This week, Oxford Dictionaries released its annual Word of the Year. Previous British winners include:
2005 – Sudoku (Noun)
A puzzle in which players insert the numbers one to nine into a grid consisting of nine squares subdivided into a further nine smaller squares in such a way that every number appears once in each horizontal line, vertical line, and square.
2007 – Carbon Footprint (Noun)
The amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or community.
2012 – Omnishambles (Noun)
A situation that has been painstakingly mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations.
According to the Oxford Dictionaries’ website, the candidates for the Word of the Year are initially selected from the Oxford Dictionaries Corpus, a research programme which collects around 150 million words of current English in use each month by using automated search criteria, which then identifies new and emerging words on a daily basis and examines the shift that occurs in geography, register, and frequency of use.
The final Word of the Year selection team is made up of lexicographers and consultants to the dictionary team as well as editorial, marketing, and publicity staff – it’s all super serious stuff!
So what was this year’s winning word? Well, it turns out it isn’t actually a word, but a simple symbol known as an emoji. This one to be exact:
For those unaware, emojis are images you can integrate into text, email, twitter, Facebook and chat applications to convey a message or an emotion. It is a shorthand way to communicate. Emojis are different from emoticons such as this smile 🙂 this wink 😉 and this OMG :-O. Emojis use pictures that are governed by the Unicode Consortium – a non-profit group formed in the 1980s to promote standardised coding. New generations of smartphones and tablets now incorporate emoji as standard on their keyboard.
Oxford Dictionaries has chosen an example of this type of pictographic script to represent the sharp increase in popularity of emojis across the world in 2015.
The world is up in arms with Oxford Dictionaries’ decision to champion something which isn’t even a word, with no distinct pronunciation except “crying laughing face”. The news trended on social immediately, with many voicing their opinion on the unpopular decision. But why was this met with such a bad reaction? Ironically, social media platforms are where these types of pictographic script has by far its biggest audience.
According to research from eMarketer there are 2 billion smartphone users worldwide. On those devices some 41.5 billion messages and 6 billion emoticons or stickers are sent around the world every day.
The young adolescent showing off with their first smart phone to the silver surfer just about getting the hang of ever-changing technology uses emoji script to communicate! So, given that 80% of smartphone users say they use emojis regularly, and their use has been cited as the fastest growing ‘language’ in some countries, it is unsurprising that brands worldwide are eager to captalise on this new form of communication.
But what relevance does it really have for brands? In short, it has intriguing possibilities and benefits, particularly in regards to attracting a new band of that most elusive of audiences: millennials. Some forward-thinking companies have already adapted to the emoji rise by taking new and, some might say, risky approaches to their marketing campaigns.
Everyone from McDonalds to IKEA has incorporated the fastest-growing digital language into their online campaigns. Promoting the idea of emoji efficiency, IKEA developed a range of domestic themed emojis, including ones symbolising its different ranges of furniture.
Conservation organisation WWF employed a #EndangeredEmoji Twitter campaign to help save animals from extinction. The charity created 17 emojis for endangered animals and are encouraging people to donate 10p every time they retweet one.
However, emojis aren’t strictly for online use. McDonald’s released these understated billboard adverts made up entirely of emojis to get the message of the restorative powers of its meals for the ‘Good Times’ campaign. Initially trialled in Europe, the success means they’re being rolled out globally.
Since marketing began, companies have always wanted to know exactly what their target market is talking about and how they’re feeling. With the use of social media and emoji – this has never been easier.
Emotions drive engagement. If a person feels an emotion from something, whether it be happy or sad, then they are more likely to remember what they saw and engage with it. With emoji’s painting more than a thousand words with their looks of disappointment, embarrassment, happiness, laughter and sadness, the brands message sentiment can easily be conveyed.
Whatever your company is trying to say, whether it’s a crying face, excited grin, embarrassed smiley or even a monkey covering its eyes – emoji will help you to say it even better!