You're Gonna Want a Ford...Emoji.

So, yeah, just like many past blog experiments, I’ve neglected this one as well, though not completely by choice. This year winter led right into summer and I’ve been swamped with lots going on both professionally and personally. The details aren’t exciting, so I won’t bore you with those. But lately, I’ve had the hankering to write more so…here we go…

I’ve wanted to write about emojis for a while and a couple articles lately caught my eye and I wanted to take the time to respond. The first is Ford’s attempt at proposing a truck emoji, which they posted to YouTube yesterday. I saw this article from The Hustle reporting on Ford’s campaign to get a truck emoji passed by the Unicode Consortium. While I’m not a “truck guy” - I don’t desire a truck, need a truck (except for those few times a year I’m hauling something large), and I don’t gravitate to the machismo effect the truck culture typically portrays. I’m perfectly fine with my small 2013 Toyota Corolla (“The Ghost” as I’ve dubbed her). BUT, I actually applaud Ford on this move. Here’s why:

1) Personally, I recently finished some work for the Red River Farmers Market. That crew drives an old iconic red Chevy to the market every weekend in the summer to alert people that the market is in full swing. When I wanted to make a post to Instagram, I was actually pretty shocked to learn that there was no pickup emoji. There were various styles and sizes of cars, but the closest I could get would either be a red compact or something resembling a short econoline van. But, neither of these were pickups. Being a citizen of the US, especially in the midwest, one would think that a pickup would be an obvious choice - in fact they make up a market volume revenue of $74,941m in the US and are pretty much ubiquitous outside of inner metropolitan areas of large cities.

2) Smart move Ford. I typically don’t condone the way brands, or the businesses behind the brand, condone themselves with disrupting or influencing markets. But in this case it seems pretty safe and pretty obvious that with a vehicle as popular as a pickup truck, that a brand like Ford petition for their visual icon in the lexicon of emojis. After all brands have increased in their usage of emojis 800% (from June 2015-June 2016), people are sending about 60 million emojis a day, just on Facebook! 5 million on Facebook Messenger and nearly half of all Instagram posts contain an emoji. (source) So, with that kind of communication stream occuring without the proper visual identifier available, I say good on you Ford - and props for being the first to develop a campaign to get the pickup emoji conversation started.

3) The campaign itself - pretty good Ford. Prett-y good! Here’s the video Ford made for the campaign (narrated by Bryan Cranston). It’s a valid attempt, in that it still needed to be respectful of a worldwide audience, communicate what they felt was a demand, and still try to be a light-hearted, and even funny at times (“the team couldn’t seem to get it to drive right”). I give them credit for what could have been a very boring, woe is me, petition campaign, which could have appeared more like pandering. Instead Ford owned the truck emoji and went so far as to design it and make it look like the truck emoji is initially tied to Ford. I for one applaud them for this. AND it only cost $50K, which in their advertising world, is a drop in the bucket.

But, I do have a couple of points to make on the reverse side:

1) While I understand that maybe the majority of the places outside the U.S. may not be pickup truck heavy people, it is worthy to note that pickup trucks are pretty much specifically a US thing. There are trucks and pickup trucks throughout the world, but it’s a lot like baseball and apple pie. It’s almost uniquely a North American craving. So, in that respect I can see where it has not been included yet, as much of the world doesn’t have the same interaction with pickups as the US does. It’s important to remember with a worldwide audience that is emojis, that everyone should understand the visual meaning of the symbols. Now, I still think there’s plenty of argument to make to still include it, especially given the numbers of pickup drivers in the US and (this is a complete assumption) that most people probably know what a pickup truck looks like.

2) I have slight issue with the actual image of a “Ford” truck as the emoji proposal. We’ll see what the Consortium decides as a final image, but I think there is probably some room for a pickup emoji that is more ambiguous. I get it, since Ford designed it, it’s their campaign, and it’s their proposal, then they should get to design it - BUT, if they’re going to play fair with the rest of the world on what a pickup looks like, they may need to get rid of a couple stylized components making it uniquely a Ford pickup truck.

3) Which makes me think that if this project is approved, be prepared for a doorway to open by many brands flooding the Consortium more-so than in the past with pitches to make their product into an emoji. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about emojis is that there aren’t a lot of options. When you open the door to a plethora of images, we not only become overloaded with options, we end up wasting time knowing there might be a better option if we just look longer and think harder about how its meaning is defined and interpreted. I feel this is unnecessary and would prefer the consortium to stay strong in only selecting a choice few emojis a year to the lexicon. It maintains a standard of control and maintains emojis as visual icons for communication as opposed to advertising opportunities for brands and corporations.

So, yay! I made another post - hope you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
Here’s to more in the future! Cheers! 🍻