If you want to connect with Millennials, you have to speak their language. For Coca-Cola Puerto Rico, that means communicating through emojis. An emoji is a small digital image, such as a smiley face, used to express emotions or thoughts in place of words in a text message and/or social post.

In January, Coke Puerto Rico launched Emoticoke.com—a new landing page consumers can access by simply typing an emoji. When users enter “www.[insertemoji].ws”, the revamped homepage instantly appears.

Connecting the Dots

Before launching the campaign, the Puerto Rico team racked their brains for a way to reengage Puerto Rican Millennials and connect them to relevant content on the local Coca-Cola site. After digging through research, the team discovered a trend— when Millennials text and communicate via social media they use emojis instead of words to express emotions.

That’s when the light bulb went off, says Brand Manager Andrea Puig. Coca-Cola is widely known as a universal icon of happiness, so why not connect it to universal symbols of happiness— emojis.

emoji billboard

“When it comes to teens, you have to make yourself relevant in their world," Puig says. "Using emojis shows that we’re making a genuine effort to bring them relevant content through our brands... and it’s working.”

Since launching, traffic to the site is up 600 percent.Puig attributes the spike to billboards.

Spreading the Word

Wait...billboards? It may not sound like the right fit to promote a digital campaign, but the numbers prove otherwise. These beacons of happiness are the only type of paid media executed. YouTube videos were created but not promoted through paid media. In fact, the Emoticoke campaign is not using any form of paid digital promotion. Aside from the obvious fascination with how in the world an emoji is used in a URL, the smiling billboards have caused quite a media buzz. 

“Honestly, we did not expect it to be this big and to gain this much attention not only locally, but globally,” says Puig referring to attention from media sources like Adweek and Mashable. "The idea has far exceeded our expectations." 

Emojis in URLs... Really?

Going back to the burning question... just how did Coca-Cola create URLs with emojis? Puig credits the Coke Puerto Rico digital team, who did research to not only configure the unique URLs but also to create the advertising to promote them.

Emojis are registered trademarks that cannot be used outside the Internet. The team worked around this roadblock by creating emoji images with slight differences that make them legally "different enough" to use for brand advertisement (for, you guessed it, billboards).

The Emoticoke webpage launched on Jan. 20. Since the launch, almost 90% of the visits to their local site have come via Emoticoke. But Emoticoke isn't the only site now fitted with an emoji based URL. Coca-Cola Puerto Rico granted the first 100 registered users on Emoticoke a personalized emoji domain. Most of these domains link to their personal Facebook profiles.

Think Big, Do Big

The idea to engage with Millennial consumers in a way that is uniquely 'theirs' started out as just that... an idea. 

That's the biggest takeaway from the campaign's success, Puig says, to "explore the simple ideas that come to mind." As seen with Emoticoke, "Simple ideas can be powerful and rolled out into something great."

[Insert :D emoji here]