New York, NY – Think that emoji’s have jumped the shark? Well, you aren’t alone… at least as far as their use in branded ads and marketing communications goes. A survey of 200,000 US YouGov Profiles users (YouGov Profiles is a segmentation and planning tool for marketers) found that 58% of all consumers agreed that brands were trying way too hard when they used emojis in their campaigns and promotions. Perhaps it’s saturation—hundreds of brands have hopped on the bandwagon and have created branded emoji keyboards, from Dove, Burger King, Comedy Central, Cuervo, Century 21, 1-800 Flowers, Alabama Crimson Tide to the Pope—or maybe it’s just starting to smell like a desperate attempt for brands to gatecrash a party. In any case, the sentiment was shared across all age groups, even millennials.

Unfortunately for the majority, the emoji phenomenon shows no sign of letting up. The Unicode Consortium keeps approving new ones, and companies like the ad platform, Emogi, keep putting out products that make it even easier for brands to pump their little characters into consumer conversations. Apparently Emogi tends to disagree with the YouGov findings, and according to their research, 75% of US consumers would be interested in having more emoji options than they currently do, and that nearly half would use a branded emoji as an alternative in messaging if given the option. hmmm…

Emogi’s latest product is called Wink. It’s a platform for mobile messaging that will bypass the slow process of gaining Unicode Consortium approval for new emoji and avoids users having to download a separate a separate emoji keyboard, app or sticker pack. Wink looks like the standard emoji keyboard that comes with any smartphone, but is loaded with various branded emojis that will appear as an option, depending on what a user types. Brands can make “ad buys” to have their branded emojis appear when a user types a specific word or phrase. Wow. (Emoji’s CEO, Travis Montaque, describes the process in greater detail in this colorful article in The New Yorker. It’s worth a quick read.)

Why this matters – The New Yorker article very accurately describes this brand invasion of seemingly private mobile messaging as “the last frontier (for the moment)” of branded marketing. This space has been considered pretty trustworthy and ad-free up until now. It’s a personal space. And while entrepreneurs like Travis Montaque are quick to point out the ways in which mobile advertising integrated into our texting habits will be delightful, it doesn’t take too much imagination to see where it could go wrong, or at the very least, gets played out very quickly. This may be one of those trends where a ‘let’s wait and see’ approach would a smart move for a lot of brands, especially health brands.

About the Author:

Jeffrey Giermek