As stickers become the new universal language, an industry built around them provides an opportunity for aspiring illustrators to make it big on local and international scales. You may not think of stickers as a serious business but insider information suggests otherwise.
We recently visited the Line office in Shinjuku, Japan, along with 10 Thai winners of the fourth Line Creators Market Sticker Contest 2018, to find out how big the sticker industry is and what makes a sticker, well, stick.
The numbers speak for themselves
I sat down with three Line executives – two from Japan and the other from Thailand – to gain some insight into the sticker market.
Japan, Thailand and Taiwan are the top countries in the world when it comes to Line stickers usage, while usage of Line stickers continues to increase worldwide, according to Naotomo Watanabe of Line Corp.’s Sticker Planning Team.
As of May 2018, there were 1.5 million registered creators. In Thailand, the growth in the number of paid stickers downloaded in Q1 of 2018 increased by 52% compared to the same period in 2017, while the number of paid sticker users increased by 28% in Q1 of 2018 compared to Q1 of 2017.
Moreover, the number of Thai creators reached 340,000 and counting, a jump of 204% from May 2017 to May 2018, while the number of creators stickers soared by 700% during the same period. Thailand comes out on top in terms of growth in sticker section.
A lot of big numbers, I know, but they point to a very fast-growing industry with opportunities that Thai doodlers can tap into.
What makes stickers stick?
Trends of popular stickers in different countries were also discussed during the visit. On the basis of this information, creators can choose markets where their stickers are available via the Line Creators Market. Thus, your made-in-Thailand stickers can go international.
According to Yung Ai-Chen, Line Corporation’s Global Sticker Manager, Indonesian users prefer humorous, less-text and American-style stickers in their everyday communication. Cute characters in white and stickers related to seasons are popular among Japanese users, while the Taiwanese dig designs based on local festivals or big fonts surrounded by cute frames. For the Thai market, characters like little girls and play-on-word stickers are among the best-sellers. The rule of thumb for sticker design is cute and easy-to-use.
Interestingly, females between the ages of 25-29 make up the biggest group of sticker buyers.
Creators can further improve their stickers by developing new sets of an existing popular character or, now that the sticker approval period is around a week, incorporating what’s currently relevant into their stickers.
Watanabe added that religion also plays a role in sticker usage; in Islamic countries, for example, stickers with animal characters aren’t popular.
Support for Thai creators
Kanop Supamanop, Line Thailand’s Director of Stickers Business Office, aims to make sticker creating a new and legitimate career in Thailand, enabling creators to live off their stickers.
“Creators often tell me that people doubt what they do as a real career,” he said.
Not only does Kanop believe sticker creation is a great opportunity for university students and first-jobbers to make extra cash but also a potential life-changing opportunity.
“We have had several people who quit their jobs to become sticker creators full-time.”
To make sticker creation a legitimate career, Line Thailand organises year-round activities. Sticker creating workshops are held to drum up interest among potential creators in different provinces before Line Creators Market Sticker Contest accepts applications. Selected winners will get to make their sticker dream come true and enjoy a trip to Japan as an educational bonus. Connect Days are held so fellow creators can mingle, learn from top creators and be updated on trends.
Top creators are recognised at the Line Sticker Awards. The fourth Line Creators Market Sticker Contest last year saw 2,200 entries, up from 800. Every month, a top best-selling creator receives B50,000 to turn their creation into merchandise and a chance to become official stickers. Line matches them up with a manufacturer but the creative control is with the rising star creator, who gets to sell their merchandise via the Line Gift Shop for free. Pop-up stores where creators can sell their merchandise is in the pipeline for this year, too.
Kanop says, “Perseverance is important. You never know which set will be a hit. I always tell creators that if you hit it big with your debut set, you’re lucky, but if not, that doesn’t mean you fail. Think of stickers as content. It doesn’t resonate with everyone.
You should know who you make your stickers for. Know your target and know what they like. Be creative. Play-on-word stickers are unique to the Thai market. Text-driven stickers can top the best-selling charts too so long as you’re creative about it. You don’t need to be the best drawer. It certainly helps but that alone doesn’t make your stickers stick.
Also, think about how people would communicate with your stickers in real situations. Stickers with phrases that are often used in daily situations like ‘thank you’, ‘good night’ and ‘555’ tend to do well. Not all minute details will be obvious because of the screen size so your sticker should be able to communicate clearly at a glance.”
Koranan “Place” Chuenpichai, illustrator and creator of six sticker sets, says, “There’s no fixed ways to succeed, it seems. Some creators follow trends while some do what they love. I think it really comes down to keep trying.
Sticker making is my passion project as I dreamt of seeing my stickers on Line since they first introduced creator’s stickers. I like it when people use my designs and get some joy out of them.
My latest set [‘Animal Addict’] is inspired by people complaining about traffic jams but I turn vehicles into different animals and add catchphrases to make it more fun. You can be creative with something that’s unpleasant.”
Mueanfun “Pink” Sap-anake, illustrator at Plan for Kids, says, “My main job is illustrating children’s books but personally I like to create something more edgy and fun. I thought about things in everyday life first, especially things that come in pairs.
At first, I wanted to make a rabbit and a fox, but after browsing through the sticker market I realised there are so many cute animals out there already. I thought cuteness alone doesn’t cut it so I opted for something no one else does in order to stand out. I arrived at a female electronic socket and a male plug and thus ‘Plug & Pudgy’ was born. They come with catchphrases based on office life.”
Pomprom “Aum” Ruksasirikuk, graphic animator, says, “I submitted my first animated sticker last year but it’s my second sticker set. At first I went back and forth between following examples of what sells well or following my gut. After doing stickers for a while, I found myself in need of a new direction. I met a Japanese creator who does what she loves and believes in. And that’s enough to make her creations stand out.
With ‘Hard Life’, I make fun of mistakes or mishaps in real life like running out of tissue while in the toilet or not having enough cash to pay for things at the cashier. I think you should put yourself into your designs.
I would love some day to make stickers full-time but first you need to make your characters memorable. Stickers can be a platform to make your characters well-known and that’s a starting point. If you want to try your hand at sticker making, just do it. You only gain from it.”
– Pornchai Sereemongkonpol