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Land of emojis: New company rolls out icons with NM themes

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

A company based in Brooklyn, N.Y., that’s best known for its custom celebrity emojis has turned its attention to … New Mexico?

Emoji Fame recently unveiled a Land of Enchantment-flavored “sticker pack” – a collection of playful digital images that users can send and attach to text messages. The assortment includes chile peppers, luminarias and hot-air balloons. There are also smiley-face Zia symbols and yellow license plates that say things like “Land of Enchiladas” and “Not Even.”

Gavin Rhodes, co-founder of Emoji Fame, wants to promote New Mexico businesses through custom-designed emojis

Gavin Rhodes, co-founder of Emoji Fame, wants to promote New Mexico businesses through custom-designed emojis. (Courtesy of Gavin Rhodes)

Emoji Fame co-founder Gavin Rhodes’ interest in New Mexico makes sense – he grew up in Placitas. But he also sees the state as a possible proving ground for a new business thread.

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Rhodes said the goal is to sell recognizable local companies spots in the New Mexico collection. For example, a local brewery might want to include its logo or a restaurant could insert its most famous dish.

“In a way, it’s like a private chamber of commerce – that’s kind of how I envision it – that’s promoting really cool and iconic New Mexico businesses and at the same time allowing people to have fun with these images,” Rhodes said in a phone interview, even offering a few ideas of the type of businesses that fit his vision.

“I would love to have, like, the Blake’s Lotaburger guy on there; I really want to do a Ron Bell emoji,” he said.

Emoji Fame, now a year old, has worked on emoji lineups for musical artists such as Ziggy Marley and Cypress Hill. Users of the Emoji Fame app, which itself is free, usually spend a dollar or two to gain access to specific artist packs.

But Rhodes said companies and brands likely represent the biggest revenue opportunity.

The New Mexico sticker pack, launched quietly last month and available to users of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, is the first community-centric collection. The stickers will also soon be available as part of the Emoji Fame app for use on Facebook and Twitter, and Rhodes hopes to make it available for Android users later this year.

If it proves successful, Rhodes said, the model could be duplicated elsewhere.

Local marketing professional Len Romano of the Albuquerque branding firm Ripe Inc. is a partner in the venture, Rhodes said, offering a live link to the market. Local businessman and artist Thomas Tomlinson was also instrumental in the New Mexico stickers’ creation.

Romano said he hasn’t actively tried to sell the sticker opportunity to anyone yet; Rhodes said he has not even determined a price range. But Romano said he has shown the stickers to a handful of businesses around town, and they have shown curiosity and enthusiasm. He sees the stickers as a secret language of sorts – a way for New Mexicans to celebrate the people, places and things that make New Mexico unique.

“I think that’s a powerful thing for people, because it gives them an opportunity to communicate in their own way about something they know about, but somebody in the next state across would not have a clue,” he said. “It’s the 505 pride thing, which you know is alive and well.”

Mobile users who have Apple’s iOS 10 operating system on their device can download the sticker pack from this iTunes download page. After downloading, they can find the stickers by clicking the “A” symbol to the left of their text message box.

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