Emojis on packaging speak to younger demographics

February 22, 2016
4 min read

According to Mintel’s Household Care Packaging Trends US 2016 report, practical information tops household care consumers’ interest on packaging. Directions for use, safety information and ingredients information are among the top three types of information on product labeling that consumers look for before making a purchasing decision.

However, there are generational differences as to what information is most sought after on packaging. For example, nearly a third of younger Millennials – an attractive demographic many brands are trying to engage with – look for environmental claims on packaging, compared to 20% of non-Millennials. Further, the way that brands communicate packaging recyclability is more important to older Millennials compared to non-Millennials.

Communicating through images, not words

Millennials express interest not only in basic information on household packaging, such as safety warnings and instructions for use, but also in information related to environment, social media and scannable codes that carry additional information. This suggests opportunities for brands to engage this demographic group with routine and habit-driven household chores by reconsidering the way that various types of information on product labeling is communicated.

As more and more consumers are using images in their personal communications, we find that there is significant interest across age groups in connecting with brands using emojis and other types of imagery. As explored in Mintel’s 2016 North America Consumer Trend Eye Get It, not only is it indescribably simple to comprehend an emoji, but the medium is nearly universally understood, allowing people to abandon the need for translation between cultures and languages.

What’s more, according to Mintel’s Communicating Through Imagery US 2015 report, younger demographic groups not only prefer to use emojis in their communication but are also interested in buying products with emojis on packaging; three in five older Millennials express interest compared to 35% of non-Millennials. Not surprising, US consumers aged 18-34 show the highest levels of proficiency in understanding and using emojis, with over half rating their ability as advanced or fluent.

While this doesn’t mean that all communication on packaging should be substituted by images just to engage Millennials, it does offer opportunities to incorporate emojis into the labeling language. This could offer brands engagement opportunities with younger consumers and make shopping for household cleaning routines more fun.


 A simpler way to get information across to consumers

The majority of information on household packaging is not particularly engaging but does give essential advice. Communication through imagery can prove to be not only more engaging but can also provide a simpler way to get information to consumers. For example, Coca-Cola in Southeast Asia switched its brand name for emoticons for its “Share a feeling” campaign. The brand saw emoticons as the way to transcend language barriers in the region and to communicate with a young generation in a language they prefer. The use of emoticons also blended consumers’ offline and online behavior and created communication through packaging that lives in both digital and physical worlds.

In the personal care category, Dove introduced the “Love your curls” emoji keyboard, which has 27 curly hair designs that represent various skin tones and hair colors. In this case, the emoji-based promotion gave women an opportunity to express themselves and their unique style and personality. The classic French fragrance company Diptyque has also launched a set of emojis that are unique to the brand and are used on packaging. The full range of designs created by an artist for Diptyque has been digitized as an emoji keyboard so that they can be enjoyed beyond the availability of the limited edition products.

What we think

The nature of household products requires a significant amount of mandatory labeling information related to safety, directions for use and ingredients, which consumers of all demographic groups consider important to check before choosing which product to buy. However, Millennials are also interested in information on packaging that demonstrates a brand’s commitment to the environment and its presence in social media. This provides opportunities for household care brands to transform their communications about household care routines into more visual language using emojis.

Brands can change the way they speak to younger consumers by creating an imagery-based language that speaks about a specific household task, or ways of performing tasks by use of a particular household product. It can also help to create a link between a brand’s communication in both digital and physical worlds.

Viktorija Gnatoka is a Global Packaging Analyst at Mintel, where she is responsible for delivering packaging insights and actionable recommendations across multiple categories.

Viktorija Gnatoka
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