A recent New York Magazine article, “Smile You’re Speaking Emoji- The Rapid Evolution of a Worldess Tongue” explored the recent emergence and wide spread adoption of the emoji. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have seen or used “Face with Tears of Joy” and “Smiling Face With Heart-Shaped Eyes”, two of over 250 emoji symbols, in your text messages or social media updates. You might even own emoji pillows and emoji shirts, or have read Emoji Dick (an emoji translation of Melville’s classic Moby Dick). It is clear that emojis have pervaded our communications, across nations and generations (used by teens and moms alike).
One of the greatest appeals of the emoji is its ability to illustrate what words sometimes cannot as well as carry multiple secret meanings.
These seemingly infantile cartoons are instantly recognizable, which makes them understandable even across linguistic barriers. Yet the implications of emoji—their secret meanings—are constantly in flux.
…As Jenna Wortham, a New York Times technology reporter, wrote in an essay about emoji for Womanzine’s emoji issue, they “have become an ever-evolving cryptographic language that changes depending on who we are talking to, and when.”
…This is the fun of emoji. The nail-painting emoji , in some circles, has come to mean “I’m not bothered” or “Haters gonna hate.” Man in Business Suit Levitating could mean “jumping for joy,” or it could mean “mystery.” (Online speculators have already nicknamed it “the Man in Black emoji.”)
– Smile You’re Speaking Emoji, Adam Sternbergh
As the emoji tongue continues to grow, how can businesses stay relevant and understand the new digital language of their consumer? Different emojis have different meanings in different circles, and even those meanings are continuously evolving as we speak (or type). It is not enough to reference an emoji dictionary because the combination of certain emojis, plus who is talking, and to whom, and when, can reveal the undertones and motivations behind a message so much more than simply recognizing as “Face With Stuck-Out Tongue With Tightly Closed Eyes”. Through deep consumer insights, businesses can crack open the more nuanced pieces of the emoji language to better understand how their digitally-savvy consumers communicate and to focus marketing endeavors in a more effective way.
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