Five Forces Driving The Explosion Of Stickers

The word “stickers” comes up a lot in conversation these days. You’ve seen it, too, on the blogs and on Twitter. Apparently, Line started this whole craze as they book tens of millions of dollars per quarter by selling stickers on mobile apps. PER QUARTER. For virtual goods on a mobile platform, the scale is just tremendous. Combine this with the brand symbolism and how display ads may be more engaging than text (especially for younger crowds) and you have a potent mix of revenue, so much so that incumbents like Facebook and startups like Path, MessageMe, and many other messaging apps have glommed onto the trend. As with anything that seems to explode right under our noses (like SnapChat, or Bitcoin, etc.), there’s a chorus of people who dismiss the idea as small or insignificant. To play devil’s advocate to that perspective, here are a few ways to think about Stickers and what they mean, and why they’re important:

  1. Think of stickers as fonts. People spend real money on fonts. For years. Stickers are essentially a font with a wider range.
  2. People don’t want to keep typing on phones. Like pictures, stickers can help express moods and interests. Just like SnapChat made the picture the medium (over say, just an SMS), stickers have a similar effect.
  3. Media brands will eat up stickers. Path just released stickers for the hit TV show “Breaking Bad.” You can bet hits like “The Hunger Games” and more will be coming. Media properties want to earn more royalties on licenses, and apps with the right audiences become easy distribution. Here, the show wins, Path wins, and if it’s users like it, users win. Even my homie Snoop Lion is getting deeper into stickers with Snoopify, recently releasing a $99 “Golden Joint” sticker. Haha! And people buy it! In the same way that we all saw Angry Birds merchandise in real life, I think we’ll see all sorts of stickers inside our apps. The stickers are also ads, which come with better trackable metrics on mobile. Double-boom!
  4. Pressure on consumer mobile monetization. The rare apps that can offer subscription or premium services don’t have to worry about this pressure, but the rest of them need to show evidence of some kind of transactional model and revenue. Selling a virtual good is easy to book (especially inside iOS) as it’s directly billed through iTunes and takes only a few taps.
  5. Kids used to collect stickers in real life. I don’t know about you, but I had a little sticker book growing up. Pretty much every kid I knew then did, too. We traded them. We wanted new ones. We collected them. Now in retrospect, it’s all obvious, this is an engrained behavior kids, very universal, and something they can identify with. It shouldn’t be surprising it’s succeeding with the youth and also fun for adults who may have nostalgia for stickers tucked away in the recess of their memories.