You may not realize it, but those little yellow smiley faces—popularly known as Emoji—represent a complex system of modern day linguistics and a history that dates back to cuneiform. In fact, with 73% of people using some kind of text messenger system, Emoji may well be the next evolution of the human language.
How Can a Simple Emoji Be So Important?
It’s very easy to misinterpret a text-only comment, when body language and intonation aren’t present. As a response to increasing miscommunication on digital devices, Emoji were developed in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita in the 1990’s. Even the simple addition of a 🙂 after a sentence like “That sounds great” softens the tone and indicates genuine enthusiasm, instead of sarcasm.
The Evolution of Emoji
Like in the ancient days before the written word, Emoji have evolved into a picto-language all their own. Let’s try removing the words “That sounds great” all together, and instead only respond with a ‘?’. The implied happiness communicates everything. How many times have you texted sad news to a friend, and received only a 🙁 as a response? The emoji speaks volumes and conveys emotions, sometimes better than words can. In fact, Skype has a smiling sunshine emoji that and makes me beam brighter and says “GOOD JOB!” better than a verbal compliment could convey.
Emoji and Marketing to Millennials
Language evolves because new generations alter speech patterns and communication styles. Having never known a world without mobile devices and digital messaging, Millennials are known for short attention spans and lightning fast communication. Marketing companies have picked up on this, using Emoji for whimsical, highly visual campaigns that appeal to this younger demographic.
Emoji are very powerful marketing tools because they supersede language barriers. Why create an ad in five different languages, when Emoji are understood by everyone?
As our communication relies more on digital messaging and a global, interconnected economy, Emoji could very well grow as a legitimate type of universal language, effectively ushering in a new rise to old cuneiform pictographs.