21 million people following her on Facebook and 18
million on Twitter, pop singer Ariana Grande can’t
personally chat with each of her loves, as she
affectionately calls her fans.
she and many other stars are spreading their messages
through new-style social networks, via mobile apps that
are more associated with private, intimate conversation,
hoping that marketing in a cozier digital setting adds a
breath of warmth and a dash of personality. It’s the
Internet’s equivalent of mailing postcards rather than
plastering a billboard.
whose second album reached No. 1 this month on the
Billboard 200 sales chart, could have shared on Twitter
that her most embarrassing moment on stage was losing a
shoe. The 21-year-old instead revealed the tidbit during
a half-hour live text chat on Line, a smartphone app
built for close friends to exchange instant messages.
increasingly expensive to advertise on Facebook and
Twitter, and the huge volume of information being posted
creates uncertainty over what people actually notice.
Chat apps such as Line, Kik, Snapchat, WeChat and Viber
place marketing messages front and center to people
enthusiastic enough to follow stars and brands on them.
apps threaten to siphon advertising dollars from the
social media leaders, which are already starting to see
chat apps overtake them as the most-used apps on
smartphones, according to Forrester Research. Chat apps
"demand attention," said Rebecca Lieb, an
analyst at the consulting firm Altimeter Group.
apps are loaded with features that many teenagers and
young adults find more alluring than either traditional
social networks or basic SMS texting — animated smiley
faces, words transformed into colorful digital stickers,
drawing tools, quick photo-sharing, video and the like.
In fact, sticker sales to Line’s 10 million users in
the U.S. and 480 million abroad provide the bulk of the
company’s revenue — $175 million worldwide in its
most recent quarter.
apps’ popularity is leading a wave of investment and
experimentation as marketers charge after the coveted
demographic. Music stars and youth-oriented companies
are turning to chat apps as an alternative route to
better-targeted publicity, and to show they’re hip.
singer Paul McCartney’s tour headed to Japan, his team
tapped Line and offered followers a free pack of
stickers featuring his cartooned self. Line said that
McCartney’s willingness to personally respond to Line
fans paid off: Compared with his social media fans, Line
users were three times more likely to engage with his
posts. The CW series "America’s Next Top
Model" and AMC’s "The Walking Dead" are
using Line too.
of reaching multiple millions on Facebook, if we can
reach the right people, it’s the right option,"
said Tack Kim, a senior manager of business development
at Tokyo-based Line’s Los Angeles office.
partners only with trending stars who can offer
"high-quality" content, said Jeanie Han, a
former Paramount Pictures executive who’s now chief
executive of the chat app’s Euro-Americas unit. That’s
left a long wait list of movie studios and other content
owners that want Line accounts.
Halemane, executive vice president of digital at the
Collective, a music management company, sought a deal
with Line after hearing about it from Japanese friends
and one of his part-Japanese clients, Linkin Park
vocalist Mike Shinoda.
the end of the year, Linkin Park plans to offer its 2
million Line fans a free digital sticker pack. The goal
is to keep the rock band on people’s minds, Halemane
a presence on every social media network is not the
right strategy, but we add platforms because we’re
committing to it," he said, expressing excitement
about Line features such as video streaming.
chat app, Kik, based in Waterloo, Canada, has 150
million users worldwide and is the 25th most popular app
of any kind in the U.S., according to tracking firm
ComScore. Columbia Records and Syco Music worked with
IPG Media Lab to promote a new album from teenage pop
band One Direction on Kik. The band’s account drew
more than 3 million visits, and users met a challenge to
buy a total of 7,500 album copies through the app.
helped us prove out that this is really something we
want to do going forward with other clients," said
Mel Wilson, head of strategy at IPG Media Lab.
the numbers, the efficacy of the campaigns remains
mixed. Young people can be fickle.
Barrack, 15, downloaded Line to enter a contest to meet
Grande on the red carpet at her album release party in
Burbank, Calif., last month. Barrack ended up winning
the same trip through a different contest and found no
reason to open Line again.
would do anything for Ariana, but Line unfortunately
not," the San Diego teen said. He added that he
would "definitely" reopen Line if Grande used
it differently from Facebook or Twitter.
the fan chat, Grande answered a question from Amanda
Leonard, 26, of Dayton, Ohio. Because only a few people
use Line, the response felt personal, Leonard said. But
she’s not about to switch all of her Facebook
Messenger and texting conversations over to Line.
Katy Perry came out with stickers, though," she
said, that might make Line "much more
least 60 percent of the adult users on Kik and Snapchat
are younger than 34, according to ComScore. On average,
U.S. adults spend about eight hours a month using the
most popular chat apps, ComScore said, and the number is
probably higher among teenagers.
key source of revenue is digital stickers, which are
fancier versions of smiley faces, hearts and other
imagery that have replaced spelled-out words in some
people’s digital conversations. They sell for a buck
or two. Line has a roster of original characters to say
"Hi," "I love you" or "Thank
you." But users are often willing to pay to get
images featuring pop culture icons, including Elmo and
Snoopy. The company also allows artists to design and
sell stickers. In the program’s first three-plus
months, people across 124 countries submitted 30,000
sticker sets and earned $12 million in sales, Line said
Line doesn’t intend to survive on sticker sales alone.
want to be the messaging and entertainment platform in
the U.S. and achieve it by creating partnerships with
major brands," said Line’s Kim.
next challenge for Line and its competitors is
persuading non-entertainment brands to use and advertise
on them, said IPG’s Wilson.
advertisers can appropriately inject themselves into the
mix of emotional and trivial banter is still a concern.
Too many useless vibrations in pockets and purses could
alienate users and cause them to switch to a chat app
with fewer distractions, Lieb said.
‘Click here, buy this laundry detergent’ won’t
work," she said. "They have to provide
entertainment, education or utility that will help
consumers welcome and embrace these messages."