Emoji Meanings and How to Use Them for Marketing in 2022

Emoji Meanings and How to Use Them for Marketing in 2022

Emoji (hint: emoji is already plural): to use or not to use them in digital marketing? I say: definitely use them. They can help draw attention to your social media marketing campaign and your email subject line. 

BUT: do it in moderation and only when it fits both the theme and your audience. Here’s what to watch out for using emoji and what some of them mean

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Why use emoji for marketing?

Yes, emoji are fun. But besides being just “something people use”, they can actually play a pretty important role you might have never thought about:

  • They help attract people’s attention. Think a crowded email inbox with a long list of subject lines. Your eye will naturally be caught by something that stands out – most likely an emoji. Just take a look at this inbox:
Emoji Meanings - inbox example
  • They help accentuate a friendly, informal, and sometimes humorous brand voice, reducing the distance between a brand and its customers.
  • They’re a pretty natural element of online communication these days, especially on social media. So, it’s not really a question of whether or not to use them, but how to use them to do it right.

What to watch out for when using marketing emoji

A good rule is to use them in moderation and in a way that fits your brand voice and the way your customers communicate. If your brand (and your target audience) is very formal, emoji-ridden Facebook posts might feel out of place, silly, or childish.

Same can happen if you use too many emoji or use ones that don’t fit the theme and the situation. Think lots of hearts when you’re talking about business. Or emoji that a teenager would use when you’re talking to grownup adults. You get the picture. 🤪

So, how do you find the right ones to use?

First of all, you can go to resources like Emojipedia to check emoji meanings and search for the ones that are related to what you’re writing about. It even has a handy box with popular emoji for upcoming events – perfect for your Halloween emails and Thanksgiving social media posts:

Emoji Meanings - popular emojis

Also, don’t forget about these simple rules:

  • Include emoji depicting objects related to words to add some fun to your posts, grab attention, and drive engagement. Make sure they don’t interfere with clarity and readability, though – usually it’s best to add them at the beginning or end of a sentence (and not disrupt a sentence in the middle – this can make it hard to read.) 
  • Also, don’t replace words with emoji in a sentence – it can be really annoying, plus it’s really not user-friendly (think, for example, about people using text-to-speech converters.)
  • You can, though, use them to replace entire concepts for things like headings and captions. Here’s a creative example from Sephora’s Instagram:
Emoji Meanings - Sephora’s Story highlights on their Instagram profile
Sephora’s Story highlights on their Instagram profile
  • You can also use emoji instead of bullet points for your social media posts. It can be a helpful trick to grab people’s attention. 
  • Look for emoji that express a sentiment or emotion that emphasizes your message, e.g., urgency ⏰(if you’re talking about a limited-time deal) or surprise 🤯.
  • Be wary of emoji that your teenage kid would send to their friend (unless you’re actually talking to teenage kids. But even then, watch out for opportunities to come across as lame.) 😜😹😘

Also, watch out for emoji that are loaded sexually or have hidden meanings you wouldn’t want to use when writing to your audience. 🍆

  • And don’t forget, emoji might sometimes not be displayed, for example by some email clients. So make them a nice addition rather than take center stage.
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Best emoji for marketing

Here’s a quick list of emoji you actually can use in your marketing copy, whether that’s social media posts, emails, push notifications, or Facebook ads. (Of course, that’s not a definitive set by any means.)

Smiley faces

This category includes all kinds of faces, including the ones we used to represent with punctuation marks back in the day (if you know, you know.) Here are some that you can come across a lot:

  • Smiley face with smiling eyes 😊 An emoji form of the ^^ emoticon, denotes warm, positive feelings and general happiness.
  • Grinning face 😀 Used to mean good cheer or humor.
  • Grinning face with big eyes 😃 Stands for general happiness and good-natured amusement.
  • Grinning face with smiling eyes ​​😄 A variation, just the eyes are different 😉 
  • Grinning face with sweat 😅 Intended to depict nerves or discomfort but also commonly used to express a close call – like saying “Whew!”
  • Rolling on the floor laughing (a.k.a. ROTLF) 🤣 No need to explain that one, right?
  • Face with tears of joy 🤣 Another one used when something is really funny.
  • Grinning squinting face 😆 An emoji form of the >< or xD emoticons (really popular with younger audiences). Shows excitement or hearty laughter.
  • Slightly smiling face 🙂 Watch out, though this one might just convey positive feelings, it can also come across as ironic or passive-aggressive. 
  • Upside-down face 🙃 This one is definitely not to be taken seriously – it might convey sarcasm, a joke, or goofiness.
  • Melting face 🫠 Denotes extreme heat, but also embarrassment or shame.
  • Winking face 😉 A joke, flirtation, a hidden meaning, or general positivity. 
  • Smiling face with smiling eyes 😊 This one is safe to mean genuine happiness and positive feelings ^^. (And no hidden sarcasm.)
  • Face blowing a kiss 😘 This one means love and affection, but probably not something you want to send to your customers.
  • Face savoring food 😋 A good one for a caption of an Instagram post with pictures of delicious meals at your restaurant.
  • Drooling face 🤤 Can also be used for delicious food (but can also mean being tired or sleepy.)
  • Winking face with tongue (a.k.a. crazy face) 😜 This one’s super informal, denoting goofiness, wackiness, or jokes. Probably more suited for a friend-to-friend interaction, if you know what I mean. 😉
  • Squinting face with tongue 😝 Similar to the one above, this is on the very informal end of the spectrum (all emoji are more or less informal, after all.)
  • Zany face (a.k.a. crazy eyes) 🤪 And another one from the same group.
  • Shushing face 🤫 Include this emoji in your email subject line with a secret, don’t-tell-anyone type of deal.
  • Thinking face 🤔 Depending on the tone of your message, it can denote wondering about something, but also mocking someone, or questioning something. Commonly used with questions asked to your audience.
  • Face with rolling eyes 🙄 (One of my personal favorites.) Like facepalm, it can denote disappointment, disapproval, or sometimes boredom.
  • Face exhaling 😮‍💨 Shows feelings of relief or a sigh (but watch out, as it can also mean smoking.)
  • Sleepy face 😪 Depicts feeling tired (not to be confused with a crying or sad face.)
  • Sleeping face 😴 This one’s probably much clearer in expressing feeling sleepy. 🙂
  • Face with medical mask 😷 This one got popular during the pandemic – and it’s kind of obvious, right?
  • Face with thermometer 🤒 Indicates feeling sick, similarly to the sneezing face 🤧.
  • Hot face 🥵 Use it when temperatures are high (or you have a really “hot” deal ;))
  • Cold face 🥶 The opposite, handy to use in the winter.
  • Exploding face 🤯Shows shock and disbelief (perfect for “shockingly good deals”.)
  • Partying face 🥳 You can use it to show you’re celebrating something (e.g. in the subject line of a birthday email to your customers.)
  • Pleading face 🥺 It’s like the famous Puss in Boots from Shrek with his pleading eyes. 
  • Loudly crying face 😭 This one indicates true sadness (so don’t confuse it with crying from laughter.)
  • Face screaming with fear 😱 You can use it to also show awe, disbelief, or intense excitement (like that shocking Black Friday discount.)
  • Tired face 😫 Apart from its original meaning of tiredness, it can also denote frustration or even excitement, depending on your tone.
  • Angry face ​​😠 That one’s pretty straightforward, and also has some stronger variations like 😡 and 🤬.
  • Pile of poo 💩This one’s definitely humorous and super informal – and instead of actually representing poo, might be used to indicate silliness or fun.
  • Clown face 🤡 Another one of my favorites, this one’s really sarcastic, often meaning someone who’s selfish or foolish.
  • Ghost 👻 Perfect for your Halloween newsletters and social media posts.

Body parts

I won’t list all of them here – for obvious reasons – but here are a few of the most popular emoji and their meanings:

  • Eyes 👀Often mean there’s something interesting to look at (in your post or your newsletter)
  • Thumbs up 👍 Quite obviously meaning approval.
  • Thumbs down 👎 Equally obviously meaning disapproval.
  • Pointing fingers (in general) There’s a bunch of emoji with index fingers pointing in different directions. You can use them to – yes – point at something, but also use them instead of bullet points, 👉 to highlight an important piece of information, or to point at where to click 👆. (Just don’t use the middle finger! ;))
  • Clapping hands 👏 Use it when you want to give someone (your customers, for example) a run of applause.
  • Raising hands 🙌 This one can be used to celebrate something with your hands in the air.
  • Heart hands 🫶 Use it when you want to express support, love, and warm feelings.
  • Folded hands 🙏 Though sometimes used as a “high-five”, they’re originally meant to mean “please” or “thank you” (taken from Japanese culture.)
  • Flexed bicep 💪 Shows strength or working out. Sometimes used to also show motivation and appreciation (think something along the lines of “you/we can do this!”)

