The very first emoticon is said to have appeared in 1862, in the transcript of a speech by Abraham Lincoln.
But its digital birth is typically dated to September 19, 1982. That’s when computer scientist Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon was writing on an electronic university bulletin board and wanted to make a joke about a lift on campus. And just in case anyone mistook his joke for a safety warning, he ended his post with a 🙂 and suggested that his colleagues do the same — and of course also using 🙁 as a sign of seriousness.
The emoticon has become as much a part of modern communication as the colon, hyphen, and parenthesis— and it’s playing a crucial role in everything related to the web: from social engagement to content and email marketing.
The neuroscience of emoticons
In the last few years, the field of cognitive science has become interested in emoticons, and various studies have already been conducted. In 2006, researchers at Tokyo Denki University in Japan examined brain activity of participants who were shown a photo of a face vs. an emoticon.
In both cases, the brain was activated on the right side of the inferior frontal gyrus (the area devoted to emotional processing). However, only after the photo was shown was there an increase in activity around the right fusiform (the region that processes faces).
In other words, emoticons can still convey an emotion despite no cognition of seeing an actual face.
More recently, Owen Churches, an Australian psychologist of Flinders University, repeated the test with a different scientific approach. Using EEG (electroencephalogram), scientists found strong activity in both the emotional AND facial processing areas. According to Churches, this change is caused by the spread of emoticons in recent years along with the adaptability of our brains. As he points out, our world has changed significantly in the last decade and in result so have our brains.
Whenever we send a smiley to a friend, we activate their occipital-temporal cortex in the same way a smile would.
Are you starting to see how powerful using emoticons in your online business can be? 🙂
Our eyes are naturally drawn to anything that looks like a face, and processes it at a much higher speed. This ability to read facial expressions and non-verbal language has evolved into our modern day reading of emoticons.
For some, emoticons and emojis may seem childish, but in the age of quick-clicks and instant messages, the neuroscience study shows they have a valuable purpose: allowing us to communicate in a way that is a step beyond purely textual.
They humanise our online experience and offer a stronger emotional reaction.
The Role of Emoticons in Branding Strategies
These days, emoticons are everywhere — in movies, marketing campaigns, and even banking passwords.
A survey conducted by Emogi has found that 75% of men and 84% of women surveyed believed emojis to be the best way to express their emotions in digital communication.
Another study by Adobe found that four out of five people between the ages of 18 and 65 use emojis regularly.
The emoji’s ability to humanize communication is one of the main reasons why brands have started integrating them into their branding strategies.
A few examples…
The White House
In 2014, the Council of Economic Advisors in the White House released a report on debt and health care. But how many people would actually sit and read a 40 page report? The report was then accompanied by an infographic which contained emojis.
Investment bankers are not usually known for their humour. But not in Goldman Sachs’ case — they dedicated a tweet to Millennials using emojis.
Last June, Chevrolet launched a press release entirely in emojis, challenging the audience to decipher its meaning.
This US pizza chain now allows customers to place an order by simply tweeting a pizza emoji.
Using emojis to grow your online business
In an analysis of the IPA dataBANK (which contains 1,400 case studies of successful advertising campaigns), campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well (31% vs. 16%) as those with only rational content (and did a little better than those that mixed emotional and rational content).
That’s why Google’s Abigail Posner says we can’t underestimate the importance of understanding the science of emotion in marketing:
“Understand the emotional appeal and key drivers behind the discovery, viewing, sharing and creation of online video, photography and visual content….In the language of the visual web, when we share a video or an image, we’re not just sharing the object, but we’re sharing in the emotional response it creates.”
What are the best channels to use emojis?
1. Social Media Marketing
Do I really need to explain the power of emojis on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter ? Just think — you can even order cocktails on Instagram just through a sequence of emojis!
Go ahead and try it just to see your page engagement at least double. 😉
2. Video Marketing
Watch this video to get an idea on how creative you can go with emojis:
3. Content Marketing
Use emojis in the middle of blog posts to deliver a specific emotional punch and to emphasize the image you want your readers to see. Same goes for the end of the article when you want to increase the impact of your final call to action guiding the users right into the next step.
4. Email Marketing
Here comes a simple trick…
The Most Surprising A/B “Emoji” Split Test to Boost Your Email Conversion
If you work in online marketing, I don’t need to tell you that one of your biggest assets is your email list.
And you also know how fundamental it is to write brilliant emails with outstanding subject lines.
Here’s the thing… what’s the point of having thousands of people in your email list if only a few of them actually open your emails?
So, how can you really stand out in your clients’ full packed inboxes?
