Earlier this year, Facebook invited users into a world beyond the “like” button via an expanded array of emojis. The new Facebook Reactions are the result of over a year of global research to develop icons that work effectively across a wide range of cultures, resulting in six new expressions: love, haha, yay, wow, sad, and angry:
The addition of these new emojis raises questions for Facebook advertisers: What does it mean when a consumer “yays” or “sad faces” your sponsored post? How do brands most effectively engage with customers through expressions rather than words? The expanded set of reactions raise even more potentially complicated issues for pharmaceutical advertisers who must navigate complex legal, medical, and regulatory norms in the rapidly evolving world of digital advertising.
Does this new phenomenon mean pharmaceutical advertisers have even more reason to stay far, far away from Facebook? Perhaps, but there are equally compelling reasons to engage with consumers on a more emotional level. Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow points out that great advertising has always “circumvented the rational parts of our brains by relying on visual images to conjure up emotions". Emotional experience accounts for almost half of customer loyalty to a brand, according to Forrester Research. Emoji reactions also provide rich data about consumer response, providing the opportunity to understand not just emotional responses, but the drivers of these consumer emotions.
Pharmaceutical marketers are unlikely to be embark on “emoji-filled campaigns” in the near future given the nature of their products. Migraine pills and asthma inhalers don’t necessarily lend themselves to customized emojis in the same way that new chip flavors and artisanal beers do. Nevertheless, if we can give one piece of advice to pharmaceutical advertisers, it is this: Patients are people, too. People who grapple with strong emotions about the medical conditions that affect them.
Patients suffering from a medical condition might respond emotionally to your products. Let them. Combining “facts with emotion” to engage customers on an emotional level is the next generation of marketing.