How Emojis Improve a Rewards Program

November 6, 2018 Kirsten Burkard

If I asked you to identify this Disney movie, could you do it?

🦁 👑

How about this one?

👸 💖 🐸

If you guessed The Lion King and The Princess and the Frog, you’re right! Whether you’ve seen these movies or not, your ability to name them based on nothing more than a few simple images demonstrates a lot about the emoji culture we all currently find ourselves in.

Emoji: a picture word or pictograph. 😁

Since emojis were first introduced in the early 1990s, they’ve quickly gained popularity with people all over the world. 92% of people use emojis on a regular basis, with 30% using them several times a day! They’re so popular, in fact, that language educator Duolingo even offers a course on it.

With more and more people recognizing emojis as a respectable language, it’s not surprising that they’ve made an appearance in traditional marketing. Between 2015 and 2016, the use of emojis in marketing grew by a whopping 775% as more brands started experimenting with these familiar, playful symbols.

So what does this mean for your brand community? More importantly, how can you use them to improve your rewards strategy?

To understand that, we need to start at the beginning.


Why people like emojis

Understanding why people like emojis will give you a better idea of how they can help improve your brand community. While there are many reasons people love emojis, there are 3 reasons that stand out from the rest.

They're easy to understand

Nobody likes being confused, and in the world of digital communications there’s a lot of room for that. I’m sure you can think of at least one instance where you misinterpreted a message from a friend or a coworker because you couldn’t read their tone. Not only are these situations confusing, but they can also be embarrassing and stressful.

53% of customers think emojis are easier to understand than text.

With emojis it’s way easier to understand the tone or intent behind a message, and a lot of that has to do with how the brain processes images. According to studies done by MIT, our brains can process images in as few as 13 milliseconds. Not only that, but 53% of younger users have said that using emojis and text makes it easier for them to understand each other.

This data all indicates that the human brain is hardwired to understand visual information more efficiently than text, making emojis an obvious choice for improving communication.

They tell stories

One of the biggest appeals of emojis is that they allow you to be creative. I can’t tell you how many baby shower games I’ve planned that require guests to guess baby book titles using only emojis as clues, but I can tell you that everyone enjoyed the activity!

That’s because everyone loves to hear and tell stories. By introducing images to traditional conversational tools like SMS messages and live chat, customers now have the opportunity to experience familiar brands or experiences with new interactive elements. 


My favorite example of this is the World Wildlife Fund’s “endangered emoji” campaign. Through a combination of video and social marketing, WWF encouraged customers to donate to their cause using a host of familiar animal emojis. By repositioning these familiar emojis inside a social activism campaign, they were able to tell a new, interactive story they couldn’t have done otherwise.

They're fun!

This is definitely the most important reason to use emojis in your brand community. One of the reasons customers use emojis in day-to-day conversations is because they’re playful. Having fun is one of the main motivators for doing anything, so why wouldn’t you want to tap into that?

Emojis allow you to have fun with your community members. 🙌🏻 🎉

Just like with telling stories, having fun with your brand community is a fantastic way to deliver an incredible brand experience. Whether you choose to do it through one-to-one communication or one-to-many, emojis give you the opportunity to turn every customer interaction into a fun and approachable experience.


Emojis help strengthen brand communities

Now that you know why people like emojis we can take a closer look at how they actually help you strengthen your brand community. Even though there are some people who might think they’re unprofessional, I can assure you that they’re quite the opposite and can actually have a very positive impact on your brand experience.

Members expect pictures & faces

In a culture jam-packed with visual content, your customers expect visual content from your brand. From your website to your social media and email communications, they want pictures and they expect lots of them!

This is why we said you need pictures in your rewards program. With so many images at your customers’ fingertips every day, emojis become an extension of the visual culture your customers are already accustomed to. When your brand community emulates these types of behaviors, it immediately becomes a more desirable and trustworthy community to join.

Source: Emojipedia

You can make this appeal even stronger by using smiley faces. Customers like to see themselves reflected in your brand community, and faces (even cartoon ones) help with that. This is supported by research that shows emojis can have the same effect as looking at a smiling face in real life, as well as in the breakdown of most used emojis on World Emoji Day. According to Emojipedia 60% of the top used emojis were faces, indicating your customers will respond positively to including these in your community experience.