The answer is through testing.
You will understand what triggers your subscribers to open your emails.
I want to share a simple yet powerful A/B split test I’ve run recently that got me incredible results…
What is an email A/B split test?
A/B testing is a simple way to test your current design (A) against a specific changes you made (B) and determine which one produces the most positive results.
Basically, split testing emails allows you to find what works best for your tribe.
And the most important thing to start testing is your email subject line.
Why should you split test your email subject line?
1. To increase conversions
When you have a subject line that performs well, more subscribers will open that message. More subscribers opening means more subscribers reading. And more subscribers reading means more subscribers are likely to respond to your call to action.
There are 3 main datas you need for to compare:
- Open Rate % (OR): Percentage of people who open your email.
- Click Through Rate % (CTR): Percentage of people who click on the links in your email
- Opt Out %: Percentage of people who unsubscribe to your email list
2. To learn about your audience
You want to get to know your subscribers so you can send information they love.
There are a number of ways to get to know your subscribers, and testing which subject lines they react to best gives you this insight.
The more you test, the more you’ll get useful insights on your list and your industry.
3. To adjust to ever-changing preferences
Just because something worked before, doesn’t mean it will continue to work.
As your subscribers’ needs and wants change, you’ll want to continue testing to make sure you’re aware of what they want.
How Using the Right “Emoji” Can Boost Your Email Conversion
When running our A/B test, we had a clear purpose in mind: to compare email Open Rates based on our main email list of 100k+ subscribers.
The results we got through this simple test were a huge surprise.
Have a look at these two emails:
- Same short subject line
- Same soft short copy
- Same call to action.
They look exactly the same, right?
Both emails got two of the highest OR & CTR in less than 48hours.
However, ONE of them got just a bit higher OR, higher CTR, and significantly less opts out.
The one with the little star at the beginning of the subject line.
In this case, email A got exactly:
- 7.1 % higher OR than email B (16% vs 15%)
- 14.2 % higher CTR than email B ( 8% vs 7%)
- 50% less opt outs than email B (0.03% vs 0.06%)
I have continued using this simple trick and keep getting the same results: higher OR, higher CTR, less opt-outs.
How can you do it?
This simple yet powerful hack is really easy and quick to implement.
- Download the emoji sheet
- Copy the one you like and that is consistent with your email
- Paste it in your email subject line
- And… you’re ready to test 😉
How the right emoji can boost OR & CTR while dropping OPT-OUTS
1. Emojis make your email stand out among tons of emails.
2. Images have a more direct impact and they relate to emotions
Combining visual elements with text will capture the imagination and attention of your target audience.
As we’ve seen, images affect emotions and even more important they influence how a particular viewer will take action – such as influencing their purchasing decisions.
3. Images remind of a friendly conversation among friends.
Think about how you text your friends on Whatsapp, Snapchat, or Facebook.
I bet you use emoticons any time you need to deliver a specific message. So when you add an emoji in your subject line, you’re shifting the conversation into trustworthy grounds and making yourself look more friendly and competent. (Yes, seriously — Take a look at this study!)
Some extra tips & things to watch out for
Make sure to choose the right emoji for your email, here you can find some useful advices.
A quick cheat sheet below:
😔 Sadness help people to connect and empathize
😳 Fear/surprise make people desperate for something to cling to
😝 Anger or disgust make people stubborn
😄 Happines make people want to share
Use this technique tastefully, relevantly and sparingly, and don’t over do it.
Always test your email before blasting it to see how the emoji looks like (Android is different from iOS, Gmail is different from Yahoo, and so on) and make sure your spam score is 0.
Now, what are you waiting for 😜?
Not convinced? Here are 5 main reasons why you want to start testing emojis in your online business right now:
- They make you more popular with social media. An analysis of more than 31 million Facebook messages and half a million tweets found that positive emoticons increase your social status.
- They also go well in business contexts. A study by the University of Missouri-St. Louis has shown that using a smily will improve the perception of the sender and that the credibility is not affected. Be careful not to overdo it though!
- Soften criticism. Researchers of some Chinese universities have shown that the use of emoticons increases the perceived good intentions of those who provide feedback.
- They make you appear more friendly and knowledgeable. Another study had people chatting with health experts and film experts. The participants considered the most friendly and competent experts when used emoticons. In addition, there was a considerable side benefit: it seems that inserting an emoticon can help you better remember what you read.
- They can make you happy. 😄 A 2008 study showed that using positive emoticons increases happiness in real life. Today’s PC users have experienced a positive effect on the enjoyment and personal interaction when the information was presented with the smilies.