At Global Voices, we translate into and from over 140 languages. But there’s one language missing from that list that most businesses don’t give a second thought etazcxo. Yet despite this, it is the fastest growing ‘language’ in the UK, and it even played a role in the 2016 presidential race. In 2017, the most important language to your business might just be the emoji.
Unlike other languages, those who ‘speak’ emoji do not do so because of geographical location or family background, but because of their age. In a survey by TalkTalk Mobile, 72% of 18 to 25-year-olds said they found it easier to put their feelings across in emoji icons rather than in text, yet 54% of over 40’s admitted to being confused about what the symbols mean. For this reason emoji shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand by either businesses or individuals.
What exactly is the emoji?
Emojis are icons available on mobile phones. First introduced for mobile phones in Japan, the word itself translates from Japanese into ‘picture character’, or pictograph.
The rise of the emoji has been meteoric since it’s beginnings in 1999. It originally contained less than 200 characters, yet today there are thousands, as it has snowballed into it’s own culturally relevant language.
Some of the icons have developed multiple meanings to users. For example, ‘the nail care’ emoji ( 💅 ) can mean that the sender is receiving a manicure, or it can mean they’re “shutting down haters”. It has even been used as an expression of female empowerment and independence.
To some, emoji represents the regression of the human race, while to others they are just a bit of fun. Either way, they have become a genuine means of communication for a significant number of people. There’s even a world emoji day (the 17th July for those that are interested).
If you’re feeling very old right now and/or are worried that you may be emoji-illiterate, you can brush up on your emoji skills by using the emoji dictionary. Although for many the emoji is easily avoidable, some of the world’s biggest businesses are using emoji icons in marketing campaigns. Should yours be doing the same?
Do businesses need to worry about emojis?
This is dependent on what your businesses does, but if we’re being honest it seems unlikely that many of us will be using emojis in the workplace anytime soon. However, many of the world’s biggest businesses are using emojis when marketing to young adults, a key demographic for many brands.
For example, Usain Bolt teamed up with Puma to launch his own emoji ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Kim Kardashian launched her own range of emojis in 2015; the aptly named Kimoji has been particularly successful.
Life Cinemas used emojis to advertise an app which allows users to download movies onto their phones. They translated well-known film titles into emoji icons. For example, Finding Nemo became “🔎🐟”
The fact that emoji characters can be introduced by brands offers a huge marketing opportunity. According to Unicode “anyone can submit a proposal for an emoji character, but the proposal needs to have all the right information for it to have a chance of being accepted.” These factors include compatibility, expected usage level, image distinctiveness and completeness.
It’s not only businesses that are looking to benefit from emojis. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump wanted to introduce a ‘crooked Hilary’ emoji; something that led to a fallout with Twitter when the social media giants refused to launch it.
There are already emoji translators
Hard to believe, but true. Headlines were made when a translation company advertised a position for the world’s first emoji translator.
Although our expert translators can help people from different cultures and countries communicate effectively, perhaps emojis should be used to bridge the communication gap that exists between generations—from the emoji-illiterate baby-boomers to the emoji-dependent millennials.
Of course, many can dismiss a discussion on emoji as frivolous, but the same rules do apply when translating any language. For example, an emoji translation service without localised knowledge might accidentally turn something as innocent as an aubergine into a scandal!