Emojis, sentiment analysis and the future of AI

  • Emojis are the latest hot ticket item in marketing campaigns, used primarily to target Gen Z and the Millennial audience. Witness, for instance, the recent Durex campaign featuring aubergine flavoured condoms.

    The Unicode Consortium (a non-profit organisation that regulates emojis) rejected a bid from Durex to create an official condom emoji. Durex responded with its provocative aubergine condom campaign.

    This use of emojis in digital marketing campaigns is reminiscent of the way hashtags, Facebook icons and QR codes were once splashed across ad campaigns and marketing collateral.

    With 6 billion emojis sent around the world every day through mobile messaging apps, what is it about these colourful icons that make them so appealing for a whole generation? Emojis have become a visual language and a tool for communication, breaking down communication barriers the world over.  Hypothetically speaking, we could successfully communicate with someone who speaks an entirely different language by using emojis. Of course, unlike traditional languages, emojis are wide open to individual interpretation, and one emoji can mean something very different to two different recipients – this ambiguity can lead to irreconcilable differences between interpretations.

    In fact, it might be this ambiguity that makes it so natural for Millennials and Gen Z to use emojis. Emojis are a new way for this generation to express themselves across platforms that historically weren’t conducive to the users’ individualistic nature.

    Emojis give us more variety in the way we communicate online…and, some would argue, a more effective way to do so.

    Emojis versus stickers

    The difference between emojis and stickers is that each emoji is assigned a standardised code point by the Unicode Consortium, allowing computers to render them correctly and reliably – unlike stickers, which aren’t standardised by Unicode and appear as giant size images that insert inline in a message.

    The popularity and use of emojis has led to a surge in the use of stickers, such as Bitmoji, which are highly customised stickers allowing users to express themselves through facial expression. However, as there is no universal standard for these, whether the sticker can be rendered or not largely depends on the OS.

    There is a lot more freedom for individuals and brands to express themselves and convey emotions with stickers than with emojis. The Unicode Consortium only approves approximately 60 new emojis per year, for example. This seems limited and misaligned with the rate at which communication is evolving, not least, our desire for self-expression. This is where stickers are winning.

    The future of language

    Every time we use an emoji or sticker to communicate we think we’re just customising a message and making it more personal. However what we’re really doing is aiding artificial intelligence (AI) on a massive scale by helping machines to track, learn and ultimately understand human sentiment and emotion.

    Being able to understand human sentiment through machine learning is a huge step forward, and software companies such as Facebook have already boosted their balance sheets by using data for sentiment analysis, including data derived from the use of emojis.

    This has led to other software giants getting some skin in the game, with Snapchat recently purchasing Bitmoji for $100 Million.

    Marketers are currently using emojis in their campaigns in order to target a younger audience, build social communities and shift more products. However, in the future it’s likely we’ll be using emoji data in the same way that we use analytics platforms today – to be smarter about building brands, being more empathic and better equipped to understand how users really feel.

    After all, it’s in the word itself… what are emoji for if not to enhance language by adding a little emotion?

    About the author
    : Carol McHugh is Business and Marketing Analyst at Big Motive. With a passion for data, she thrives on new technology and innovation and is currently obsessed with growth hacker marketing.

    Big Motive is a creative technology studio that collaborates with visionary brands and creative partners to design digital products and experiences that move people and accelerate change. Past and current clients include the BBC, Channel Four, Pulse Fitness, Nokia, Net-a-Porter, National Trust and Rocket Entertainment.

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