Interview with Michael Africk, CEO and co-founder of branded emoji company, Inmoji

Interview with Michael Africk, CEO and co-founder of branded emoji company, Inmoji

Marketers are a creative bunch and as ad saturation continues to be a real issue, finding new outlets to market to consumers is a must. Not only must these marketing techniques be unique and stand out, but they also need to be present in the right places, at the right time. Where better than in your consumers’ hands, directly on their phones?

We’re talking about messaging apps. Having already overtaken social media in monthly active users globally, messaging apps are here to stay and typically will be your main line of communication with many of the people you interact with on a regular basis. With messaging apps comes something we’re all guilty of doing – using an overabundance of emojis and stickers in our conversations. We convey almost every emotion through the use of this little digital icons and pictures, and who can you blame, their fun, creative, and typically can express exactly what you’re trying to convey.

This is where Inmoji comes in.

Inmoji provides clickable, branded emojis that users can share with anyone, but the best part is that these emojis have actual utility. Plan coffee dates, share music, or discuss movie showtimes all without have to go into Google, pull links, and copy them over to your conversation. For brands, this new advertising stream puts their products and services into the hands of millions upon millions of consumers and works with huge amounts of popular messaging apps, including Facebook Messenger, Kik, and Line. Inmoji has made it extremely easy to setup campaigns, as well, thanks to their new self-serve platform.

The future of emoji marketing is wide open, with almost limitless potential, and who better to discuss this future with than Michael Africk, CEO and co-founder of Inmoji. I recently had the chance to talk to him a bit about this growing emoji marketing, the potential behind it, and what inspired the creation of the company. You can find the interview below!

You’re obviously pretty confident in the future of emoji marketing, where do you see it going in the next 6 months? What about the next year?

We think this is just the beginning of emoji-powered marketing. This space is white hot and has everyone’s attention. Big brands are also asking internally “what is our strategy for marketing in the messaging space? And even more so, what is our emoji strategy?”

It’s our belief at Inmoji that it’s all about the click. Of course emojis and stickers give you a nice impression bump, but that’s not really enough. Brands want more and deserve more. Ultimately every brand hopes that ad impressions will eventually translate into a user fully engaging with their brand and meeting their KPIs at the time. The future is going to be all about experiences and utility delivered by an icon. Soon emojis will be the trojan horses that start brand conversations.

We want to partner with brands and let users engage with what they want, when they want, and let them opt in and share organically. It is the behavior of sending emoji that is exciting for brands to tap into. Peer-to-peer, one-on-one authentic communication that is genuine and non-intrusive is the way that brands can find their way into the hearts and minds of users and their conversations.

How are adoption rates? Are you seeing a wide variety of businesses interested in marketing through the use of Messenger-style emojis?

More and more brands are contacting us every day, as messaging and its audience are becoming so undeniably important in marketing. Every brand needs to address their messaging strategy because everyone with a smartphone is using a messaging app. No matter what brand you are, you’re guaranteed to find your customers are on these apps. Gone are the days of chatting on the phone or stopping by someone’s home – text is the new talk, and brands need to double down on messaging and understand the habits of their users.

As brands really lean into full-on messaging and emoji marketing strategies, we’re seeing outreach from every walk of life. All we hear is how thrilled our brand partners are that we can take their campaigns and allow the huge messaging user bases to engage with their rich media – the assets they already use for digital and broadcast campaigns can all be accessed through a single click of a branded Inmoji.

How many messaging apps work with Inmoji? Will that number continue to grow? How’re you doing so?

We’ve already got tens of millions of users sharing and receiving Inmojis across platforms like ooVoo, Badoo, and Tango, with many more to come. We have been leading the way in this space for three years now by building great relationships and working with messaging platforms to integrate our technology. We also tailor specific solutions for each of our partners, giving us this ability to scale rapidly.

We have been patient with those apps that have not been ready to integrate with us yet and in the meantime have built strong partnerships with those that have. No one in this space has the level of usage we have or delivers the type of metrics we do.

What inspired the creation of Inmoji? What was the “aha!” moment that made you realize there was true potential for branded, organic advertising through messaging apps?

My co-founder Perry Tell and I have been in the mobile space for a while, previously founding a startup that distributed mobile content like wallpapers, ringtones and videos. We saw first hand the birth and maturation of the mobile content marketplace.. We witnessed how this content started out as paid and then eventually went to freemium and finally to brand-sponsored. This is exactly what has been happening with emoji/stickers. The “aha” moment hit us 4 years ago, was when we conceptualized that clickable icons could fit into the messaging stream.

The genuine nature of a click by a user in a real conversation and the treasure trove of data we could source from those user interactions was incredibly exciting. The quality of that data and the fact that we could access data that no one else in the space would be, and has become, an incredibly unique differentiator. Every single campaign, every single Inmoji, and every single click puts us further and further ahead of any would-be competitor.

We knew that we could be completely non-intrusive and deliver amazing experiences that delighted users, while still collecting meaningful and rich data sets. Brands will love what they learn with us and will be able to use those findings to refine their campaigns to be more resonant and have better results.

Finally, messaging apps integrating Inmoji are able to monetize their users while providing a great experience with clickable icons, without creating attrition or rejection issues along the way. It’s a win-win for everybody involved, making money for advertisers and partners while also giving users a comprehensive, enjoyable experience without ever leaving the app. We knew this was a huge opportunity for brands, apps and their dedicated messaging fans. 2017 is going to be a really exciting year for us.

Inmoji was founded in May of 2014 and has currently raised over $9 million in equity funding. I’d like to thank Michael for taking the time to answer some of my questions.

As clickable emoji campaigns and companies continue to rise, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Will it remain organic and helpful, being utilized when and where it is needed, or does it risk the chance of over-saturating and annoying mobile messaging users? What do you think? Leave a comment below and let me know!

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.

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