In the dark, primitive days of the internet, when we still had to type “www.” and wondered why we could hear the 56k modem connect even when the computer’s volume was muted, chat rooms and emails used a shorthand called “emoticons” to express simple emotions like smiles and frowns. As we’ve come to know, all things evolve, especially on the internet.

Emoticons brought about Emojis, or small, simplistic pictures that can be used beside or in place of traditional letters and characters. Often times they come in a full keyboard configuration.

Use of emojis has been relentless the past few years, and they’ve become a ubiquitous part of the internet and social media. Branded content has adopted Emojis in some surprising ways in efforts to stay relevant, connect and simply have a little fun with their followers.

Let’s take a look at 10 creative uses of Emoji by brands.

Twitter – Custom Emoji’s for events

Twitter has pulled the emoji concept into a living organism, and they are deadset on making sure their users are always prepared as the world spins.

Their most recent splash was a series of Pope-inspired emojis, timed to coincide with His Holiness’ visit to Cuba and the United States. The emojis are very simple and not expected to make waves, but they are timely and relevant. Twitter is setting a major news precedent and you can bank on them sending out periodic updates for big events in the future.

And the Pope finds himself in good company: Twitter made a set of Star Wars emojis for their big announcement too.

Coke – Branded Emoji pioneers

Coke has become the first brand to take an active role in their own Emojis. While Taco Bell campaigns for a generic Taco, and Dominos uses a vague approximation of Pizza on many channels, Coke went the extra mile and commissioned their own Emoji. Two bottles, clinking in the classic “cheers” configuration, are unmistakably Coke. Running alongside their “Share a Coke” marketing, (and hashtag,) Coke released the emoji with a request for twitter followers to share in “The World’s Longest Cheers.”

While Coke and Twitter have agreed not to disclose whether Coke actually paid for the Emoji, they surely jumped behind the wheel and seized their own Emoji destiny.

NBA Free Agency, brought to you by Emoji

See if you can follow me on this. DeAndre Jordan finished the 2015 NBA season and his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. He was considering another contract with LA, or perhaps joining the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks were rumored to be winning Jordan over.

Clippers forward Chandler Parsons tweeted an emoji of a plane. The implied message that he would fly to see Jordan in Texas and sway him back to the Clippers. Maverick’s guard J.J, Redick tweeted a car Emoji. “I’ll just drive over” he seemed to say.

What followed was a verifiable emoji battle, with Clippers and Mavericks players emoojiing their feelings about Jordan and their hope he would be their teammate. Then the Golden State Warriors reminded everyone they had won the NBA Championship. Michael Jordans’ “Jordan Brand” chimed in with a tally of his 6 championships. Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer somehow got involved. The emojis settled, and DeAndre Jordan signed a new contract with his old team, the Clippers.

It was dramatic, it was awkward, it was ugly, and it was really, really funny. And the Emoji world was cast to it’s biggest stage yet. The Emoji was no longer something we did when we weren’t worried about the news. Suddenly, thanks to the NBA, Emojis were the news.

ESPN debuts Emoji highlights

Serena Morales brought ESPN into the Emoji era with a customized highlight package done only in Emojis. Morales narrated the key stats and top stories, while they were depicted with emojis of footballs, goalposts, players uniform numbers and point totals, set against the familiar popping sounds of text messages.

While reception was mixed, it was an interesting and bold play from the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” as they continue in their efforts to appeal to younger media consumers.

Bauer Hockey brings the puck


We’re rarely shy about niche brands and the part they play in the social marketplace, but a brand that applies exclusively to hockey equipment is pretty small. If you combine the US and Canada you’ll only find about 1 million hockey players total, and of that, a select few really care enough about the tools of the trade enough to pay attention.

But that didn’t stop the leading manufacturer from bringing their small group of devotees the tools they need to play the social media game. A goal, a goaltenders mask, sticks, pucks, gloves, and the piece de resistance, a Zamboni. These came along with a keyboard that works like an average keyboard.

Bauer proved that the people want their esoteric, unique and specific interests represented, and that while this is the first brand-centric effort to publish a line of emojis, it won’t be the last.

New Relic – poop billboard

Let’s all be honest here. For all the smileys, the shamrocks and the beer mugs, we all know the real MVP of the emoji spectrum is the poop. A little brown triangle with shocked eyes, a surprised mouth, expertly shaped to somehow be at once charming, and… poop.

It’s great for bad days, bad food, misbehaving dogs and struggles with potty training. It’s been used to describe frustrating rental cars and unfortunate smells. Versatility. But of course, it’s also been a faux pas for any brand. We can’t imagine why.

But most of all, it’s funny. How could it not be? So when New Relic beat everyone to the punch, they did so without burying the lead. “Life’s too short for [poop] software.” reads a billboard with a large amount of white space. And a small amount of brown space. Instantly New Relic is funny, edgy, bold, hip, subversive and clever. It was the joke that was staring every brand in the face, daring each of them to use it, and New Relic decided it was time to [poop] or get off the pot.

Vote for Hillary, with Emojis

hillary emojis

Hillary Clinton, a newly minted Grandmother, is crowning herself the Queen of Emoji, and actively pushing their use in every facet of her campaign. Her social media presences consistently use emojis and request responses in emoji.

And taking things to a new level, Hilary is now an emoji herself. Debuting with Wired Magazine, the HillMoji keyboard is an entire series of Hilary-themed emojis. Various depictions of Hilary and her phone, sunglasses, pantsuits, as well as emojis that say “Madam President” or “I can’t, I’m busy breaking glass ceilings,” surrounding a muscular arm.

Now Snaps, the people creating the keyboard, have insisted that the Hillary campaign has not endorsed the product, and it is not sanctioned, but it is funny and flattering and the campaign probably won’t fight too much.

Pepsi – World Emoji Day

world emoji day

Pepsi liked the raging tide of emojis so much, they threw it a party. July 17th 2015 was declared National Emoji Day, and Pepsi generated plenty of content to celebrate the occasion. Cans and bottles in Canada had emojis printed on them, they released a 35 character keyboard, and requested followers to tweet #PepsiMoji and show how the emoji is used outside of the digital space.

Pepsi also brought the point home with a short video, called “The Proposal” which depicted a young man, holding large placards printed with familiar emojis on them, appearing to propose marriage to a woman as she dined with her friends. The young woman said yes, as Pepsi encouraged the world to fall in love. With their drinks? With emojis? With each other? All of the above, it seems.

Vodafone combats bullying via emoji

A line of “support emojis” promoting an end to cyberbullying, suicide awareness among teens, and peer support for victims of bullying was initiated and promoted by the international cell phone provider, as a response to their research on the pervasive nature of cyberbullying.

Vodafone recruited over 4,000 students from 11 countries to discuss the issues, help select the emojis that would be published, and encourage their peers around the world to support each other and promote positive online interactions.

The campaign includes an option to donate funds to anti-bullying groups and organizations based on retweets.

Dogs Trust – Emoji driven pet adoption drive

Dogs Trust, a charity in England, helped some furry friends find homes by immortalizing the pups in emojis. They created 23 emojis, each representing an actual dog in need of adoption, and allowing friends of the charity spread the emojis around in hopes of finding homes.

One of the most difficult problems with shelters is a lack of exposure, and with this efforts, Dogs Trust can level the playing field. Utilizing a fun, free, and easily accessible venue to showcase their wares, especially for a good cause, is an example of the good that can come from something as silly as an emoji.

Read more: How To Disable The Smiles and Emoticons In Facebook Comment Replies