“The limits of my language are the limits of my world”
So wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein. But as seminal a philosopher as he may have been, Wittgenstein never had to grapple with an emoji.
These fun little text pictures have been spreading across the internet like wildfire.
Fancy a beer? Use an emoji. Wish to vent your displeasure with the state of London’s transport infrastructure? There’s an emoji. Perhaps you want to express your love for someone but can’t quite find the words? Thankfully there’s an emoji.
Communications people spend their lives trying to get complex messages across in simple ways.
So it’s not that much of a surprise to see Chevrolet taking the plunge and announcing the launch of their new car in emoji form.
Their press release, justified by the statement that the car cannot be described by “words alone”, has attracted lots of attention – admittedly both positive and negative.
At first glance, it looks like a digital version of the Rosetta Stone - a strange 21st century corporate echo of ancient Egypt.
Perhaps language is coming full circle, and we’re entering the second great age of the hieroglyphic.
Chevrolet eventually published a crib-sheet to sit beside the release, rather ruining the fun for everyone.
But should they have bothered? The beauty of the glyph is that - from Armenia to Zambia - simple pictures can be interpreted by anybody, regardless of their mother tongue.
What does this mean for the future of the humble press release?
Admittedly, the language of pictures isn’t best suited to getting across financial data or responding to sensitive situations.
But in the crowded consumer arena, PR is increasingly a visual game. A good emoji – like a good hashtag or Instagram pic – can be a way to inch marginally ahead.
Nobody will complain if pictures and symbols replace regurgitated corporate speak. Chevrolet, for instance, still describes products having “design that makes the heart beat”. Urghh.
But, most of the time it’s still as important as ever to write clear and accurate English (or German, Spanish, Japanese, French…)
This blog, written in emojis, would have been incomprehensible nonsense.
As Wittgenstein also said: “uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.”