By: Sorab Ghaswalla
The jury may still be out on this one but that does not take away from the fact that the world has seen their use go only up over the years. Which means they must be popular, right? What other explanation can there be, for example, for GIPHY alone dishing out over 7 billion GIFs and stickers every day? Or the fact that it has over 500 million daily active users? Not to mention the contribution by GIPHY’s competition.
Mainly children (and citizens) of social media, this motley group of graphics, emojis, GIFs & stickers, has transcended the world of social media to make its way into the world of formal communication, much to the horror of the content purists. With success? That is debatable.
There is a question mark still on whether this group is getting wider acceptance in the corporate world; in formal communication, in business correspondence, or not? There is no concrete evidence that it is, but neither is there proof of it being completely shunned, too.
For many from the older generation, the use of such graphics in formal communication, say like in marketing collateral, may mean more than just a raised eyebrow, but the Millennials and Gen.Z may beg to differ. The latter now constitute a major portion of the world’s workforce, so will this visual form of expression make further inroads then?
The emoji has already been dubbed a “language”. The fastest growing in the world, in fact. One count shows over 60 million emojis are being sent out daily. Another one shows there are at least 2,666 emojis in the Unicode Standard library to choose from.
All of which makes it understandable why you do see more than an occasional emoji or a GIF in brand communication. Or in digital marketing. Brands, largely in the B2C space, are more frequent users of this “visual shorthand” type of communication while trying to connect with their leads, or customers. On Instagram, Snap, WhatsApp, Facebook & Twitter even. Such graphical means of expressing emotions is big even in the world of influencer marketing.
But the B2B guys remain unconvinced, still. That’s because in this space, there’s another business at the consumer-end of things, not an individual. Selling a solution, a service, or a product to another business means no one individual taking the final call but a group of them, unlike in the world of e-commerce or retail.
With image file format, ideogram, and other similar content forms, it’s almost personal, and this has no place in the world of “impersonal” communication, hence the lack of interest in the B2B world.
If used well, and correctly, they allow brands to be “creatively different”, and “visible” in the cluttered marketplace. Everything eventually boils down to what is it you are selling. Something with great visual appeal, some quirky or lifestyle product may call for more use of such graphic elements in marketing campaigns. On the other hand, a company making alloy or selling a data analytics service cannot, or may be better off not using them.
Marketers who do feel like using this “alternate visual language” need to proceed with caution. They need to test the waters and look at the feedback. Best to do A/B testing before going ahead full steam.
Some pointers here: look at your target audience profile, look at the demographics of your customer base, check out their lifestyle. All that will help you take the final call. Or else, your marketing team may, sooner than later, get this in their Inbox.