Words don’t always cut it on mobile messaging apps. That’s when a well-chosen emoticon can come in handy, and these days there are certainly plenty to choose from.
Emoticons aren’t only good for conversation — they’re good for business. Japanese chat app Line has discovered a booming revenue model selling different sets of stickers, which are essentially more detailed emoticons. Other chat apps like South Korean KakaoTalk and Canadian Kik have quickly caught on and implemented their own versions of stickers.
Not to be left behind, China’s immensely popular WeChat has also jumped on the sticker trend. But are their stickers as good as Line’s? Let’s take a look.
Line, distinctly Japanese
Line’s core selection of stickers is full of cute characters, stark expressions, and plenty of comical situations just vague enough to apply to whatever situation might come up in a conversation. I myself have bought nine sticker sets to date on top of using a dozen or so free ones.
They are also distinctly Japanese — the art style is very clean, people and creatures have large heads, and the expressions are based on Japanese manga conventions.
One of the most popular stickers involves the love story between a bear and a bunny, mirroring stereotypical East Asian male-female relationship dynamics. Note the stoic male character versus the shopaholic and emotionally effusive female character.
Not only has Line created a great set of their own stickers, but they’ve managed to rope in some of Japan’s most popular cartoon characters – Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Dragon Ball – as well as some from the United States – Spongebob SquarePants, Donald Duck, Snoopy. Line also runs many time-limited promotions, such as their “Pray for the Philippines” stickers following last year’s devastating typhoon (the proceeds were donated to help the victims).
Line is now testing the waters with their first animated sticker pack launched on June 12 featuring their core characters.
WeChat, wacky and weird in its own way
At first, it seemed that WeChat’s sole innovation was that its stickers were animated. All the animations below have been reproduced by hand as GIFs, but the actual stickers contain much smoother animation.
When it was launched, the company had already licensed the now Turner-owned Tuzki line of emoticons that were all the rage on the Chinese Internet about 5-10 years ago.
Read more: globalvoicesonline.org Written by 88 Bar