3 Marketing Lessons from The Emoji World War I over DeAndre Jordan

Recently, Sony Pictures acquired the rights to a movie based on emojis. The studio allegedly outbid two other major studios – Paramount and Warner Bros for the rights to the film about these popular mini picture icons.  

Last week some of the worlds greatest athletes engaged in their own war of emojis. During the recent NBA free agency period, the Los Angeles Clippers fought to keep the rights to their center, DeAndre Jordan while rival the Dallas Mavericks attempted to lure him away.  The Clippers sent a contingent to the 7 foot center's hometown of Houston in effort to persuade him to stay.  Not to be outdone, the Mavericks, lead by team owner and Shark Tank's, Mark Cuban, sent their own recruitment dream team to meet with Jordan.  

With both teams en route, a member of the Dallas delegation, Chandler Parsons took to twitter.  In a sign of solidarity, he simply posted the airplane emoji broadcasting to the world his mode of travel and intention to complete the mission.  What followed was a global war of clipart, unlike one ever publicly seen before, demonstrated by grown men who exert their physical will for a living.  

The Clippers' J.J. Reddick would have none of it.  Opting for four wheels instead of three, to get there from nearby Austin, Texas. 

Blake Griffin of Kia Optima commercial fame, would thunder in with his two cents. 

Paul Peirce, didn't quite understand the game.  So he posted a picture of the rocket emoji.  We'll give him a pass, he's almost 38.

And then the testosterone really got flowing as the conversation shifted to self-glorification as Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and yes, even Mohammed Ali vied for the top spot.

While to many of us this may just seem like some childish humor bordering on foolishness but there are some marketing gems here, in particular for those targeting millennial audiences.   

Lesson 1.  The emoji keyboard has replaced the cumbersome text shorthand for the millennial.  Initially reserved for the pre-pubesent banter of giggly pimple-faced teenage girls, the emoji is far more efficient than the three keystroke combination of a colon, dash and closed parenthesis.  For busy millennials, especially highly effective consumers, the emoji is a key stroke away and garners greater variety.  

Lesson 2.  Refer to the Jay-Z Tipping Point.  For almost 20 years now, anything Jay-Z has consumed from clothing, to cars, to liquor has become the most highly sought after.  Within months, the most obscure brands have become mainstream with his endorsement.  Today's social media power combined with an infusion of pop culture into American Sports, has given the previously unknown off-the court/ field personalities of professional athletes, the same power and voice.  They are not only tastemakers but drive culture.  Expect emoji beef to break out all over twitter this summer.

Lesson 3. You must learn to speak Emoji.  For one, you don't want to be the only one not in on the eggplant joke.  More importantly, it may give you an edge in the communication battle for millennial attention.  For years we've preached cultural fluency and relativism. That can't only apply to the Caribbean or South Asian diaspora.  We must understand the culture that is ever evolving at the intersection of technology and Generation Y.  Digital conversations are now, not only accented by emojis, but in some cases authored entirely using them.  We have all complained that you can't fully understand tone from text and email.  Emoji's, in a way, solve that.  They add nuance to where there previously was none.  As Wired Magazine put it, "its tone-of-voice for a medium that has no tone and no voice."  

With 722 emoji characters currently available in the standard Unicode 6.0 and more planned for 7.0 and 8, the battleground is one of creativity and to be quite honest, we might have some fun along the ride.