitalise on the global opportunity they afford.