Match’s CSO, Ian Czencz, gives us the breakdown on the rise of emojis.
Before we get into the charming little emojis of the smiling poo with eyes, the dancing lady, sad face or bizarrely ambiguous eggplant…I’d like to take you on a little journey back in time.
Indeed, way, way back in time to 196BC. This was the year an extremely important stone was carved. This was the Rosetta Stone, discovered in 1799 by French soldiers rebuilding a fort in Egypt. The Rosetta Stone is a stone with writing on it in two languages; Egyptian and Greek, using three scripts, hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek. It is one of the most important objects in the British Museum as it holds the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphs—a script made up of small pictures (sound familiar?) that was used originally in ancient Egypt for religious texts.
Yes, yes…I know what you’re all thinking – “Ian, why are you talking about this? Surely you want to write about Adobe Stacks and Google’s latest change in algorithms”.
Well, no quite frankly. No I don’t.
You see, what I find interesting is that whilst the Egyptians moved on from scripts made up of small pictures in the 4th Century, the human race has deemed fit a re-introduction of pictorial communication in the 20th Century. 1998 to be precise.
After centuries of works from linguistic gymnasts such as Shakespeare, Frost and Oscar Wilde, whose powerful command of the written word could make people weep, act in passion and even rally to arms, we have reverted back to a form of language based in twee little pictures.
Simply stated, they are fun. They are also direct, short and to the point. They can be used to distinguish tone, sentiment and emotion. Hence the name “emoji” a contraction of the Japanese words ‘e’ and ‘moji’ which roughly translate to pictograph (Not to be confused with emoticon which is a simpler typographical display of facial representation to convey emotion).
Whilst it is claimed that emojis are currently the fastest growing ‘language’ I doubt they will ever be anything more than ‘fun’. I cannot see a time when we are re-writing law or passing legislation that ends in four signatories signing off with personalised happy faces, whilst the one dissenting signatory stamps their disapproval with the gust of wind emoji emanating from a 🐴💨 (horse’s rear end).
Please don’t misunderstand my point, I would love to see that. I just don’t think we will.
There have been attempts to cross over serious literature with emojis. Take for example Penguin launching their “OMG Shakespeare” series which re-imagines some of his famous works such as ‘YOLO Juliet’ or ‘Macbeth #Killingit!’.
My personal favourite, in concept, would have to be “Emoji Dick”, a crowd sourced and crowd funded translation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick into emoji. Unfortunately, the realisation of the concept didn’t quite translate into critical success:
“That’s astoundingly useless” – Alex M, BoingBoing.net
“Highlights the innovative ways which the labour pool of bored internet users is being tapped” – Telegraph UK
What cannot be doubted however is emojis prevalence in everyday communication, largely facilitated through short form digital communication such as text and email. All too often these forms of communication strip all nuanced expression leaving the reader unclear on a specific tone.
For example “Hey Duncan, let’s grab a coffee. I’d love to talk about Adobe”
Now if I’d have ended that little pearler with a ‘thumbs up’ 👍🏼 emoji, I imagine Duncan’s chest would have swelled up with pride. However, replace the thumbs up with the ‘eggplant’ 🍆 emoji and the only thing swelling up would be my left eye after he punched me for being a smart arse…(or perhaps misconstruing the note as an unwanted advance. Yoo Hooooo Duncan…)
You see, context is everything, and emojis place in this digital world can probably best be described as “context enhancers”.
There is no denying their popularity and where popularity rises, brands and marketers will not be far behind. Brands such as IKEA, Pepsi (Say it With Pepsi), Facebook, McDonalds and Kim Kardashian (yes, like it or not she’s a brand) have all looked to jump on the emoji-wagon with varying success.
I can’t be sure if it makes me 😄 or 😓 though Kim Kardashian’s ‘Kimoji’s’ quickly shot to the top of the paid apps on iTunes. Despite its popularity, I’m still prepared to give it a one ‘Kimoji’ review (I have cheated a little by putting a full stop at the end…old habits):
Though that is simply my review. There are many, many people who would beg to differ. Indeed they voted with their wallets by purchasing the app.
With the exception of Facebook, whose primary function is to facilitate communication, I’ll readily admit that Kim Kardashian’s use of emoji’s is probably more successful than any of the other brands use. It has currency, self-awareness, utility and relevance in pop culture versus say…a can of soft drink with a smiley face on it.
👍🏼, You’ve 🔨🔩 it!
♥ ‘em or 👎🏼 ‘em emojis are not going away any time soon with 72 new emojis coming by month’s end.
Coming full circle I’ll leave you with the following scenario to ponder and question:
We are in the distant future…
Carbon emissions have choked the human race into extinction…
An alien expedition lands on Earth sifting through the debris and rubble…
They find the Rosetta Stone and an Apple Tablet laying beside it…
Would they interpret early 21st Century language and communication as progression or regression…though more importantly would Kim Kardashian possibly be confused as our Supreme Leader?