Emojis easily communicate emotions

While it’s important to consider what your customers expect from your brand community, it’s even more important to exceed those expectations.

Emojis help you do that by making it easier to build strong emotional relationships with each customer who joins and engages with your community. As visual content, emojis show your customers what they’ll feel when they join your brand community, saving them from having to think about what to feel.

72% of Millennials find it easier to express emotions with emojis. ❤️

This is particularly important for Millennial customers. 72% have said they find it easier to express emotions with emojis, making them the perfect tool to make your brand community relatable, fun, familiar, and exciting.

By tapping into emotional connections this way, your community immediately looks and feels more more like a friend by speaking their language. This makes it more appealing and intriguing — attributes that will increase your members’ desire to join, stay involved, and share it with others.

Emojis make content shareable


As a visual language, emojis are one of the few truly international languages. No matter where you are in the world it’s relatively easy to understand, making it one of the fastest evolving languages in history.

This trajectory, combined with the ever-increasing use of social media, makes emojis the perfect vehicle for sharing and expanding your brand community — especially on platforms like Instagram. Now that Instagram supports emojis in hashtags, your community is more searchable than ever! Since this feature was released, individual emojis were hashtagged more than 6.4 million times in one month, giving your community ample opportunity to join the conversation.

Oh My Disney using emojis in Instagram posts

When you combine the power of these social tools with the fact that nearly 50% of all Instagram captions/comments contain emojis, it’s not hard to understand how emojis can help spread the word about your brand.

Take Oh My Disney’s Instagram account, for example. By inserting a couple emojis into their post’s description and inviting their audience to comment accordingly, Oh My Disney was able to generate a lot of engagement from viewers who might otherwise have scrolled past. You can also see that many commenters tagged their friends as well, creating a closed loop of members joining, engaging with, and sharing the conversation with their own networks.


Mommy Makeup: emojis in action

So what does it look like to actually use emojis in your rewards program?

There are a number of places you can use them, including your email communications and a dedicated program explainer page, but the most impactful place is your program Panel. Not only is it the most visible piece of your rewards program, but it’s also where your customers will interact with your program most. These considerations make it the perfect place to put emojis to work.

However, it’s not enough to simply throw them in and expect them to work. In order to be truly successful with emojis, you need to know how your customers are using and interacting with them. After all, if your customers don’t even know what they are they’re not going to care about seeing them as part of your program!

Mommy Makeup using emojis in their rewards program

Mommy Makeup is a solid example of a brand that did their homework. Targeting busy moms on the go who still want to look and feel fabulous, their customer base is made up of moms who are most likely browsing on their phone through channels like Instagram and Facebook. As a result, their customers are familiar with emoji culture and most likely use them themselves.

These factors gave the Mommy Makeup team a 👍🏻 to tactfully incorporate them into their rewards experience. From their referral card to their social posts and verified buyer badge, they’ve used emojis to show customers that they understand how they think, communicate, and talk to each other. This attention to detail helps new and returning customers feel like the brand actually understand them, and relieves any doubts they might have that the brand can meet their needs.

While it might seem like a small detail, it can go a long way to separating your brand from your competitors.


Inspire real emotions with emojis

Whether you’re new to the world of emojis or not, there’s no denying the power they have to transform your community experience. From building emotional connections to telling engaging stories, they are the perfect way to unlock ongoing engagement and sustainable sharing with your engaged community members.

If our examples taught us anything it’s that the key to a successful emoji strategy is being authentic. Emojis should only be used to enhance your customer experience, which means they need to feel like a natural extension of your brand’s language and overall experience. Otherwise, you might just come across as an out-of-touch parent who’s trying too hard.

Remember: communication is not just about what you say but also how you say it. In today’s  visual climate, that means your customers want to see what you have to say — make them smile with emojis.

Use emojis to supercharge your brand community!
All you need is our expert strategy guide and a 👍 to start building your own sustainable community.

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