Emoji for Everyone, Especially Your Members

Emoji just for sonographers? Yes, they’re a thing, courtesy of the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Its “sonomoji” connect members, boost engagement, and drive nondues revenue. What would your members’ emoji look like?

Emoji have become a ubiquitous form of communication and expression in the digital age. From texting to instant messaging to emailing, emoticons pop up almost everywhere in type or text conversation.

But the Society Diagnostic Medical Sonography saw (or perhaps smelled or stepped in) one particular emoji—the irreverent, smiling pile of poo—that sparked a new theme for its Medical Ultrasound Awareness Month (MUAM).

I’ll let Kelly Stafford, CAE, chief marketing officer at SDMS, explain.

“In the process of trying to come up with our new theme, one of my graphic designers came to me and said, ‘I would really like to turn the poo emoji into a swirl of ultrasound gel.’ And I thought, that is hilarious, but there’s no way I can go to my CEO and say, ‘Guess what this year’s MUAM theme is going to be?’”

That doesn’t mean she scrapped the idea.

“I thought, what if I had a whole series of emoji that related to members? And maybe I could just hide the poo gel emoji in the middle. That’s when I went back to my designer, and I could see the wheels [in his head] turning,” she says.

She worked with her designer to design several more emoji specific to the SDMS community, including emoticons depicting medical scrubs, an ultrasound machine, and a smiley-faced sonographer wearing sunglasses.

Once they devised the series, Stafford pitched the idea to her CEO. “He thought it was hilarious and fabulous, and he took it one step further,” she says. “In addition to using it for marketing and merchandise, he said, ‘Well, what about an actual sticker pack for the app store?’”

The stickers are available for download in the Apple app store for 99 cents. Beyond adding a fun new way for sonographers to communicate via text, each download does some good: Proceeds from sticker sales support the SDMS Foundation.

The sonomoji product is just one example of creative ideas that SDMS has incorporated into its annual professional awareness month. After about $2,100 in email and social media marketing costs, the “Sonomoji: Express Yourself” campaign delivered a 1,091 percent return on investment, Stafford says, with thousands of reactions and hundreds of shares and comments on social media platforms.

This interactive timeline shows how the organization’s campaign themes have changed over time. Until 2013, the campaign had a more serious tone. Under Stafford’s direction, campaigns are now injected with fun, creativity, and inspiration from popular culture.

For example, in 2014, tapping into the enthusiasm for the Marvel movie universe, SDMS illustrated a comic book and video that portrayed sonographers as superheroes:

While each year’s theme is different, Stafford says, the creative concepts are meant to be evergreen, and often they are developed into products that can serve as a source of nondues revenue. Last year’s MUAM campaign generated almost $25,000 in merchandise and product sales, including the sale of sonomoji tote bags, socks, buttons, and t-shirts.

“These products have become a significant source of revenue,” Stafford says. “It’s also a way for our members to have fun and relate to each other. I really think that’s why the sonomojis are so popular. It’s because everyone wants to feel special and speak a language that the common person wouldn’t otherwise understand.”

How have you injected fun into a campaign for or about your members? What kind of success did it see? Post your comments in the thread below.

(courtesy of SDMS)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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