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Finding Your Inner Emoji

emojipeopleWhat will be the impact of this curious language?  🙂 

The fastest growing language of modern times is not English or Mandarin – it is the language of emoji. The emoji, taken from the Japanese word for e-character, has only been around for a few short years, but is increasingly adopted as a universal method of communication.

The reasons behind its popularity are not surprising. Emojis represent concepts and emotions much more simply than words and take far less time for the brain to decode.

Pictures transcend language barriers and allow us to communicate quickly about things that are important to us. In a modern society characterized by increasingly short attention spans, the emoji can be an answer to the question of how to do or say more with less.

Indeed, the rise of the emoji actually takes us back full-circle to our anthropological origins, where our ancestors made survival decisions based on instant visual stimuli.  So what might this mean for a learning environment? 😕

The fact that using visual images helps learners to process information more quickly and/or easily is nothing new. Whilst words are technically also images, reading is a translation process and so takes much longer for the brain to process than a well-chosen image.  In fact, according to research by 3M we can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

However, the emoji reminds us how powerful very simple images can be in putting an important message across quickly and to a mass audience. We see with our brains, via pattern recognition, which is why we tend to be able see very familiar patterns such as faces in everyday objects.  So, the image that we are projecting does not have to be very precise, it just needs to trigger a pattern recognition in the brain.

The challenge for most learning providers is that as a younger workforce moves into the marketplace, we’ll need to communicate with them in a way that we’re not used to.  How many workshops have you designed using emojis?  😯

Whilst the effectiveness of the emoji in personal, informal communication is relatively well understood, its application as a tool for business is less so, but help is at hand.  Many large brands have begun experimenting with emojis as a marketing tool, as emojis can help brands humanise themselves by adding an emotional layer to their communications.

For example, Domino’s have created a service that allows a customer to order a pizza by texting a pizza emoji.  The World Wide Fund for Nature also used the panda face emoji to raise awareness about endangered species, and this was designed to encourage those who regularly use emojis of pandas to donate to its conservation efforts.

The key challenge will be how to translate the work being done with emojis in a marketing context, to work being done in an L&D context.  It’s quite clear that emojis offer the L&D world a way to increase engagement and trigger deeper emotions and conversations, but only if they are highly relevant to your message and your target audience.  😎

As the world’s understanding of Visual Literacy grows, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the rise of this new form of language.  As the age of our workforce changes and the young people of today bring fresh forms of communication into the workplace, it would be wise for us to be already able to speak their language.