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May 8, 2021 | Trends

The arrival of Apple’s iOS 4 mobile operating system in 2010 added emoticons popular in Japan to the iPhone, although they could only be enabled via an optional third-party app.  The introduction of iOS 5 in 2011, made these unique picture characters, called “emoji” (絵文字), a contraction of the Japanese words for “picture character,” more accessible via an emoji keyboard.

In January 2010, we advocated the adoption of a standardized emoticon language, dubbed EmotiScript, loosely based on the concept of PostScript. You are hereby forgiven if you considered it pure balderdash.

  • Apple emoji – We could not have predicted that the use of emoticons would explode after the launch of Apple’s iOS 5, the first iPhone operating system to officially integrate a Japan-only feature — the emoji keyboard. That a Japanese term could come to dominate popular conversation in such a short period of time is a stark example of the far-reaching impact of the iPhone on consumer culture.
  • Lingua franca – Ironically, our industry challenge to develop a standardized emoticon lingua franca was taken up by the Unicode Consortium, which recently released its latest standard, Emoji 13.1. And that’s not the only progress we have witnessed in the past decade.
  • Market dimensions – Emojis have infiltrated every part of our vocabulary. According to an Instagram study, the use of emojis in comments jumped from 20% in July 2013 to nearly half of all comments in March 2015, more than doubling in the span of just two years. And perusing any social media stream these days will show a steady use of emojis in posts, with some messages exclusively containing a long string of these picture characters.
  • Communication use – Emojis add a dash of humor, sadness, or divertissement to trillions of black-and-white words each day. They are three-dimensional conversation aids in a two-dimensional text world. Think of emojis as the Hamburger Helper of conversation.
  • Most popular – Instagram engineer Thomas Dimson parsed through billions of comments to discover that LOL, or depending on your emoji sophistication, LMAO, is the most popular emoji used on Instagram, and likely everywhere else. 😂
  • Emojis in marketing – The use of emojis is so popular that marketers are incorporating them into their corporate messaging. Not surprisingly, Taco Bell rallied its fans to lobby for a taco emoji. In July 2015, the taco emoji became official. Email effectiveness can be improved through the use of emojis in subject lines. One 2018 study found that email open rates, the percentage of recipients who open an email, nearly doubled from 2.4% to 4.5% when emojis were involved.
  • Word of the year – Just five years after Apple released its emoji keyboard, Oxford University Press, which publishes both the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries Online, chose the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji, as its 2015 Word of the Year.

In yet another demonstration of the contribution emojis are making to our social dialog, after experiencing a backlash for proposing a redesign of the peach emoji, popular among savvy emoji users as the symbol for a person’s posterior, Apple quickly recanted and reverted back to the original design.

Now isn’t that just peachy? 🍑😜

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