50 years of the Smiley model

When Franklin Loufrani marked the iconic symbol for smiling faces in 1971, he coined the term “smiley face”. Over the next five decades, The Smiley Company has grown into a global licensed lifestyle brand with a defiantly optimistic outlook.

A simple mantra gave birth to the brand: "Take your time to smile". "Back then, this was meant in the simplest sense," explains Nicolas Loufrani, who has steered The Smiley Company's second half of the trip to date after taking over the helm from his father in the 1990s. "It was about smiling at easy, funny stories."

Of course the internet is now full of such things, and Smiley has found a deeper purpose behind his longstanding quest to spread the good news: "It's a more complicated world and the media is full of negative things that polarize us," reflects Loufrani. In addition to Smiley's numerous brand licensing activities, the "Smiley Movement" advocates a different type of story – real people who make a meaningful difference in the nonprofit space.

With the introduction of the vaccine as the foundation for a return to normal by 2022, Loufrani believes there is no better time for Smiley to revitalize his founding mantra with a modern twist. "The whole world wants to smile again," he says. "This is a golden opportunity for brands to get that message across at this moment in history."

As part of its 50-year plan, Smiley's goal is to convey even better-known brand collaborations. In the coming weeks, Creative Review will be working with five different artists and illustrators to explore the creative potential of Smiley at the heart of a campaign. Here is the story of the Smiley brand so far …

1970s: A sign of possibility and promise

Smiley appeared on the cover of France-Soir in 1972 as a symbol of good news

Towards the end of the Vietnam War, the global mood was grim and gloomy. The world needed a shot of positivity to counter dystopian visions of the future.

In 1972, Smiley made its debut as a brand to promote good news in France-Soir, the French newspaper where Franklin Loufrani worked. The “Take your time to smile” campaign spread across Europe in the Netherlands, Germany and Spain and brought a positive atmosphere to the De Telegraaf, Blick and La Vanguardia websites.

"At the time everyone was wearing a three-piece suit and tie, and the newspapers were pretty serious," says Loufrani. "The yellow smiley was the first time France-Soir brought color to the front: everything else was black and white."

Smiley's brand partnerships in the 1970s were simple, charming affairs – like a series of ads for a supermarket that brought a smile to the product this week.

1980s: Get Us On The Dance Floor Together

"Beat Dis" from Bomb the Bass features the blood-splattered smiley from Watchmen

As Cold War tensions escalated and disgruntled workers protested, a new generation pulled together to shape the subversive underground culture. Smiley's influence grew particularly in the rave scene.

“In the early 80s, in the UK at least, going out was about finding a way to fight. There was a lot of hooligan violence, ”recalls Loufrani. “House music changed the way people danced. It brought people back together on the dance floor. "

During this time, the smiley face logo became a ubiquitous symbol of happiness in musical culture – on flyers, t-shirts, clothing, badges, and more. This connection with togetherness, joy and determination has given the brand a lot of justice and goodwill.

1990s: Introduction of SMILEY EMOTICONS to the world

Smiley's first appearance on a mobile phone licensed to Alcatel in 1996

In the relative calm of the 90s, Smiley had less of a foreboding atmosphere than it had in the past two decades. When Nicolas Loufrani took over the helm of The Smiley Company, he reinvigorated the brand by taking it in an entirely new direction.

"What I did was against the marketing manual," he says. “When you take over a brand these days, you are returning to its roots and staying true to its origins. I wanted to go in a completely new direction by making lots of logos – lots of smileys – to explore different emotions. “In 1997, Smiley marked his own influential graphic emoticons.

By adding accessories, smileys emoticons expanded the brand into different categories such as nature or sports and represented different nations. In the late 1990s, this newfound energy and versatility caught the attention of a diverse mix of partners such as Deutsche Telekom, Fujifilm and 7-Eleven.

2000s: birth of a universal language

Smiley's brand partnership with Renault promised that your vacation would be “smiling”.

As digital connectivity advanced rapidly, the tremendous potential of emoticons as a means of communication became apparent – and in 2001, Smiley played a key role in the growth of emoji culture by creating the Smiley Dictionary, which was designed to demonstrate how these playful symbols were used Help us capture our emotions through text.

The Smiley website at the time heralded the “birth of a universal language”. "We have set up a vision for the future in which the whole world communicates with smileys," says Loufrani. "It was wishful thinking back then, but it came true."

As instant messaging apps, email, and then social media took off, emojis were adopted and reinterpreted by technology giants around the world. By the end of the decade, most of us had a smartphone in our pockets – and Loufrani's vision of a truly universal language had come true.


Smiley was seen at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony

After moving into the global limelight with a billion-dollar audience at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Smiley found its feet as a licensed lifestyle brand over the next decade. The top-class fashion partnerships range from streetwear brands such as Chinatown Market to luxury boutiques such as Loewe and Moschino. However, the brand can span many different industries – as evidenced by the diverse partnerships with Vittel, Lynx, Cadbury and McDonald & # 39; s.

"We were very careful not to put everything on," added Loufrani. "Whether it's products, social campaigns, events, or in-store activations, we've kept it creative, interesting, and sophisticated. We want to be more than just a logo to smack something."

Smiley collaborations with Loewe, Moschino, Chinatown Market and Vittel

Loufrani describes Smiley as a "turnkey" option for a partner to leverage their long-term brand equity and add a touch of positivity, optimism and emotional intelligence to a campaign. “Every collaboration starts with a blank sheet of paper,” he adds.

As part of the 50th anniversary in 2022, Smiley will revive its original mantra “Take the Time to Smile” through a wide range of different brand collaborations – from exhibitions to custom music tracks to immersive experiences. "50 is a magic number," concludes Loufrani. "There is a real halo effect that a brand can benefit from."

To discuss a potential brand partnership with Smiley, contact Matt at matt@smiley.com.
Visit smiley.com for more information