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MUMBAI : I have a sticker that says, ‘I don’t even have a sticker that can show my reaction to this’." Devarsh Thaker, 30, uses this as an example of how popular stickers have become in online conversations. Thaker leads marketing at FamPay, a teen UPI payment app. The fintech firm has put two people in charge of making stickers to engage with its 90,000-member community of teenagers on Discord, an instant messaging social platform popular with the Gen Z cohort.

“Our research tells us that Gen Z, our prime target audience, loves to communicate via stickers because it allows them to express themselves without having to say a lot," he said. “We offer sticker packs to users in giveaway contests. Stickers then become a bait to get them to do something, like exploring our new product," he added.

Brands that want to look younger tend to use stickers for marketing and communication activities.
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Brands that want to look younger tend to use stickers for marketing and communication activities.

Stickers are static or animated cartoonish visuals similar to GIFs but in smaller file sizes, so they take very little space in your phone memory and get saved in the stickers library within the messaging app, making it easier to look for them during a conversation. Unlike GIFs, which are mostly rectangular, stickers are available in different shapes.

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Over the last year-and-a-half, stickers have emerged as an essential marketing tool for advertisers eager to be a part of our daily conversations as more people, especially zoomers, use them to communicate on messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Discord, and Telegram.

Brands pay anywhere between 10 lakh and 50 lakh to specialists that design and promote branded stickers to an audience that is accustomed to chatting using stickers.

“Stickers have become a means to place brands in conversations in a non-intrusive way," said Ankit Prasad, founder and chief executive officer of Bobble AI, a conversation media platform whose keyboard application provides customized stickers to the 22 million real-time active users it claims to have.

“Close to 100 brands, including the likes of ITC and Mondelez and many sponsors of major cricket tournaments, have created sticker packs with us in recent times," Prasad added.

Brands that want to look younger tend to use stickers for marketing and communication activities, said Harshil Karia, founder of Schbang, a digital agency.

Some of his traditional clients have asked to make sticker packs for their sales professionals to use in internal chats, too, he added. “We’ve also built custom stickers for people at Schbang to interact with each other."

“Brands like Zomato also use stickers in place of emojis now while creating promotional campaigns featuring a mock chat’s screenshot," said Suyash Agarwal, a 22-year-old from Kolkata who works as an assistant creative producer at a content firm. Agarwal is famous in his social circle for his sticker library and struggles to have conversations on platforms where one cannot use stickers.

Sticker.ly, a top sticker-making and discovery app from Korea’s Snow Inc, counts India among its top three markets, according to Sensor Tower data. Sticker-making apps capturing pop culture nuances in Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu also have a few million installs on Google Play Store. While Sticker.ly has over 100 million downloads, it shows more than a million user reviews for its Android app. “Apps like these don’t get so many reviews, but in this case, the app maker prompts you to watch an ad or leave a review to unlock more sticker packs," said Chinmay Dhumal, a 22-year-old tech writer and vlogger.

“Otherwise, the Gen Z audience believes in doing the bare minimum to get things done and won’t make an effort to type a review for an app," he added.

Popularized by teens, stickers are gaining favour with older demographics, too.

“We would use stickers while giving investors updates on WhatsApp. It piqued their interest, and now they tell us stickers are widely used by their family members as well," said Thaker of FamPay.

However, Karia said a branded sticker pack’s discoverability remains challenging as “most people are still experimenting".

Further, stickers work only for specific brands and in specific contexts where they’re trying to connect with the audience by being funny, entertaining, self-deprecating, or latching onto a pop culture element, said Shagun Ohri, who runs a creative branding firm in Bengaluru called The Satori Studio. “Brands will have to be careful with their sticker campaigns, especially when targeting Gen Z, because they don’t want to see logos in their WhatsApp chats," she added. “The only place Gen Z likes logos is on their sneakers."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shephali Bhatt

"Shephali Bhatt writes human interest stories on the creator economy, internet culture, mental health, media and entertainment. Someone once told her, 'you always do a great job of a story you really care about'. So, she cares. When not writing, she draws venn diagrams of all her life's situations. "
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