20 April 2023 |

‘Owning’ an emoji


A stupid simple play to keep your brand top of mind on social media

Organic social serves several purposes.

One of them is to keep your brand top of mind for your target consumer. You want your company to be the default when someone in your industry thinks about your product.

Each time your brand pops up in the timeline or the FYP … you reinforce that behavior. Each touchpoint with the customer refreshes that association, and moves the customer closer to a purchase.

A lot of brands rely only on their own posts to make this happen.

Of course, your own content is the foundation. But there’s actually another way to amplify your reach even further. It’s called owning an emoji.

Let’s look at an example.

☕️ The OG emoji owners

Morning Brew is the first brand that comes to mind when I think of ‘owning an emoji.’

They staked their claim on the coffee emoji (☕️) and ran with it.

Pretty much everyone at the company reps in in their Twitter profile…

The founder (though the other one doesn’t, I noticed)…

The employees…

The content creators they’ve signed…

Whenever I see the coffee emoji — I think of Morning Brew.

We applied the same strategy at Triple Whale, staking our claim on the 🐳 emoji.

But why? Let’s dive a little deeper…

The mechanism behind why it works

Again. The main premise behind this is that it keeps your brand top of mind in the people that you’re trying to sell to at some point.

When they see a brand post, an employee post, or even see the emoji ‘in the wild’ in an unrelated context — your brand comes to mind for a brief second.

It seems minor, but each of those touchpoints is reinforcing your brand’s presence in the mind of your customer.

So when they need a product in your category — your brand should be the first that comes to mind.

Get the most out of personal branding

Brand accounts don’t hold the same weight that they used to. Your customers want to engage with people.

And having employees associated with your company be active in the communities you are trying to reach is one of the most powerful ways to use social.

A strong employee ‘personal brand’ in combination with compelling content from the brand account is how you win on social media as a startup in 2023.

Owning an emoji, and encouraging your team to use it in their name + bio, is a way to make sure your personal branding + employee advocacy (or whatever you wanna call it … employee advocacy sounds corporate af) strategy is being maximized.

Your team’s accounts become extensions of the brand account. It’s powerful.

Status symbol for employees

Something funny happens as your brand grows.

You go from badgering your team to put the damn emoji in their Twitter name to having people excited to rep the brand publicly. People want to be publicly associated with your brand. The emoji transforms into a status symbol.

This happened as Triple Whale rapidly gained traction. And I’d imagine this is what happened when Morning Brew really started to take off.

It becomes a virtuous cycle. Your team wants to rep the emoji and show public association with the brand. Your brand gets more visibility on social media.

On and on and on.

See how it works?

Now let’s talk about another derivative of ‘owning an emoji.’

Sneak into your customers’ minds

Another thing that will start to happen is that your brand will start to pop into your customer’s mind when they see the emoji — even if it’s not in the context of a brand post or employee content.

Like if I saw a whale emoji randomly, Triple Whale might cross my mind for a brief second.

Again, seems minor. But over time, all of these super quick touchpoints add up.

See how it works?

Now, the most important part of this breakdown…

How do you pick your emoji?

First, let’s clear something up.

Not every brand needs to do this. It’s not something that will ‘make or break’ an entire social presence. But in my opinion, if there is an obvious option for your brand it’s worth experimenting with.

When you pick an emoji, it needs to be obviously associated with your brand. Like I just said, think of Morning Brew and ☕️ or Triple Whale and 🐳.

Your emoji should also be unique enough to stand out. My friend Zach Pogrob, who’s using this strategy to perfection right now, said it well here:

He’s speaking in the context of claiming a ‘word’ here (his brand’s catchphrase is ‘follow obsession’) but the same applies to picking an emoji.

(He also picked an emoji to own 🏴🏴🏴)

You need to find something unique enough that people are going to associate it with your brand.

For example, if you tried to own the 😂 emoji… you’ll probably have a tough time.

Triple Whale executed this well with 🐳. It’s a common enough emoji that it’s recognizable, but specific enough that our target audience associates it with us.

Another thing to remember here is that you don’t need to reach everyone with this strategy. It only matters if your target customer or people in your niche associate the emoji with your brand.

I wouldn’t care if someone outside of eCommerce didn’t associate the 🐳 with Triple Whale.

And I don’t care if someone who isn’t a social media marketer or startup founder doesn’t think of Social Files when they see the 🗃 emoji.

Once you pick your emoji, add it to your brand name across all of your social channels:

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • LinkedIn

Anywhere your brand is active. You want to reinforce the emoji association wherever possible.

Then, address the team profiles. My take is that you should encourage (not force) your team members to add the emoji to their names on social wherever they use social for business purposes.

For example, during my time at Triple Whale, I added the 🐳 emoji to my Twitter… but never to my personal Instagram.

I know it seems simple. But you never know lol. Worth pointing out.

Once it’s all locked in, it’s kinda ‘set it and forget it.’ As your brand account and your team start to post more content, the emoji will get in front of more people and that association will form.

Perhaps consider working the emoji into your content as well to more explicitly reinforce the connection between your brand and the emoji. Here’s an example of what I mean:

So pick an emoji. Run with it. And over time, after enough repetition, you’ll truly ‘own’ it in the mind of your target audience.

Make sense?


Taking all of what we just talked about and putting it into a few bullet points:

✅ Pick an emoji

✅ Add it to your brand account name across channels

✅ Encourage your employees to add it to their profiles wherever they are active for business purposes

✅ Post as usual, watch this strategy start to compound and work in the background

And of course, put the time and effort into creating quality content, creating community, and making your brand (and emoji of choice) one that people want to associate with.


That’s all I’ve got today.