(click here for an appropriate soundtrack.)
Emojis are huge. They’re a new form of communication — the new norm, some might say. A common language. They add emotion to an otherwise arid landscape. They make us better at expressing our feelings online. They’re visual, they’re quick, they stimulate the imagination. Young generations were, of course, quick in adopting it, but they soon became appealing for everyone.
Yes, emojis are huge, but not in the way brands want them to be.
Durex wants a new condom emoji.
Kit Kat wants one, too. A chocolate bar emoji, that is.
“First BREAKFA-moji Keyboard” (I didn’t even read this one, honestly. But the title is all you need to know.)
It goes on and on. At least once a week, there’s news that yet another brand started a revolutionary campaign in which they confidently claim the world would be a better place if it had their very own branded emoji.
—How do we make these freaking Millennials like and use our detergent brand? Do they even wash their clothes or just call an Uber to bring them new ones?
—My son keeps texting me the thumbs up emoji each time I send him a text to come down for dinner. This has to be it. A DETERGENT EMOJI.
—Why didn’t I think of this?!? Great idea. Quick, start a petition. We’ll make history.
Brands keep acting like it’s okay to use the emoji keyboard as free ad space — forever. Umm, no, thank you. It’s more or less the equivalent of wanting your own, branded letter. Put glasses on that A and let’s make it the Alexa key. A red chocolatey K, right there on every keyboard in the world. Proudly brought to you by Kit Kat. D from Durex! S from that-weird-shampoo-brand-that-you-keep-forgetting.
One could argue that Taco Bell’s success is good enough reason for trying. However, Taco Bell didn’t get a branded emoji. It got a generic one — of a taco. Instead of bringing worldwide awareness or sales to their brand, the new emoji brings it to the whole category.
There are also so many things that can go wrong once they’ve hypothetically put a branded emoji on the keyboard — there are several cases where emojis are used for completely different situations than the ones they were intended for. Congratulations Kit Kat, you now have your own personal emoji. But people are using it for sexual innuendo. Huh?
As much as I believe that brands should be trend-aware and open to fit their consumers’ changing behavior, the digital era has brought increasing privacy and simplicity needs. We long for ad-free spaces like we long for air. And when ads appear in one of our most intimate environments, we — best case scenario — dismiss them as irrelevant.