Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Reto Felix

Second Advisor

Dr. Pramod Iyer

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael S. Minor


Consumers and social media marketers have over 3,000 emojis at their fingertips. Despite the popularity of emojis on social media, marketing research on emojis remains limited. Extant marketing research on emojis that does exist primarily focuses on the emotional and reinforcement capabilities, a remnant of the limitations of the emoticon ancestor, and largely ignores the additional paralinguistic and rhetorical potential of emojis. In this dissertation, emojis as a paralanguage are explored with a particular focus on the creation of meaning on social media (Essay 1), and emojis as a full (Essay 2) and partial (Essay 3) substitute for text in marketing communication. Essay 1 is a conceptual piece that examines the perpetual evolution of emoji meaning on social media through the lens of symbolic interactionism and liquid consumption. Essay 2 looks at how consumers evaluate strings of emojis and shows that emoji only communication has a negative (positive) effect on brand attitude via processing fluency (fun) when compared to the equivalent textual translation. Essay 3 focuses on emojis as partial substitutes for promotions on social media (e.g., “buy one get one” becomes “buy ☝ get ☝). This essay demonstrates the positive effect of gesture emojis on promotion evaluation via heightened processing fluency, when compared to object emojis. However, when the message includes haptic imagery, processing fluency and promotion evaluation are similar for gesture and object emojis. Overall, this dissertation explores the paralinguistic and rhetorical potential of emojis in marketing communication and provides insights to marketers that use emojis on social media.


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