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I have teenagers who will, nine times out of ten, send me an emoji or emoticon with their text message. In most cases, I send one back. Not because I really love them, mind you. But, as a creative person, I do confess to liking a visual more than random symbols that make up a smiley face.

Whether you like them or hate them, there are very savvy brands who are buying into emoji usage as a way to engage millennials and their brand-consumer fans. In fact, when college basketball playoffs started, I received an email encouraging me to download my favorite team’s mascot emoticon to share with my friends via text messaging. (My bracket busted pretty early so, sadly, I can’t say I used it often.) Another example is Mentos’ creation of “ementicons” characters, which the company used in their video spots and developed emoticons for consumers to share. For a science event, General Electric even developed an Emoji Periodic Table of Experiments for Snapchat users to share.

As we progress deeper into 2015, look for brands to really get into image-based communication in their campaigns. Taco Bell is reported to be following suit soon. Can an emoticon order sent via text for a restaurant order be far behind? Perhaps another way for people to “think outside the bun.” Grande quesarito, anyone?

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