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Understanding Japanese Emojis for Successful Marketing

Understanding Japanese Emojis for Successful Marketing

What does this emoji mean to you?

In the West, this “rolling eyes” emoji is often used to express annoyance, exasperation, and disbelief.

Did you know this emoji means something entirely different in Japan? Japanese people typically use it to express the action of “thinking” and “wondering.”

Emojis have become an integral part of everyday digital communication and even in marketing. When it comes to marketing in Japan, incorporating emojis can set you up for success as long as you understand the subtle cultural nuances and meanings of emojis in everyday Japan.

Japan: Birthplace of Emojis

Originating in Japan in 1999 as part of NTT DOCOMO’s messaging features, emojis were created to simplify digital communication. 

They started as simple 12×12 pixel images and have since evolved into more complex and culturally specific symbols. 

Emojis quickly became an indispensable part of digital communication and marketing in Japan. 

When Apple introduced iPhones in Japan without emoji support in 2008, it almost caused a failure of the product launch. Apple eventually added emoji capability to cater to consumer needs in Japan.

Emojis in Marketing: Learn What They Mean First

Just as described at the beginning of this article, some emojis can have entirely different meanings for consumers, depending on their cultural background.

Understanding the cultural nuances of Japanese emojis is essential for effective communication. Many emojis have unique meanings in Japanese culture.

For example, the “100” emoji symbolizes outstanding performance in school exams in Japan, whereas it may mean “real,” “authentic,” or “agreement” to a non-Japanese person.

This emoji might simply mean a loving “get well” to you, but it means “love hotel,” a type of hotel where couples go to have sex in Japan.

LINE, a popular messaging app in Japan, has hit the jackpot with its iconic stickers, setting it apart from other messaging apps. The success of LINE can be attributed to Japanese people’s strong resonance with kawaii and emoji culture.

LINE offers a collection of character stickers, and if you have a knack for creativity, you can make and share your own, either for free or in exchange for LINE coins – the app’s virtual currency.

LINE has also carved out a niche for itself with animated and sound stickers, often featuring famous characters and celebrities.

This opens up a fantastic opportunity to boost your brand by creating custom character stickers that users can easily get for free. 

This could give your brand a friendlier and more approachable image, helping to build a rapport with your customers. Here are 5 super apps in Japan you can’t miss!

The Verdict: Should You Use Emoji in Japanese Marketing? 

Yes, but with caution.

When incorporating emojis into your marketing strategy in Japan, consider these tips:

1. Learn the meaning of hand gestures: Hand-gesture emojis can add personality to your message, but their meanings can vary between cultures. Ensure you understand the cultural context before using them.

2. Customize emoji use by audience and occasion: Japanese business culture values respect, so consider your audience’s preferences. While younger generations may be more open to emojis, older generations may find them inappropriate in business communication.

3. Be aware of season-specific emojis: Some emojis represent unique Japanese culture and seasonal events. Using them out of context can confuse your audience.

How COVUE Can Help? 

To navigate the complexities of using emojis in Japan effectively, it’s advisable to consult experts familiar with the culture. 

At COVUE, we can help you localize your communication strategy for the Japanese market. Get in touch with us today and explore how we can assist you in connecting with Japanese customers through culturally appropriate and relevant messaging.

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