As emoji become the new vernacular for virtual communication, brands are starting to incorporate the friendly ideograms into their messaging.
But there isn't an emoji for everything, and being literal only goes so far when it comes to marketing a product. That’s why Durex tweeted out a fake promotion for a new eggplant-flavored condom (or aubergine, as it’s called across the pond).
Eggplant is a great source of antioxidants, but that’s not why Durex selected the purple fruit for its hypothetical new release. In emoji-speak, for the uninitiated, the eggplant is a phallic symbol. Durex wanted to emphasize the absence of a condom emoji among the Unicode Consortium’s standardized collection.
On Monday, the company tweeted an illustration of a box of eggplant-flavored condoms along with an eggplant emoji:
Then, Durex revealed it was a hoax, following up with a tweet advocating for the addition of a #CondomEmoji:
To encourage safe sex (and thereby sales of its product), Durex decided to adopt the lingo of its social media audience. Throughout the summer, the company has posted animated videos containing emoji to raise awareness about the threat of the sexually transmissible Zika virus.
Durex is not the first organization to employ the eggplant emoji to speak out about sex. This summer, NYC Health + Hospitals rolled out an emoji-driven social media advertising campaign directed at teens to promote sex health education. The ads, which began appearing in Facebook and Instagram feeds in July, posed the question, “Need to talk to someone about ‘it’?” Emoji such as the peach, birds, bees and a monkey with its hands over its face are also featured.
Emoji are a trendy way of communicating that convey messages less seriously, but perhaps more effectively, than plain text. NYC Health + Hospitals decided to center its campaign around the pictograms after conducting focus groups with teens who said they thought it would be an effective tactic.
The Unicode Consortium continues to expand the emoji vocabulary, but for now users fill in gaps by attaching their own meaning to the symbols and having fun with innuendo. When companies speak their customers’ language in an authentic and on-brand manner, that’s the most effective marketing technique of all.