media update

Sorry marketers, young people hate emojis

January 10, 2017

Marketers, it’s a harsh reality but one you have to face. It turns out, young people hate emojis, so says Michelle Jones, head of content at Rogerwilco.

Those smiley faces and heart symbols have been used consistently in the past few years as marketers try to capture the attention and to speak the language of the youth. But they hate it and probably won’t make use of your service or buy your product.

Much attention is being paid by marketers to people aged in their late thirties and below. This group is largely made up of millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000. And they really don’t appreciate being spoken to in a language which just doesn’t seem natural.

Marketers seeming inauthentic

“It’s as if your parents are trying to connect with you and they’re trying to do it by using the same language that your friends would,” says Paul Angone, author of two books on millennials, including All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!

Marketers using emojis “comes off as pandering and inauthentic”. With this generation, one of the biggest mistakes marketers can make is seeming inauthentic, he says.

Millennials are often thought about and discussed, especially by marketers, as some kind of alien race which is a struggle to understand. One look at a subreddit called Fellow Kids, which described itself as “a subreddit for advertising and media that tries too hard to be lit AF”, shows just how out of touch marketers can be with emojis and youth-speak.

Hated emojis most of all

Social media platform Odyssey surveyed their network of millennials to find out how their audience does and doesn’t want brands to communicate with them. They surveyed more than 1 200 respondents across the United States and found that while millennials followed an average of 30 brands across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, there were many words they hated.

And the survey respondents hated emojis most of all. AdWeek commented on the survey, saying, “Only 3 percent of respondents said brands should use them. 92 percent of the online population uses emojis, so they may seem like an obvious way to connect with digitally savvy millennials. However, 27 percent and 21 percent of millennials found hashtags or GIFs, respectively, to be a more acceptable form of communication.

“At the end of the day, respondents say it’s all about an authentic relationship, and word choice is really, really important.”

Moment seems to have passed

Michael Brenner, chief executive of the Marketing Insider Group, wrote a year ago that emojis were an opportunity to communicate with the generation born after 2000, known as Generation Z or Founders.

“Brands are using emojis to communicate with their target audience, to infiltrate their mobile phones, to demonstrate that they are on top of the latest communications trends, and also to convey messages in elegantly simple ways.”

But that moment seems to have passed. These young people hate seeing them now. Attempts at charming this generation with emojis are met with a deafening silence. It’s best to find another, more sincere way to connect with your audience.

The takeaway here is not to set out with the intention of marketing to baby boomers, millennials, or founders. Market to people. Be authentic in trying to get to know your audience and understand what they want. Don’t rush to follow trends, like marketing with emojis, just because that’s what others are doing. You may lose potential customers in the process.

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*This article first appeared on media update.

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