“You know, sometimes you’ve typed a whole message and you realize at the end that you’re entirely lacking in emojification. So we provided the solution: When you tap on the emoji button, we’ll highlight all the emojifiable words there, and you can just tap, tap, tap, tap and emojify.”
Thus spake Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president for software engineering, at last week’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
It seems that Apple’s annual showcase of new tech is not just for corporate image building anymore. Now the world’s richest company wants to transform your written text into strings of colorful glyphs depicting faces, animals, food, machines, sports equipment, musical instruments, hearts, brains, and – if sponsor tie-ins evolve to the point of no return – Chewbacca quaffing a can of Diet Pepsi while moussing with Pantene Pro-V Hair Gel.
This makes for a product placement content marketing public relations mashup of nightmarish proportions, no? Yes. This is almost more overwhelming than that time Microsoft delivered the “reversed hand with middle finger extended.”
Emoji first inserted themselves into the world via 1990s Japanese pagers. And while pagers now sleep with the fishes (sushi, anyone?), emoji have gone forth and multiplied. You’d be hard pressed to find a text message, Facebook post, or Instagram caption that doesn’t contain at least one emoji (emojum?).
And because there is no higher praise than for one tech company to steal copy another tech company’s shiny new thing, thanks to Apple, emoji are on the cusp of ruling the world. Just yesterday, The Unicode Consortium sprang six dozen new emoji on the public, including – for those of you wondering when you’d be able to insert a cartoon image of a pregnant woman into your text message – a pregnant woman.
The implications for your business are as yet unclear. But, as Luke Stark, a media historian and qualitative social scientist, told The New York Times this week, “There is a constant push and pull between people finding new ways to express themselves online, and companies trying to make money off that expression.”
What does this mean for your public relations efforts, your stakeholder engagement? If your audience comprises mostly Millennials or younger, perhaps the integration of emoji into your website, position papers, and blogs will pay off in more participatory and loyal customers. But if you’re, say, a bank that dates back to when Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were duking it out over direct current and alternating current, which now offers a $250 bonus for new checking accounts with a minimum balance of $10,000 – not so much.
In other words, an email sprinkled with emoji could just as easily delight as deflate your customers.
It could be argued that illuminated manuscripts (we’re talkin’ ’bout you, Book of Kells) were the original emoji-laden texts, what with their colorful glyphs of serpents, fish, frogs, and fowl. But at least those images were masterfully drawn and were not simply frivolous addenda to the text.
So, business leaders and owners, use emoji at your own risk. Also, know your audience/your customers. And perhaps be comforted by the fact that If you run into trouble, the Knight Canney Group is here to help you with any and all emoji-centric crisis communications.
Just remember, the more ubiquitous the use of emoji, the more you might be contributing to the downfall of civilization. As Apple’s own Craig Federighi jokingly told the Worldwide Developers Conference attendees, “Children of tomorrow will have no understanding of the English language.”