We spoke to the company behind animated Kimojis to find out the secret of Kimoji’s success, what brands need to know about custom keyboards, avatars, and more…
At their developer event this year, Apple jokingly said “the children of tomorrow will have no understanding of the English language.” While they might have been exaggerating, there is no doubt that communication has transformed for young consumers, shifting away from text to photos, videos, and, of course, emojis. As this visual language has skyrocketed in usage, they’ve provided a new pathway for marketers to reach the coveted young consumer audience. As one expert explains, custom emojis are “tiny, adorable commercials.”
Celebrity mogul Kim Kardashian’s custom emoji app Kimoji is the greatest example of the booming emoji business. For those who aren’t familiar, Kimoji is an app of Kim K-themed emojis, stickers, and GIFs that include references to the star’s life, loved ones, and TV show. The wildly popular platform is currently number two on the Entertainment App chart, and continually introduces additional packs of emojis for an increasing number of fans to use in chats and collect. The most recent update included “Kimogifs”: animated Kimojis created with the help of avatar chat platform IMVU, which was approached by Kim and Kanye to create expressive, authentic Kimoji content. Thanks to IMVU’s avatar technology, Kimojis have gone from static to animated. Users can now send moving icons like dancing Kim Kardashian and jump roping Kylie Jenner in their messages, which gyrate (and more) on their screens.
IMVU has 160 million registered accounts on their own platform, an online community that allows users to customize their own avatars, which then interact and chat. Now, they’ve launched a new 3D mobile app and iOS keyboard that allows users to further customize their avatars and create their own animated emoji in their likeness. We spoke to IMVU’s VP of Product Morgan Tucker to find out the secret to Kimoji’s success, what brands should know about custom keyboards and avatars, the future of emojis, and more:
Ypulse: Can you tell us about working on Kimoji, and what attributes you would say a custom keyboard needs to be successful?
Morgan Tucker: Kim was actually extremely hands on and she was without a doubt 100% the creative force behind all the content you see there. One of the things that was very impressive to me is the attention to detail, and the eye for personalization. Every single piece of content that’s in the Kimoji app is very personal to her and Kanye and they really cared about every pixel that went into it, so it was a really exciting artistic process to take part in.
I think the thing that separates the Kimoji keyboard from some of the other celebrity apps that have come out is the really fine grain attention to detail. The other thing is, it’s a relentless effort to cull the content and make sure that it’s still relevant and still on point. We have had several reiterations of some of the phrases that were used and some of the graphics themselves, just because it felt like, “oh that’s not hip anymore, that’s already outdated, that’s old news.” They continue to refine what we were putting in the app, and it happens sort of organically throughout the year. I think making sure you are on top of the trends, that you are paying attention to detail, that you’re being authentic about the voice you are presenting are all extremely important.
YP: It seems like there’s an emoji to express almost anything these days, and more are being continuously added. Do you think emojis are here to stay or are we reaching a saturation point?
MT: I think they’ll grow. I think this has been a natural evolution. Before we had pictograms—to represent things people were using a colon parenthesis to do a smiley face. Then we had emoticons, and then we had emojis, and then we had stickers. You see this rich visual language evolving over time, and IMVU is really one of the next steps in this language, because by nature the content that is being created in our system is all three dimensional, which gives you a much greater degree of range and expression. You can be very cinematic and you can do just about anything you can imagine with these things—there are no limits. I think as people utilize these visual languages more and more, you’re going to really see this evolve and continue to latch on. I heard someone from Facebook say over the next decade they expect there to be nothing but videos on your feed. I think as a culture we are moving towards visual communication as our primary mode of operation.
MT: It’s a constant community and playground. There’s lots of great new content, and one of the aspects is all of the virtual items that users can adorn themselves with are actually created by our users. There’s this limitless stance of content and creativity happening in the community, and so we are trying to create features that harness that and empower that for a user. We are going to continue to deliver things and you can expect to see a lot of work down the 3D sticker path, that’s been a big hit with our users and we have some great plans to expand upon that and again harness the user generated aspect of what we’re doing as well there.
YP: What future trends in social media/mobile platforms are you seeing right now?
MT: What we’ve seen over the years, especially from younger users, is that social media is migrating towards visual communication. So as the applications have caught up with the demand we see whole new visual alphabets being created—Kimoji being one of them—where by sending out a singular picture you are able to communicate in a much more meaningful way than you would with just text.
I think you’ll start to see less and less of the textual representations. One of the things that’s really important with the product that we have today is that is allows for on-the-fly remixing of things, content remixing. That’s one of the themes especially with the younger generation. They may see a clip from a movie that is 30 years old and may not even know what the movie is, but the clip resonates and they slap a meme on top of it and it goes viral. Its reappropriating all of this content that exists in the world and making it their own. Moving forward I see a lot of opportunity to empower every user to be able to be as creative as they want to be. You’ve got to give them tools to be able to express what they’re feeling right at that moment.
YP: What should brands know about avatars / custom avatars?
MT: I think the most important thing when it comes to avatar customization particularly is leaving yourself open to the will and whim of your customers. I think one of the things that we noticed as a trend with our own application is that users start off by creating something that looks very similar to themselves, because that’s a comfortable way to be introduced to customization, and over time they create extraordinary versions of themselves and thingsthat looks nothing like them and are kind of crazy and out of left-field. The idea that you can be whoever or whatever you want to be in the moment is very powerful concept that needs to be harnessed.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited.
Morgan (avatar “MorganCF”) joined IMVU in February of 2012 and quickly ascended through the ranks of design and product management. He has devoted his life to the pursuit of creative excellence, with more than 15 years of experience designing cutting-edge consumer products. Prior to IMVU, Morgan held a series of design management roles and led creative departments to success at startups including WIMM Labs, Roku, Skypop and Akimbo. He is an inventor on multiple design patents.