Let’s Get Emojinal…Or Not

Laura Belshaw | February 2nd 2016

Emojis, the language of the digital age, the millennial age and younger. Whether it’s in texts to your mates, emails from your favourite clothing brand or even app notifications on your iPhone, they’re unavoidable.

Granted, Emojis hold the power for creative campaign success; for example, we often see brands striking deals with Twitter for personalised hashtag emojis helping to support campaigns, Star Wars the Force Awakens being a personal favourite of mine. Everyone including your mum is using them. But does that mean any brand can jump on the emoji bandwagon for a campaign?

As House of Fraser taught us this week, perhaps not. In case you live under a Twitter-free rock or you simply just don’t spend as much time as I do on the medium then you may have noticed House of Fraser launch a spectacular fail of a social campaign through the use of emojis under the term hashtag #Emojinal.



It started around the early working hours on Monday morning with the rebranding of all imagery on their Twitter profile to emoji based visuals. Then came the tweets, from adapted images of the latest ‘in’ celebrities to ‘emoji speak’ based tweets. It was really quite the show. Instead of the amused and excited response House of Fraser were probably holding out for, they fast received high criticism from audiences feeling embarrassed by the brand and even joking the account had been taken over by a 12-year-old. It was like witnessing your dad getting drunk at your 18th birthday party and deciding to jump on the dance floor with all of your friends. You would want the ground to swallow you whole. Naturally this fast became the joke of Twitter for the day with many followers begging House of Fraser to stop the embarrassment and even threatening to unfollow.


The Issue

Well, it’s not that the emojis themselves that cause offence. We all use them as a way of expressing ourselves across social channels and within our messaging systems. I mean who doesn’t love a good crying with laughter emoji? The issue House of Fraser have is it just doesn’t resonate with their existing audience. House of Fraser is home to high-end brands from makeup labels such as Chanel and Clinique to designer handbags and homeware. It is safe to say we can assume their customer base lies between the young professional to the middle-aged style-conscious adult. This campaign is a failed attempt at an attempt to reach a much younger audience. The kind of audience we’d expect for BooHoo and other young fast fashion brands.

Moral of the Story

Sources say House of Fraser are looking for a way of reaching younger audiences and clearly this is how they felt was the best way to reach them. It felt like a careless and poorly thought out campaign, quickly fired like a shot in the dark and naturally going down in flames, bringing the brand down with it. What we can learn from this is: know your audience and don’t just jump on the back of trends. If House of Fraser had thought this through, they could have sought other methods for reaching younger audiences without turning away their current audience. Ideas such as linking with relevant influential figures such as popular vloggers (ever heard of Zoella?), as well as finding methods to invite audiences to get involved to get them talking about the brand in the right way, such as in-store events based around a hashtag campaign, could have worked better. Yes, these campaigns will have taken longer, but they would have had a stronger effect and avoided the bad attention inevitably received by the #Emojional campaign.

The moral of the story? Do your research and know your audience instead of guessing. And tread with caution if you’re thinking about piggybacking on the latest ‘in’ trend (especially when it’s not really all that new any more).

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