China / Society

Emojis gain hearts, business in shy Chinese

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-08-19 10:26

BEIJING - A high school girl became an internet sensation with her drawings of white chubby faces with green sprigs on their heads: they became the emojis of choice for much of the nation and have been sent more than 15 billion times.

Liu Jingjing, now an art student in college, did not imagine that her emoji sketches would become so popular and that she would sign a contract as a cartoonist and now have her own team for support.

In fact, her "Budding Pop" emoji series broke multiple records and were downloaded more than 30 million times within the first month of being sold on the emoji store of WeChat, the instant-messaging app.

"China lacks no imaginative cartoonists, but needs good models to make their work closer to people's hearts and lives," said Wang Biao, founder of Block 12 Culture Communication, the company where Liu now works.

Emojis can be funny, weird or interesting, but the most loved ones are "people oriented" and prove a useful way of communicating, especially for shy and indirect Chinese people.

In China, these emojis are hugely popular on social media platforms, such as the Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, and Wechat.

Wang and his young start-up team have a dream.

"We want to seek touching and heart-wrenching emojis created in China. We are exploring ways to add more value and vitality to China's original cartoon works."

Three years ago, Wang became fascinated by the original Budding Pop images on Weibo. Cartoonist Liu Jingjing was still in her second year of high school, but was quickly gaining fans of her cute images.

"People are keen on the Budding Pop with the sprig on its head. It is not only a lovely emoji, but gives us warm memories companionship," said Wang.

Meanwhile, it accords with the "core secret" of internet images: they must be simple, symbolic, and dynamic, but with varied expressions and gestures.

Chinese people are known for being shy and indirect. Think of the lyrics, "I love you more than I can say." All too often, Chinese find it difficult or even powerless to say things like, "I miss you," "I love you," or even just "thanks."

It is here where emojis are useful; they allow nominally shy Chinese people to better express their feelings and, even better, to do so in a cute way.

Wang sensed an opportunity and decided to employ Liu, setting up a team to support the schoolgirl in improving her design and promoting her emojis across China.

In August 2015, the first series of the Budding Pop emojis were put on the WeChat emoji store. The cute image with a sprig on its head sparked a surge of downloads.

"It's so stunning for the young cartoonist and the team. And it enlightens us, as people cherish a lot of these innocent and lovely emojis," said Xu Ying, COO of Block 12 Culture Communication.

"The company and the business model are effective. We make efforts to promote the emojis through a variety of the internet applications and physical commodities with a brand," she added.

For Xu, Budding Pop and other emojis gained fame due to their simple ways of expressing feelings of happiness, anger, sadness and pleasure.

"Regardless of age and gender, every person has a secret corner deep down in their heart, and the emoji is the 'daily spokesperson' for all of us," Xu said.

For this start-up, the guiding principle is about exploring the core value of emojis and putting them within touch of average people. To date, they have about 20 cartoonists, most of them born in the internet era, so they have a sense of intimacy with the internet.

"Similar to 'Budding Pop,' we are passionate about life and have bigger dreams in the internet era. Our emojis are a people-oriented bridge between hearts," Wang said.

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