WE, THE PEOPLE of the internet, love emoji. We use them to joke. We express how we feel. We chide. And the ways we use those emoji—which ones, when, why, how—say a lot about us. As such, our beloved emoji have become a new universal language. So of course, brands want to get in on the fun.
Last year, body-care company Dove discovered that all of the Unicode Consortium-approved emoji have straight hair. So Dove created a custom branded emoji keyboard with their own curly-haired faces. Voilà! By downloading the keyboard and tweaking your settings, you could now use a whole bunch of curly-haired people in texts on your phone.
Dove is far from alone. Burger King launched a chicken fries emoji keyboard to celebrate bringing back a fan favorite food. Ford made ones with cars. Kim Kardashian released her infamous Kimoji; Ariana Grande, Amber Rose, and Wiz Khalifa have their own. Comedy Central has one with Broad City-specific emoji and GIFs. The Cleveland Cavs have one with their players. There are emoji keyboards for Deadpool, Coke, Starbucks, the LA Kings, Portlandia, Sour Patch Kids, and VH1. In the past year, seemingly every major brand (and some not so major ones) has released an emoji keyboard—or has plans to do so soon.
These emoji could actually capture our attention in a way that we want—and in a place that could become central to the future of advertising.
“Everyone will have their own emoji,” says Oliver Camilo, the founder and CEO of Moji Inc., which creates custom keyboards like the one his company made for Wiz Khalifa. “It’s the next thing in mobile.”
The idea here is pretty simple: Mobile advertising is really hard. Grabbing your attention inside your mobile messages is even harder. So instead of creating, say, a series of pop-up shampoo ads that drive you crazy, Dove wants to give you the chance to share a curly-haired smiling face if you want to. And, if you do, you may think of Dove and its products when you share that emoji.
Brands, celebrities, and marketers know that we spend so much of our time on our phones. But traditional pop-ups and banner ads don’t work well on those small screens. Emoji, however, increasingly rule our digital interactions. Sure, we, the people, have to choose to download and use a corporation or celebrity’s emoji, stickers, or GIF keyboards. But once we do, brands have a direct connection into our private messages, the place on our phones where we pay the most attention.
These kinds of emoji keyboards could actually capture our attention in a way that we want—and in a place that could become central to the future of advertising. And yet, for it to work, we have to want to play along.