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World Emoji Day: The Power of Visual Communication

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World Emoji Day 2020 falls on Friday 17th July; in fact, it falls every 17th July, a date which was chosen as it’s the example date shown on the image for the Apple calendar app.

Emoji is a Japanese word and the symbols it describes are an elevated, more sophisticated version of the original emoticon, first emerging in the 1990s.

Today, as a result of the impact of social media on the way we communicate, the prominence of emojis has grown significantly and they are fast becoming a global language of their own; The Emoji Movie starring James Corden and Sir Patrick Stewart was a hit in 2017, while the Oxford Dictionaries even chose the ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji as their Word of the Year in 2015.

Finding Meaning in Symbols

Emojis are often likened to a modern version of Egyptian hieroglyphics. However, the key difference is that hieroglyphics were a language in themselves, whereas emojis are used to supplement the meaning of language that is already there; whether that’s English, French, Chinese or Japanese.

Emojis can help to convey the meaning of typed text, which is how we so often communicate today, but where it can be difficult to accurately deliver the intended tone; emojis provide a universally understood means of allowing individuals and businesses to do this.

Humans have long used symbols to communicate from cave paintings to hieroglyphics, but the symbols themselves are changing constantly; emojis for bubble tea and the transgender flag were included in a 2020 release of new emojis.

The rise of emojis has also changed the meaning of some words and symbols forever; take the humble aubergine, for instance. Once merely a vegetable, it has taken on a more phallic meaning in its life as an emoji, demonstrating how using symbols in a particular context has the power to transform the way they are interpreted in the future.

Emojis: Bringing the World Together

Emojis have the power to cross boundaries and language barriers thanks to their visual, universal nature. Regardless of the language you speak, wherever you are in the world, you can understand that a red heart symbol conveys ‘love’, while a laughing face with tears streaming down its face is joyous in every language.

However, in some cases, symbols can have different meanings in different cultures – something businesses need to be mindful of when using emojis in their global marketing materials. For example, the emoji that signifies applause in Western cultures is often used to convey making love in China.

Meanwhile, some symbols can have multiple meanings of their own depending on the context they are used in; the emoji depicting two hands joined together can be used to mean ‘preach’ in a colloquial sense, it can symbolise prayer and it can also be interpreted as showing the namaste greeting.

It’s inevitable that the meaning of some emojis will continue to evolve over time. On some platforms, the nauseated face emoji is shown wearing a medical facemask – a symbol that may be interpreted to symbolise more than nausea in the post-COVID-19 world.

How to Make Emojis Work for Your Business

Using emojis in your business’ social media posts, blogs, email campaigns and custom graphics can help you to create more eye-catching communications that may lead to a boost in engagement with your brand. Emojis can give your brand a greater sense of personality, making it seem more emotive and human in the right context.

Of course, depending on the sector, market and context concerned, emojis won’t always be appropriate, but they can be an effective marketing tool of their own in the right setting. For instance, some online or corporate events are accompanied by a custom branded emoji that can be triggered by a specific Twitter hashtag, allowing you to create the sense of an online community for your brand.

It’s important to take care to not misuse emojis to avoid any embarrassment for your business and bear in mind that the meaning of some symbols can vary across different cultures. Therefore, if you’re planning to have emoji-based marketing materials translated, make sure you’re factoring this into the process and doing your research before using an emoji in a new market without prior knowledge of its meaning.

At Language Connect, our network of experienced translation and transcreation specialists can help you to navigate challenges like these when it comes to globalising your marketing materials. Contact us today to find out more.

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