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Back to school: emoji masterclass

Quick, easy-to-use, universally understood - what’s not to like about the growing alphabet of signs and symbols?

Emojis can seem like a common language and an easy way to communicate with a simple symbol. Subsequently, their use is universal and has moved beyond messaging, appearing everywhere from brand campaigns to product design.

They are often viewed as a short-cut to cool with kids and teens but that’s the adult view and emojis should be used with care, or brands could quickly find themselves on the wrong side of cool and current.

This week, we had our own back to school experience via an emoji masterclass with our teen Trendspotters panel to unpick the secret language of emojis.

Here's four things that we discovered...

1. There are clear generational differences in the use of emojis – and they’re deliberate:

“I think that Gen Zs use of emojis kind of gives us a separation from the adult generations, like a blanket I guess” - Lilian, 13

2. Emojis are a language within a language with the use and interpretation morphing constantly, mostly due to the influence of social media:

“There are lots of emojis that have a changed meaning now, and adults who might not be as active on social media (TikTok specifically) might not have picked up on this change” - Ashton, 16

3. Less is now more when it comes to emojis for kids and teens and they don't feel that adults have got the memo:

“I think some adults overuse emojis, particularly those who use 60 to end a sentence, for example, here is a common text I see from parents (not my own:)) “Have an amazing time 😁💓💓🥰🥰🎉🎉” - Maya, 15

4. Emojis are often used by adults as visual symbols, when in fact Gen Z and many Gen Alpha use emojis as a separate language:

“It becomes cringe and gives me second-hand embarrassment. 🥺 - my mum spams these after she sees something cute” – Freddie, 14

We’ve compiled The Top 10 most divergent meanings when it comes to emojis:

And there are a whole suite of emojis that could land a brand in hot water…..

🍑 my mom used this emoji wrong once as she thought it could be used to say feeling peachy!” – Rowan, 14

To avoid any sexual connotations the emojis that currently should be avoided are: 😩 😈 🤤👅🙈💦🍆🍑 🤤

It’s wise to remember that emojis can speak louder than words, but for all the wrong reasons.

If you need to tap into the language, signs and symbols of Gen Z and Gen Alpha then please get in touch and use our brain. We're here to help.


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