As we peer into mid-February, we ask you to examine the symbol known as the heart. The heart is an ancient symbol, used by Romeos and Juliets for centuries as an expression of love in all its forms. Modern day symbols are all around us but perhaps the most recognizable and ubiquitous are emojis. Emojis, or “picture characters” from the original Japanese got their start on Japanese cell phones in the late 1990’s and were quickly adopted internationally for their ability to visually define cultural references and human emotion. Hearts are a well-used emoji. We now send colored hearts – red (I love you), purple (you’re sweet), yellow (you’re unique) blue (I miss you), green (you’re funny), and black (I do not like you) hearts are just a few of the variations on a standard emoji keyboard – around the world on social media and via text message to articulate an emotion once considered difficult to express – love.
The constant use of this traditional symbol diminishes the symbol’s meaning. Twitter used to ask its users to click a “like” button. “Like” was replaced with a red heart, shifting approval of a tweet from the rather soft “like” to a rather intense “love.” Facebook recently updated its “Like” button to include a heart and other emojis. Is using a heart on social media love or just extreme like? How are brands to interpret and use this new heart iconography?
A few companies have considered how to use the emoji heart on their brand packaging. PEZ started using heart emoji symbols as part of the visual iconography of their brand packaging in 2015 when they launched Love and Kissing dispensers as part of their PEZemojis launch. Accompanied by Happy, LOLing and Silly PEZ, “these initial five designs created a widely appealing assortment for our customers,” said Amy M. Kopchak, PEZ’s Director of Marketing. The designs were created by PEZ and were hugely successful, rivaling popular licenses in terms of sales. Though PEZ has had traditional heart dispensers for Valentine’s Day for many years, for 2017’s celebration, PEZ added the “Love” and “Kissing” in a PEZemojis Twin Pack. “We thought it was a nice update for the holiday to keep PEZ relevant and fun,” said Kopchak. “It is offered in a small giftable box for your special someone.”
So-Mine, experts in product development and consumer marketing, created a reusable sandwich bag with a smiling emoji with two eye-popping hearts-as-eyes among other emoji featured on the bag. “We wanted to incorporate ‘love’ in our So-Mine reusable sandwich bags so that moms share their love for their children when school lunches are packed, said So-Mine Owner, Shannon Blake. “The heart eyes [emoji] is a great symbol of that love without having to write a special note every day.”
The trend may have gotten started last summer when Pepsi launched “PepsiMojis” which featured hundreds of emoji designs for cans and bottles distributed through local and global markets. Though not specific for Valentine’s Day or the visual iconography of hearts, these emojis define the ability of emojis to cross cultural barriers in a kind of universal language of symbology. Valentine’s Day, the heart as meaningful symbol of love – and brand packaging – may never be the same.