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Does market research need to learn to speak the 'Language of Emojis?'

Does market research need to learn to speak the 'Language of Emojis?'

Emoji marketing is a hot trend for 2016, growing rapidly month on month. If a product can convey meaning through the use of emojis, can we apply the same theory to market research? Can the emoji language unlock our ability to decipher the emotional performance of brands and destinations and allow us to engage with customers more effectively? Let’s find out...

So far this year, emoji usage in messages has increased by over 20% month over month and are now used in 777% more marketing campaigns than in 2015 [1].

This is likely related to the findings that emotional content can increase the effectiveness of marketing by as much as 70% [2].

Emoji usage in messages have increased by almost 8x from just one year ago

Do we therefore do enough in market research to capture emotional response? Can the emoji language unlock our ability to decipher the emotional performance of brands?

Linguistic experts say that emoji is the fastest growing language in history in the UK. This is not a surprise when you consider that our brains process visual data 60,000x faster than text, so the human brain is simply wired for understanding images. One study has shown that when people see emojis, the human brain reacts in a similar way to when we see real human faces.

...and emojis are not simply limited to one section of the market. Studies show that emojis are now being used by 92% of the online population, with 84% of women and 75% of men stating that using emojis is a better way to express emotions than written words. In fact, the majority of emoji users state that they help them to be understood.

So, as emoji marketing looks as though it is here to stay (and keep growing), we in the research world need to keep up. If a product can convey meaning through the use of emojis, can we apply the same method to questionnaire design? Can we collect deeper emotional information into brands and destinations using an emoji question instead of traditional methods?

Currently, the majority of research places a number of limitations on the data we can extract when asking respondents emotional questions:

  • We limit a respondent’s emotional response to a “2D” plane of thought, for example on a scale from happy to sad, whereas emotions are multi-dimensional.
  • We encourage the respondent to think about their response, rationalising their thought process and therefore obscuring the emotional response.
  • In our search for better data, have we also made current surveys fairly mundane methods of discovering data?

What I propose is to ask a question using a very familiar set up 23 emojis which will allow respondents to answer on a spectrum of different emotions. Figure 1 demonstrates how this question would look in a survey, whilst figure 2 demonstrates an estimation of how the “spectrum of emoji emotion” could look. It features emoji that are used for anger, frustration, boredom, love, happiness, sadness to name just a few.

How questions would look in a survey and how the spectrum of emoji emotion could look

Does this offer a better solution than other methods of capturing this level of detail that are currently available? The previous research seems to suggest that the use of emoji has the potential to allow respondents to demonstrate their emotion in a detailed, clear and familiar way.

This brings me nicely to the primary research I will be running. In a short survey I will aim to discover how the results of a standard scale question compare to the same question asked with emoji. We will also discover how much fluctuation there is in the use of emojis; are people interpreting emojis in a similar way, expressing similar emotions when they use one?

Can we really unlock the intricacies of human emotion using simply emojis? Has the research world been overlooking this language as a vital research tool for too long? Well…. stay tuned for part 2.

(1) https://blog.appboy.com/emojis-used-in-777-more-campaigns/
(2) http://info.persado.com/hubfs/PER_Report.pdf?utm_source=BusinessWire&utm_medium=Press%20Release&utm_campaign=Press%20Release%20Link
(3) http://emogi.com/documents/Emoji_Report_2015.pdf
Emoji provided free by - http://emojione.com