Dove and Comedy Central’s Emoji Data Show Why Brands Are Now All About Messaging Apps

They're millennial marketing gold

More than 500 people packed into a Hilton conference room Friday at SXSW in Austin, Texas, to get insight into brands' success with emojis. 

Robert Candelino, marketing vp for Unilever, quickly threw cold water on their hopes of finding easy answers in one of marketing's hottest topics. "Anyone who claims to have the silver bullet or secret recipe [for emojis] is patently delusional because we are all figuring it out," he said. 

But truly, Candelino was trying to balance out an otherwise enthusiastic discussion led by Snaps CEO Christian Brucculeri, who told Adweek going into the conference, "I think we can become a $100 million business."

Brucculeri may sound blustery to some, but consider the fact that he's landed dozens of clients since launching just 14 months ago including Unilever's Dove brand, Burger King, Pepsi and Comedy Central. And there are data-based case studies to back up his confidence.

For instance, Candelino spoke about how Dove created interactive content for Snaps' emoji keyboard, which lets brands message in colorful ways across apps like Kik, WeChat, Tango, Kanvas, Path, Viber and Fleksy. His Dove marketing staffers created an effort targeting curly-haired millennial women after a study found that one-third of such females don't like to flaunt the fact that they have kinky locks.

Dove started offering the Love Your Curls keyboard on Kik, Tango and Fleksy and drew 928,000 users, per Snaps. Each woman shared an average of 5.6 pieces of content, too, the tech vendor said. 

Comedy Central, meanwhile, is using Snaps to push Broad City, its hit comedy series starring Gen Y comics Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. The cable channel saw huge success with emojis last year when it was pushing the show's second season after Season 1 attracted millennial "superfans" but not a huge audience, said Lesley Robin, director of social media for Comedy Central. 

In a seven-week period, her team saw 3.5 million emojis sent which helped boost the show's audience.

The emojis that worked particularly well "were in line with messaging that fans were already sending to their friends," Robin said. "We were able to allow superfans to send messages and market the show. Through those messages, they were able to expand our fan base."

More generally, she said, Comedy Central has undergone "a huge shift in terms of content created for the social space" in recent years.