This year, for the first time ever, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a pictograph: 😂, officially called the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji. It was chosen as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.
It would be fair to say that the emoji language had a breakthrough 12 months in 2015, which also saw various brands incorporate the popular characters in their campaigns. An emoji is ‘a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication’; the term emoji is a loanword from Japanese, and comes from e ‘picture’ + moji ‘letter, character’. The similarity to the English word emoticon has helped its memorability and rise in use, though the resemblance is actually entirely coincidental: emoticon (a facial expression composed of keyboard characters, such as ;), rather than a stylized image) comes from the English words emotion and icon.
In May, The World Wildlife Fund ran a Twitter campaign using emojis to tell the story of endangered species and encouraged people to donate via the social network. The campaign was sparked by the discovery that 17 characters in the emoji alphabet represent endangered species.
Meanwhile, Ikea launched a catalogue of branded emojis, through which the retailer hopes to improve communication around the home by helping to keep the conversation “light and friendly”. It seems that emojis are becoming marketers’ go-to global language.