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World Emoji Day: Is Emoji the New Universal Language for Marketing?

July 17, 2018 Nicole Settecasi

Happy World Emoji Day! From personal text messages to corporate email subject lines, emoji seem to be a universal language because everyone, no matter what tongue they speak or country they live in, can understand a blushing smiley face or a red heart.

Could these tiny smilies be a great move for digital marketing? Many think so. Wired even reports that “92% of all people online use emoji now, and one-third of them do so daily.” So it’s possible that communicating with consumers might reach new, or at least simpler, heights when done through emoji.

Do emoji add value to marketing?

A study released by ReturnPath found that certain emoji in subject lines can boost read rates and consumer engagement.

VentureBeat reported that inclusion of emoji pushes open rates by 85%.

What’s the history behind emoji?


Emoji were first created by Japanese artist Shigetaka Kurita in 1999 and quickly grew into a beloved digital language in Japan.


It wasn’t until 2007 that software companies jumped on board with emoji, seeing potential in adding the graphics to their mainstream products. At this point, emoji had already seeped into everyday instant messaging and texting languages. But it was a simpler form, using letters, numbers and punctuation.


Google was convinced the emoji language deserved universal coding, which Unicode Consortium had done for all other languages. As Wired describes it, “computers fundamentally work with numbers, every letter or character you type on a computer is ‘encoded’ or represented with a numerical code.” Before Unicode made a standard, there were hundreds of encoding providers. Unicode set a standard so text and images would appear in the same fashion, no matter the device the code was viewed on.

After pairing up with the Apple team, Google and Apple submitted a proposal to Unicode, which would incorporate 625 new characters into the Unicode standard.

Unicode agreed with the proposal in 2010 and set a plan into action, making emoji universal.


Apple introduced their first emoji keyboard.


Android released their emoji keyboard.


In an effort to be inclusive, Unicode released a diversity update to their emoji language, providing five different skin tones, same-sex couples, single parents, pride flags, women lifting weights, red-haired and curly-haired emoji, women wearing hijabs and more, striving to represent humanity in all of its forms.

The emoji language is consistently growing adding more facial expressions, activities and diversity.

What are best practices for using emoji in marketing?

Whether its email marketing, social media marketing or SMS, there’s a balance to incorporating emoji in copy.

Emphasize a topic.

Consider adding emoji directly after keywords to emphasize your main points. For example, if the keyword is SEO, try the computer emoji.

Use relevant emoji.

Work to keep the emoji within your brand’s industry. If a mortgage broker is looking to incorporate emoji in an email subject line, the home or key emoji are great options, whereas the shoe emoji wouldn’t make as much sense.

Tell a story.

String together a series of emoji to tell a story, remembering to include some text, too. If a swimsuit brand is hosting a summer sale, their latest tweet might include 👙 + 🌞 = 😊, to portray the joy of shopping lower prices.

Stand out.

Research the most popular emoji and consider avoiding them. Instead, choose emoji that will help your brand stand out. If your subject line is the fifth email to include a red heart in consumers’ inboxes, your content might get lost among the repetitive clutter.

As you consider emoji for your email subject lines, social posts and SMS messages, be sure to think about what’s relevant to your industry and your brand. Higher open rates might begin with your emoji keyboard.

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About the Author

Nicole Settecasi

Nicole Settecasi is an Associate Marketing Manager at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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