Can Emojis Break Language Barriers in Global Brand Marketing?

ThinkstockPhotos-476005801They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When US President Barack Obama welcomed Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to the White House on April 28, 2015, he expressed his thanks for “manga and anime and of course, emojis,” as reported in The New Yorker, May 6, 2015.

Emoji is a small digital image of icon used to express an idea of emotion in electronic communication. Emoji is a Japanese invention, thanks to Japan’s animation and comic-book culture and the word has stuck in our modern popular culture, like other Japanese words – sushi, haiku and samurai. If we were to translate the word, then pictogram might be a good one to use.

As marketers of global brands shift their focus from Millennials to Generation Z, those born after the turn of the century, this generation has grown up in a social, mobile and connected world and think nothing of communicating using a single image – emoji – to convey response and emotion.

According to data from eMarketer, there are nearly 2 billion smartphones users worldwide, and 41.5 billion messages and 6 billion emojis sent around the world every day on mobile messaging apps, according to branded digital start up Swyft Media.

Global consumer brands are starting to use emojis in marketing campaigns and product user interfaces, especially in the popular mobile messaging world where screens are small, space is tight and time is short. As content shelf-life becomes shorter and shorter and brands continue to vie for customer’s attention, global marketers are using more and more images to convey and create brands. Customers also have lower attention spans, so it is better to convey a brand message with one image rather than a sentence or paragraph.

Emojis fit in perfectly with social media and many brands are starting to use emojis to run social media campaigns. In 2014, Budweiser used emojis on its Twitter feed to celebrate the 4th of July US holiday. Oreo launched a mobile emoji marketing campaign in China. The successful campaign allowed parents and their children to take photos of themselves and paste them on dancing emojis. In less than three months, the campaign generated nearly 100 million emojis. Nearly 2 billion impressions were made across Weibo and WeChat.

The world’s favorite photo-sharing app, Instagram now allows us to cut out words and use emojis. On Twitter, you can search by hashtag emoji. There is also The Emoji Translation Project (, an initiative to try to build the world’s first emoji translation engine using crowdsourcing. They basically want to translate sentences into emoji to create a Google Translate, but for emojis.

Emojis are rapidly becoming a great tool for any brand marketers and yes, providing they are recognized and have been tested for all target audiences, they can be used for international audiences. Emojis don’t suit all target audiences; however, they are certainly a good way to reach a lot of people in a universally understood language.

Will LSPs be involved in the use and development of emoji in global brand campaigns? Absolutely. Use of digital imaging has long been an integral part of any global marketing campaign for most organizations. The word count may be less, though successful brand campaigns require numerous marketing tools that correctly represent the brand.

LSPs like Welocalize are actively involved in developing global brands and driving globalization and localization strategies across many content types, adapting skills and resources to meet the demands of today’s digital-savvy global marketer. Smile!



Louise Law is Global Communications Manager at Welocalize

Further reading: As the Internet of Things becomes more of a reality, imaging and emojis will be used more and more to fit into the small-screen display environment of intelligent devices. Read Welocalize blog: Localization and The Internet of Things.

Click here to see – Emoji for Dummies The Essential Translation Guide