It’s hard to resist inserting these cute pictorial characters into everything, including marketing materials. They help to convey tone of voice, and add a touch of personality, but they’ve also landed a lot of brands in seriously hot water.

Here are 7 things to consider before you inject emojis into your marketing materials:

1. Provide the context for your message

Emojis can be a great addition to your message, but they don’t guarantee that someone will understand the “why” or “how” of what you’re saying. Consider how much more confused you’d be if your co-worker replied to an open-ended email simply with “🙂”. Don’t put your customers in the same position. Sometimes it’s best to restate the obvious and provide more details.

2. Use them appropriately

Too often, emojis are used as an easy way out of a difficult conversation. While they can help to soften a “no” or inject humour into a tense situation, be careful when responding to a customer’s comment on social media. Your customer could misinterpret your emoji’s casual tone as uncaring or worse – as sarcastic – when addressing what they consider to be a serious subject.

3. Choose your emojis wisely

With thousands of emojis to choose from, it’s best to keep it simple. You wouldn’t want your good intentions to be misunderstood or to be viewed as too presumptuous or rude. It’s worth noting that while emojis might appear innocent, certains ones are riddled with subtext, innuendo and double meanings. Stay on the side of caution and choose emojis that aren’t open to interpretation.

4. Beware of the legalities 🔎

Although no one can own the symbol itself, they can own their illustration of that symbol. This means that emoji illustrations are actually copyright protected. If you plan on using emojis for advertising, be sure to have them custom created by your agency or graphic designer.

Too often, emojis are used as an easy way out of a difficult conversation.

5. Make it memorable 👌

Choosing an emoji that’s unique is a good way to be distinctive, depending on the medium and your message. Brands such as L’Oreal and Ikea have created their own emoji keyboards for use on messenger, text and social. Before investing in this tactic, just be sure that it’s authentic to your brand.

6. Know your target audience

As any good marketer would do, you need to consider your target audience. Would they download and use an emoji keyboard? According to Sprout Social, 60% of women use emojis frequently compared with just 41% of men. The good news is that both the majority of men and women believe that emojis are a better way to express their emotions than words. The bad news is that some stellar brands such as Goldman Sachs have been publicly criticized for using them to excess or inappropriately. Brands should test to see what resonates with your best customers.

7. Be true to your brand’s voice

Emojis are effective in boosting engagement on social media, as they emotionally connect in a playful manner. When a baby smiles at you, it’s impossible not to smile back. But your brand isn’t a baby. As a brand steward, you need to consider whether emojis are the right fit for your brand’s personality and tone of voice.

In marketing your business, the biggest consideration for emoji use is whether it’s the right time, right place and right message for your audience.

Rational IconThis image shows an example of how emojis may be misinterpreted, depending on the recipient. It’s important to consider your target and the context of your message.