Of Emoji and End Tables
Who hasn’t been there? You have something really important to say about your end table, but it just takes so many darn words!
Fear not, furniture-focused friends. Recently, the marketing folks at IKEA unveiled an emoji-styled keyboard for iOS and Android (available in the App Store or Google Play). The creators say the app – called Emoticons – will “ensure universal love and understanding in your home.”
That may be true. No more having to remember those not-made-up-but-they-totally-sound-like-it product names; just click the adorable little chair. Plus, it’s a great way to cutely and efficiently ask your husband to stop throwing his underpants on the floor (so, goodbye, passive-aggressive Post-it notes).
It’s all great fun, but it’s also very smart marketing, on a couple of levels.
IKEA has once again tapped into the zeitgeist to become an active part of pop culture. Smartphones? Check. Emoji?Check. Texting? Chk. With this app, they are at the right place at the right time, in the right way.
And of course they are precisely on-brand. The IKEA “wink and a smile” is evident in the app’s design style and content (it’s fun to just say “Swedish meatball emoji”). Their launch video, hosted by a lab-coated professional, is beautifully produced, funny… and shareable. Both the video and the emoji are appealing content with strong pass-along potential (and news value).
Most impressive to me is the fact that this clever, playful idea is based on real insight. It’s compelling because, fundamentally, what they say is true. Communication challenges between the sexes is not a new idea, but it is one that continues to resonate. It answers (albeit in a frothy way) the important question of “how can I quickly say what I need to say, and not get in trouble?”
The IKEA Emoticons program also triggers some larger questions – for shopper marketers.
When does it make sense to extend online content to in-store?
In this age of omnichannel marketing, it’s a smart strategy to create a consistent experience for the shopper whenever possible. When marketers translate online activities into in-store experiences, both are made more effective.
The visually based IKEA Emoticons program is ideal for in-store execution. The emoji can be used for offline-to-online promotions; wayfinding; interactive games, and more. (Let’s keep an eye out to see if and how they do this.)
Can marketers create language?
I believe they can – and should. Language creates community. (Do you speak Apple?) “Taking something fairly complex and breaking it down into simple terms speeds message absorption and enables connection,” said workmate Dona. (After amusing ourselves trading emoji-rich texts, a few of us here did a face-to-face.)
When marketers build a lexicon that shorthands the discovery/learning process for shoppers (helping them to understand and enjoy a product more), they create a like-minded, like-speaking brand community. Workmate Tom described it as “a whole new type of brand ecosystem that can become uniquely ownable.”
Will abbreviations and symbols become more useful to the consumer than words?
Not entirely. But as the world gets bigger and attention spans grow smaller, symbols become more necessary. The challenge for the marketer is to balance clear messaging with brand storytelling. Symbols can work, but they need to exist in an established context. (Much like the IKEA emoji.)