The Language of Gen Z: Emojis

Posted by: Caleb Ledbetter

Continuing our series on how Gen Z communicates (check out this one about memes), let’s talk emojis. With thousands already in use, and new ones created every day, your brand can’t afford to ignore one of Gen Z’s favorite ways to communicate.

What are Emojis?

Emojis are small images or icons used to express ideas or emotions. They are used in digital communication like text messages and social media. Emojis were first created in Japan in 1999, and in 2015 an emoji was Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year. The word is a combination of the Japanese e “picture” and moji “character”. Emojis are similar to emoticons, but different. Emoticons are comprised of keyboard characters while the more popular Emojis are small images.

There are thousands of emojis, and different ones mean different things. Some are pretty straight forward. A smile means “happy”. A frown means “sad”. But some are less obvious. The painting nails emoji is often used to add sass to a message. Something along the lines of, “I don’t care what you do, I’m just over here being fabulous painting my nails.”

There are too many emojis to go into all of them, and the meanings are constantly evolving.

How Are Emojis Used?

To Add Emotion

When two people speak face to face, their body language and tone of voice informs the conversation. But both are lost in text-only messages. Enter the emoji. Emojis add flavor and context by filling the communication gap created by digital communication. Instead of an in person smile or shug, use a digital smile or shrug.

shrugging emoji smiling emoji

For Clarity

Sometimes, text-only messages are confusing. For example, a message reading “interesting” could be serious or sarcastic. In person, tone of voice would inform which one. But online, just add the appropriate emoji and your reader will know exactly what you meant.

Actually interesting:

thinking emoji

Sarcastically “interesting”:

rollingeyes emoji

A text reading “ok” can come off as cold, but a thumbs up emoji says the same thing, while adding a bit of positivity and enthusiasm.

thumbsup emoji

Your Brand Should

Use Emojis When Appropriate

Emojis serve an important function in communication for Gen Z, and they might be able to serve that function for your brand. Dominos recognized an opportunity with emojis and did something totally new. They let people order pizza just by tweeting the pizza emoji. It’s important to note that the pizza emoji doesn’t just represent pizza. In common use, it usually signifies a desire and craving for pizza. So ordering pizza with a tweet answers this desire with the actual pizza.

pizza emoji

Take Emojis Seriously

If your customers are complaining with emojis, they are still complaining. Your brand needs to understand how people are using emojis to talk about you, and should take that communication as seriously as any other communication. My advice? Hire someone who isn’t old enough to drink and get them to decipher for you.

Your Brand Shouldn’t

Lament the Death of the English Language

It’s going to be fine. The youth are not destroying language, they are evolving it. Emojis are not a sign that we’re getting stupider. Emojis serve an important function in text-only communication and our language would be less intelligent without them. Your brand should avoid pitting itself against emojis, so that you don’t sound like the old man yelling at the kids to get off your lawn.

Use Emojis Just To Use Emojis

We’ve talked about this on the blog before. Emojis aren’t the right marketing move for every brand. Be sure to consider your brand’s editorial authority when deciding whether to use emojis or not. Never use them just to use them. When Gen Z uses emojis, they are trying to add meaning that couldn’t be said in words. If you could communicate the same message with words, then don’t use emojis.

Final Thoughts

Emojis are first and foremost a supplement to communication. Young consumers don’t use emojis because they just love emojis. They use them because they effectively serve a purpose. Never use emojis just because, but if your brand can add to your message with emojis, seize the opportunity.

 

Learn more about Gen Z by checking out one of Jeff Fromm’s Forbes articles: Getting to Know Gen Z: How the Pivotal Generation is Different From Millennials

About Caleb Ledbetter

Caleb Ledbetter believes smart thinking can solve any problem, and is dedicated to help brands use more of it. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Communications in Advertising with a Creative Concentration from the University...See Caleb's full bio.

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