In the mood for messaging

(Richard Shotton)

(Richard Shotton)

Over the last few months numerous brands have tried to harness the power of emojis. Highlights include McDonald’s, which created a series of witty ads written solely in the picture characters, and Domino’s, which allowed hungry shoppers to order by simply tweeting them a pizza emoji.

Brand interest has been piqued by the popularity of emojis amongst consumers, especially millennials. A survey conducted by Bangor University revealed that 29% of adults use emojis in at least half of their texts, instant messaging and social media posts.

The pace of change is stunning. Internal data from Instagram has shown that in mid-2011 only 1% of global comments on the social media site used emojis; by 2015 this figure had grown to 40%, and 48% in the UK. The growth has been fuelled by the introduction of emoji keyboards on iOS and Android, in 2011 and 2013 respectively.

But brands haven’t harnessed emojis to their full extent yet. The real potential of emojis lies in the data they contain. According to Swiftkey’s analysis of more than one billion emojis, 59% are used to indicate a good or bad mood. It won’t be long before brands can harness this data to target consumers according to what mood they’re in.

This will be an exciting development as there’s evidence that advertising is more effective when people are in a good mood. ZenithOptimedia worked with students from the University of Lancaster to quantify the effect. In the experiment participants were shown ads after either being exposed to happy or sad stimuli. Participants exposed to happy stimuli were 9% more likely to say they would use the advertised product in the future than the other respondents.

This tallies with a number of other experiments. Fred Bronner, from the University of Amsterdam, ran a test into the effect of mood on ad recall amongst 1,287 participants. The participants flicked through a newspaper and then answered questions about which ads they remembered. When the data was split by the reader’s mood the results were conclusive: readers in a good mood remembered 28% more ads than those in a bad mood.

Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize winning psychologist, has suggested an evolutionary explanation for this phenomenon. When we are in a good mood it signifies an absence of danger and, therefore, mitigates against the need to think critically. We’re therefore, far more likely to absorb ad messages when we’re happy.

When targeting via emojis is available, advertisers should seize the opportunity. Until then they’ll have to make do with targeting the times, such as evenings along with Friday and Saturdays, when, according to IPA Touchpoints, people tend to be in a better mood.

Richard Shotton, head of insight at ZenithOptimedia