Invasion of the UTF-8 Icons

Marketing Social Media

Alright, who told marketing directors about UTF-8 icons? C’mon, confess.

It’s OK. I know it was an innocent aside when you were talking tech speak that revealed a whole new world to decision-makers who previously thought only text could be used among the likes of social media, emails subjects, and rich text editors.

A Little Extra Somethin’ Somethin’

To anyone who codes for the web on a daily basis this is likely nothing new. The various scripts that languages across the world need to communicate drove us to the UTF-8 standard. Among the swooshes, dots, and squiggly’s that make up Earth’s ABC’s are also other methods of communication: icons. Like pictograms scrawled onto cave walls, these graphical representations that convey meaning are part of UTF-8 and are already popping up in a subject line near you. Example UTF-8 icons.

Case In Point

We all get spam email wherein senders try to get your attention with the promise of riches, sales, or personal enhancement. Those subject lines are also sometimes littered with dashes, tildes, pound signs and more to help them stand out from the pile of other message in your inbox. Now, it seems, it’s time for “legit” marketing to employ more spam-like text techniques. Though I opt-in to very few business marketing email lists I noticed one go from simple text subjects to including UTF-8 icons from one day to the next.

Check it out:

In the above screenshot, iOS 6 even went ahead  and automatically subbed out the UTF-8  jet icon for their own graphical jet icon.

I’d say Expedia’s use of the numeric circles and jet icons isn’t too spammy since the meaning behind them that matches the point of the email. It sure got my attention though — enough to prompt me writing this blog post! Here’s an example I just sent to myself:

Get’s pretty messy looking with iOS deciding to swap in graphics for some, but not all, of the UTF-8 icons i used.

Tell Me How

Anyone can use resources like the link above (or a bookmarklet like TwitterKeys) to simply copy and paste UTF-8 icons into your social media posts, email subjects, and more. As long as the website and your browser or email app adheres to the UTF-8 standard your icons will show through. But, please, use them wisely. 😉

How have you used (or abused) UTF-8 icons at work or otherwise?

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