Memorability: 2/9 Reasons to use Emoji Domains
When you can remember something, you can pass it on 🗣
As part of the Emoji Domain Primer I write a short paragraph or two on the 9 benefits that I believe give emoji domains value.
In this series I want to expand on and explore each one, opening up the potential value emoji domains might hold as marketing tools for modern businesses.
Part one discussed why being short is such a valuable benefit. In this second part I’ll be discussing the memorability of emoji domains.
This is the London townhouse for the Dukes of Wellington. The official address of this house is 149 Picadilly, London, W1J 7NT but it is affectionately referred to as №1 London since it was the first house passed by visitors who travelled from the country after the toll gates at Knightsbridge.
At 9 years old, when my grandfather told me he would love to live at №1 London I understood why. It’s a cool address. It would be fun to tell people that’s where you live.
I’ve never forgotten about №1 London because it is so simple, short and sweet. It’s impossible to forget.
Having people remember your home address is one thing- you’ll always get your post. But, having someone remember your business address and more pertinently, your online business address has more upside.
The obvious reason to have a memorable domain name is so a potential customer can recall it, say from an advert, and then pass it on to their network who then may become customers. The benefit of memorability is even more appealing when you take into account the power of word-of-mouth marketing. You’re more likely to try a product that a friend suggests than when an advert does. A Nielsen study reports that 92% of consumers,
“trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.”
So, you really want your customers to remember your online business address.
Some of what makes something memorable is how much there is of it. Humans can reliably remember sequences of numbers up to 7. You can test yourself at Human Benchmark to see how well you fare.
But what about words and pictures? Which domain name is easier to remember?
To get some idea, we need to have a basic understanding of how we remember things.
A memory starts with perception. When we remember another person we store various elements about them in different parts of our brain. The hippocampus is responsible for compiling things like the person’s smell, their touch and the sound of their voice for example. Along with the frontal cortex, the hippocampus is also responsible for accessing the worthiness of the memory and then sending the sensory information to different parts of the brain for storage and retrieval.
The memory begins with perception but the process of storage is chemical and electrical. This encoding of information to the brain may only begin when the person is paying attention. There is something to be said of emoji domains that certainly in the short term will cause people to pay attention. I’ll discuss the novelty factor and its window of opportunity in another post but for now it is interesting to note that for something to become memorable, it must catch your attention 👋. Coincidentally, popular marketing automation platform Mailchimp owns 👋.ws
There are three memory stages.
- Sensory memory- A fleeting momentary perception lasting a fraction of a second. Sensory memory allows a visual pattern, a sound or a touch to linger briefly.
- Short-term memory- It can hold about 7 items for no more than 20 to 30 seconds although there are several methods of increasing the time a memory can be stored here.
- Long-term memory- Gradually, information is processed to the long-term memory if it is repeated and used, for example, the finger movements of a practiced guitar solo. People can retain unlimited amounts of information in long-term memory for an indefinite amount of time. However, non-usage may render the memory rusty.
Most people associate the word ‘memory’ with ‘long-term memory’ but experts believe that memories drip through the three memory-making stages.
So how do emoji domains fare up?
- Emoji certainly have a visual pattern. Even though emoji font styles differ between platforms and operating systems, they generally have a unifying look. This is being strengthened by upgrades to either emoji sets- as in the new Google and Samsung emoji fonts that reflect that of Apple’s font- or to individual emoji at the behest of the public, as in the redesign of the paella or burger emoji.
- If short-term memory acceptance is decided by length then at 1 character, emoji domains have a good shot.
- The ubiquity and social acceptance of emoji might suggest a repetitive exposure re-enforcing the memorability of emoji on a longer term basis. Emoji have broken out from the confines of our phones pervading multiple products and industry verticals as marketers latch on to the fondness we have for them. Just as a well known phrase like ‘Retail Therapy’ is better remembered as a domain, so too might an oft used emoji. 🛍
Pictures vs Words
Being extremely short gives emoji domains a distinct advantage of being remembered. But, being short isn’t exclusive to emoji domains.
The thing that is exclusive is that they are pictures. It’s a dramatic departure from what we’re used to and therefore a novelty as they float 🚢 amid a sea of letters.
Interestingly, pictures are also more easily recalled. This phenomenon is one of many cognitive memory biases and is called the Picture Superiority Effect.
This effect is widely accepted and has been demonstrated in numerous studies. What is still debated and therefore unclear is an explanation for it.
A popular theory is Allan Paivio’s dual-coding theory. A memory is encoded and exists verbally and/or imaginally. Images and pictures are encoded both ways and can be retrieved from ‘symbolic mode’ whereas words are only encoded verbally. Pictures are likely to create a verbal label whereas words are unlikely to create an image label.
Paivio’s study found that people remembered words that were more likely to spark ‘concrete’ images. For example, on a list of words it is easier to remember the word ‘cat’ because a mental image is easy to create, as opposed to the word ‘refusal’ because it is a more abstract concept. If this part of the theory were to extend to emoji domains, you might imagine that the noun product emoji domains hold a lot of power. The concrete concept of a ‘watch’ (⌚.ws) is easier to remember than the more abstract concept of ‘Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes’ (😄.ws)
Double character emoji domains exhibit another potentially powerful characteristic. In G.H Bower’s study Mental Imagery And Associative Learning it was discovered that pictures that interact with each other are more easily retained. So, imagine a beer company called Rock Beer. An advert showing a rock breaking a beer bottle would be recalled better than one showing a rock and beer side-by-side.
With the inherent creativity of emoji, double emoji whose two characters interact may prove to be more easily remembered by an audience of potential consumers.
The combinations here are interacting with each other to form a larger concept whether it be electric bicycles, nose rings, flights to Italy, Danish bacon or Brazilian bikinis.
From a later Paivio & Csapo study,
“Moreover, pictures in pairs or groups were better organized in our memory than words thus resulting in superiority in recall.”
Pictures are perceptually more distinct from one another compared to words. This helps memory retrieval, however, when pictures are similar to each other the picture superiority effect is negated. This further reinforces the need for digital marketers not to bleed traffic to similarly looking emoji domains.
A study by Terry L Childers and Michael J Houston has fascinating implications for emoji domains. Titled Conditions For A Picture-Superiority Effect On Consumer Memory and published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Childers & Houston studied 271 subjects on their ability to recall ads.
The study found that images are more easily recalled and are better purposed for “media-paced exposure time”.
“Visual ads seem to require less frequency of exposure than that necessary for verbal ads to achieve the same effect on long-term memory.”
Emoji are native to such media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram that have fast-paced consumer exposure time. It doesn’t take much imagination to consider the potential of an emoji domain in this environment.
When it comes to advertising John R. Rossiter and Larry Percy’s study Advertising Communication Models which set out to determine “the way advertising works” states that,
“The picture is the most important structural element in magazine advertising, for both consumer and business audiences.”
While this study is concerned with advertising that uses pictures, it doesn’t account for the effectiveness of the campaign. Yes, a picture is more memorable but it doesn’t do anything. The picture that is an emoji domain is also the architecture by which you reach an online destination. An interactive, memorable picture that does something. That’s quite a compelling argument for emoji domains as tools in a marketers tool box.