Boston-based ad tech start-up Inmoji has partnered with US in-app chat service provider Frankly Inc. and US mobile messaging service TextPlus to help brands infiltrate messaging networks – via branded emojis.
Text messages now outrank phone calls as the dominant form of communication among millennials (Gallup, 2014). Addressing the growing need for mobile-first advertising and retail solutions, the concept exploits this by capitalising on the popularity of emojis (see The Emoji Economy), presenting brands with "authentic and organic" opportunities to join consumer conversations.
Inmoji creates clickable, emoji-like icons for brands that can be embedded with information including music, movie clips or vouchers. Content is sent peer-to-peer via messaging platforms – for example, a user may send a coffee icon to a friend, which opens a voucher that's redeemable in-store. As with regular emojis, Inmojis are accessed from an in-app keyboard, but users can choose from a menu of brand-designated choices.
TextPlus – which boasts 60 million users – launched the Inmoji functionality earlier this year with a crowdfunding campaign for US start-up Schiller Bikes' S1 water vehicle. The Schiller S1 Inmoji could be sent between TextPlus users, revealing video content, information on the campaign and, importantly, a "Back this project" button leading users to the Kickstarter donations page. Crowdfunding campaigns are just one example of how Inmoji can monetise messaging and advertise to vast audiences.
Data insights also present a significant opportunity. "We could tell [a brand] that people are speaking 65% of the time very favourably with these keywords about their product [for instance]," said Inmoji co-founder and chief executive Michael Africk. "We'll be able to attribute specific phrases and vocabulary to their icon."
Creative, integrated tools like Inmojis also address millennials' distrust of traditional advertising – registering at 84% in the US, according to a recent study by US market research agency The McCarthy Group.
For more on chat-based commerce and monetised messaging, see The Social Media Sell, 2015, Mobile Messaging and Redefining Consumer Loyalty for Digital Natives. See also Emoji-Based Food Delivery, Victoria's Secret In-App Chat Feature and State of Mobile: Summer 2015.