'Female Emojis Severely Limited, Woefully Stereotypical'

"Most brands have expressed eternal love for emojis in recent years, as they try to talk the talk of young people today," Tim Nudd writes in AdWeek. "Not so fast, says Always' 'Like a Girl' campaign." Not every brand loves emojis. Always has something to say about these emoticons: The female ones are terrible! And Always is ripping into the stereotypes these graphics portray.

"As a piece in Mic recently pointed out, female emojis are severely limited," Nudd continues. "Beyond the neutral female emoji, there's a princess, a bride, a pair of twins, a dancer in a red dress and a series of "information desk" characters. Male emoji characters, meanwhile, include Santa Claus, a policeman, a guardsman, a detective, a construction worker and an angel."

This is critical to consider when your clients want to use emojis in their ads. Especially when you can tell them that AudienceSCAN research finds 51.7% of iPhone Users are female and 18.1% of iPhone Users are aged 18 to 24. These young women are still formulating their identities, so don't discount them simply because they're not tweens or teens.

"There are two gender-​ambiguous athletes with long hair—playing basketball and surfing. But most of the emoji athletes are male, including a horseback rider, a bowler, a runner, a golfer and a swimmer." "For the new "Like a Girl" spot, Leo Burnett interviewed girls and asked them how they feel about the emoji set today."

In fact, utilizing sporty emoticons in androgynous images could be advantageous for advertisers. According to AudienceSCAN data, 21.8% of iPhone Users enjoy running/​jogging; 22% are into aerobics/​pilates/​yoga; 18.4% are weightlifting; and 14.6% like playing basketball.

"Society has a tendency to send subtle messages that can limit girls to stereotypes," says documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker of Pulse Films, who directed the spot. "As someone who has studied sociolinguistics, I know the kind of impact even seemingly innocuous language choices can have on girls."

Walker adds: "It was so interesting to hear these girls talk about emojis and realize how the options available to them are subtly reinforcing the societal stereotypes and limitations they face every day."

"Always isn't the first brand to criticize emojis," Nudd reminds readers. "Last year, Dove noticed that there's a "one size fits all" hair type for female emojis—"straight and sleek, the traditional beauty ideal." The Unilever brand ended up releasing its own Dove Love Your Curls Emoji Keyboard,developed in partnership with Snaps, which featured curly-​haired emojis."

Emoji images are particularly important, Always says, because they are used so much by young, impressionable people.

iPhone Users are impressionable. AudienceSCAN finds that 21.9% of them were influenced to take action by social network postings (like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) that were not advertising.

"We know that girls, especially during puberty, try to fit in and are therefore easily influenced by society. In fact, we found that 7 out of 10 girls even felt that society limits them, by projecting what they should or should not do, or be," says Michele Baeten, associate brand director and lead Always "Like a Girl" leader at Procter & Gamble. "The girls in emojis only wear pink, are princesses or dancing bunnies, do their nails and their hair, and that's about it. No other activities, no sports, no jobs … the realization is shocking."

iPhone Users do enjoy activities beyond stereotypical girly hobbies and interests. AudienceSCAN reports 23% of iPhone Users enjoy attending sporting events (in person); 20.8% are into photography; 11.9% are writing/​blogging.

Courtney Huckabay
Courtney is the Editor for SalesFuel Today. She analyzes secondary customer research and our primary AudienceSCAN research. Courtney is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.