If your brand isn’t speaking emoji it’s missing out on a huge opportunity to get closer to customers and build emotional relationships that resonate.
“Every brand has a name, but it also has a cognitive association that means something,” begins James Lee, Vice President of Digital Strategy for TSC, Sitel Group’s digital experts. “So, for example, when you think of Apple, the cognitive association is innovation. When you think of convenience, you think of Amazon, and so on.”
These associations are a byproduct of people interacting with brands, using and experiencing them and understanding the value they deliver. And it’s also why having a strong CX to support products or services is vitally important.
If a path to purchase is friction free and issues are simple to resolve, customers’ loyalty to that brand and advocacy levels will increase.
“But this takes time. The most powerful brands are also some of the oldest,” says Lee. “Remember, Apple is 44 years old. Even Amazon is 25.”
Brand building used to take decades because the only way for a company to really understand and leverage how people felt about it was to interact with their own brand in the same way as its users and to then support their findings with surveys.
“But thanks to business transformation, that is all changing,” Lee points out. “You can’t see it, because it exists on a different frequency, but right now a digital channel is passing through us and in it is everything I need to understand my customers’ emotional sentiment.”
If your business is able to capture and process structured and unstructured data then that channel can answer any question about your brand.
“That channel is a pipe full of data, and if you can reach out and touch it you know exactly how people feel about a product, service or brand,” continues Lee “and what’s more, the answers are real time. It’s what people are saying about you, now. It’s all flowing through that pipe.”
Yet even if organisations can pull this information into their businesses, they could still be missing one very important thing – emoji.
Just as the internet is changing the way we do business, it’s changing the way people communicate. More and more, we’re using symbols to express how we feel. And it isn’t a fad, nor is it a behaviour confined to younger generations.
“Since 2015 there has been a 50 percent year-over-year increase in emoji use when talking about brands on Twitter alone,” explains Lee. “Branding is coming full circle. People are using a symbol to talk about your symbol – your logo. These user-generated symbols represent the cognitive association. And, if you’re not tracking emoji use, you’re missing valuable data and a valuable opportunity.”
In terms of understanding sentiment alone, emoji represent a universal standardised language. A smiley face is a smiley face, the thumbs up emoji can’t be interpreted as anything other than what it is. And they’re a suite of visual characters available to users on all digital channels.
“Your dataset is bigger and more accurate. Emoji are transcendent of generations. Everyone understands them the same way,” Lee says. “If that becomes a common platform we need to be thinking about it now and how to really make the most of it.”
To highlight the point Lee references Domino’s. You can order a pizza using nothing but the emoji for pepperoni, sausage and cheese.
“It’s a different way of doing things but it’s still ultimately about customer experience,” he says. “It’s about putting information in front of your customers and letting them use it in the way they want to use it in order to say how they feel about a brand.”
For this reason, brands need to figure out how to make emoji part of their core communications strategy. It will accelerate the positive cognitive association but it also opens up new possibilities for organisations to create their own brand/emoji combinations that they push out to the customer base.
“There are so many opportunities to be innovative,” says Lee. “We have to think through the experience and ask ‘what is the best way to craft a brand emoji combo that’s going to be favourable to the brand or to the customer?’ It goes both ways. Using a simple symbol to make the connection quickly – it’s very powerful. Pay attention or miss the boat.”
From social media management, activating online communities and developing and deploying chatbots, to consultancy, brand building and plotting a path to digital transformation, Sitel Group’s TSC helps organisations identify opportunities as well as obstacles of building their brands and increasing engagement for a generation of digital native customers.