People

There are tons of emoji showing people in different situations and different professions – I obviously can’t include all of them here. Most of them are available in two genders and also in ungendered versions.

Here are a few that might come in handy:

  • Person gesturing no 🙅 Needs no explanation.
  • Person gesturing ok 🙆 (This one’s probably a little less obvious when you look at it.)
  • Person tipping hand 💁 Often used to indicate sarcasm or sassiness. 
  • Person raising hand 🙋 Use it when you want to ask or answer a question.
  • Person facepalming 🤦 Do I even have to explain this one? 🤦
  • Person shrugging 🤷 A version of the popular shruggie ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (tell me you’re old without telling me you’re old), showing a lack of knowledge or care about something.
  • Superhero 🦸 Use it, e.g., to appreciate your customers when you write about them (though the range of applications of this one is only limited by your creativity.)
  • Person running 🏃 Perfect for showing limited-time deals you need to hurry up for, or also sport-related content.
  • Family 👪 For all things family-related. Note that there are several options of this emoji to account for all the different types of families out there. 

Objects and symbols

You can find multiple object emoji for the things you’re talking about, including clothing items, shoes, accessories, you name it. There’s also a bunch of objects useful for special occasions, like, e.g., Halloween or Christmas. Below are just a few examples:

  • Umbrella ☂️
  • Jack-o-Lantern 🎃
  • Glasses 👓
  • T-shirt 👕
  • Four-leaf clover 🍀 Great to indicate good luck, but also for St Patrick’s Day, for example.
  • Maple leaf 🍁
  • Fallen leaf 🍂
  • Sun ☀️
  • Rainbow 🌈 
  • Snowflake ❄️
  • Fire 🔥 Use it for all your hot deals. 😉
  • Christmas tree 🎄
  • High voltage ⚡
  • Birthday cake 🎂
  • Clinking glasses 🥂
  • Trophy 🏆 Use it to celebrate a win for your customer, just like the sports medal🏅 
  • Alarm clock ⏰ Great for limited-time deals and reminders.
  • Party popper 🎉 and confetti ball 🎊Use them to celebrate or announce good news.
  • Light bulb 💡 Use it to show a good idea, an opportunity – or maybe a new product release.
  • Money with wings 💸 Is that a discount that’s just flying by? 🤔
  • Calendar 📅 Use it to remind customers about a webinar date or the end of a promotional sale.
  • Megaphone 📣 Use it if you want your marketing message to really pop.
  • Musical note 🎵

Shapes

Hearts, stars, and other shapes are great for making email subject lines and social media posts pop in your inbox or feed. They can also be used for things like bullet points. Just don’t overdo it, especially with the hearts (but also, with anything really.) 

Here are a few examples:

  • Sparkles
  • Star
  • Glowing star 🌟
  • Hearts (in different colors) ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜🤎🖤🤍 You can use them in a sequence, but don’t overdo it.
  • Dots (in different colors) 🔴🟠🟡 (and more, great for bulleted lists)
  • Speech balloon 💬
  • Arrows (all kinds) ⬆️➡️ Also great for bullet points or highlighting words/images in text and pointing people to action (e.g., tapping a post or clicking a link.)
  • Exclamation marks ❗❕‼️ 
  • Question marks ❓❔
  • Check mark ✔️ I personally like to use them for list items.
  • Cross mark

Animals

Apart from “just animals” you can use to make your message cuter, there are some emoji that have some extra meanings. But usually, these are used to make a message more fun and lighthearted – like most emoji. Here are some examples:

  • See-no-evil monkey 🙈
  • Hear-no-evil monkey 🙉
  • Speak-no-evil monkey 🙊
  • Dog face 🐶
  • Cat face 🐱
  • Unicorn 🦄 Got something unique to offer? This emoji is great to highlight that fact.
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Make sure you know your emoji meanings

Whew! 😅 That was a lot! And there’s so much more. Don’t be afraid to include emoji in marketing – whether that’s email marketing or social media content. It can make your message more attractive, attention-grabbing, and fun.

Just remember – don’t overdo it. There’s a fine line here, so test your messaging, your email subject lines and your ad headlines to see what your audience responds to. And to see what kind of content resonates with them and create more of it, use a social media engagement tool like NapoleonCat that’ll make it as fun as using emoji. 😎

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