Emoji has become one of the most pivotal marketing plays in the last year and is one of the fastest growing methods of engagement we’ve recently seen recently – especially when it comes to engaging millennials and consumers via mobile devices. Why? According to research conducted by Activate, Inc., mobile messaging has been the fastest growing online behavior within the social landscape over the past five years.

Whether the emoji phenomenon is a passing phase or here to stay still remains to be seen. One thing is certain – brands are looking to capture the hearts and minds of millennials in new ways, reaching them with engaging branded content on their mobiles, the place young consumers spend a good chunk of time. Brands are learning that traditional forms of communication like banners and interstitials are not nearly as effective in reaching this audience.

The use of branded emoji is also bringing results, it’s an engaging and viral way for brands to unobtrusively insert themselves into consumer conversations – without appearing like an advertisement. For a brand or marketer, having your brand and product at the centre of a conversation is a dream as well as an effective way to get people talking about the brand without making it an obvious hard sell. Mediums like mobile messaging and other mobile apps have opened doors for marketers and brands to reach this captive audience in inventive new ways. The research tells us that these mediums continue to grow at a rapid pace.

So what’s next? How can brands continue to capitalise on these new mediums, in ways that are engaging and exciting for consumers? The next few years will be a major turning point, there will be more ways for brands to engage millennials and young consumers with branded content that allows consumers to personalise their conversations within these mobile environments. In fact, we’ve already seen this trend shaping up. Last year, Skype introduced Mojis, which allows users to share short clips from movies and TV shows within their chats. Popular photo editing app, PicsArt, allows consumers to style their digital photos with branded frames and emoji.

The market is maturing in a way that allows brands and advertisers to set the scope of
success, determine which audiences they want to reach, how long they want a campaign to run and understand the benchmark for success in these new environments. Emoji were a nice “test to invest” exercise, but as the market matures and this way of reaching consumers becomes the norm, we’ll start to see more traditional “buy” models being applied to the branded content market.

Things like official brand accounts in mobile messaging apps will present another opportunity for brands to reach consumers at scale – but in a way that is voluntary on the consumer’s behalf. With branded accounts, brands can engage “fans” on a one-to-one basis and drive continued interactions to their audience by offering coupons, videos, chats, contests and more. Say a popular shoe manufacturer is introducing the latest “must have” for sneaker fanatics. They can use branded accounts to promote the release date, post images, and provide incentives for consumers to buy the shoes at various retailers with coupons or exclusive offers.

What we know is that the growth of mobile messaging and other apps is not subsiding. If anything, these methods of communication are taking over the likes of Facebook in popularity. We know that consumers love personalising their conversations with fun, engaging branded content. And we know that marketers are seeing positive early returns in reaching a captive audience of millennials with these methods. The most important thing is that these new methods of audience engagement do not lose the genuine and unobtrusive look and feel that have made them such a success.


By Evan Wray, co-founder and vice president at Swyft Media


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