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BizReport : Social Marketing : February 27, 2007

MilkPEP introduces world's first branded emoticon

The world’s first branded emoticon has made its debut in the online lexicon in an attempt to connect with teen audiences.

by Helen Leggatt

The Milk Processor Education Program, or MilkPEP, has added a branded emoticon to its new media strategy. Based on a variation of the familiar smiley :-) the new emoticon features the iconic “milk mustache” represented by the addition of “{“.

“We want kids to use it as shorthand when talking about the campaign online,” Sal Taibi, president of Lowe, MilkPEP’s New York agency.

The introduction of :-{) is part of MilkPEP’s recent teen-oriented campaign which includes pages on MySpace featuring celebrities, such as Beyonce and David Beckham. They are rumoured to have seeded the new emoticon in a recent Vince Carter YouTube video. Lowe’s Taibi believes that the targeting of teens online has, in part, contributed to the 1.2 percent increase in sales during 2006.

To further embed the new emoticon in the minds of its target audience, MilkPEP incorporate it into communications such as email alerts. “We also use it in our websites as a way for teens to communicate with us,” said Taibi. “In the next phase, we plan to use it as a way for kids to enter a contest. As it grows, we probably will use it as an ad.”

Whether teens will start substituting the emoticon for “Got Milk?” remains to be seen. S. Shyam Sundar, associate professor and co-director at Pennsylvania State University's Media Effects Research Laboratory, isn’t hopeful. "I don't see the milk mustache being a nonverbal signal for anything," he said (via Perhaps more tellingly he added that "It's not in the control of the ad agency,” indicating that teens may well use the emoticon to denote meanings other than those that MilkPEP had originally intended.

Tags: branding, emoticon, instant messaging, online targeting, social marketing, teens, texting, YouTube

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