Interview by Aki Naoe
If you're going to go through the trouble of designing and creating stickers, you'd like as many people to use them as possible, right? Out of the vast number of stickers available, just what kind of stickers end up selling? What kind of images are used? What about the text used? Who are the users the creators have in mind? We ask the head of LINE's Stamp Division, Ken Ishikawa, all about what it takes to successfully sell stickers based on data and past experience!
This is what makes the top creators special!
── Can you tell us about the figures the top creators are pulling in with their stickers?
The average total amount of sales the top 10 creators are making is about 737.57 million yen. A total of 26 creators have exceeded over 100 million yen (since the start of the service to May 8, 2019).
In addition, there are also people like The Star17, creator of 'An annoying man', who started making stamps without any previous art experience and managed to earn more than 1 million yen a month.
── That sounds like something right out of someone's wildest dreams!
30% of the total sales made will be subtracted by Apple and Google fees, and the remaining 70% will be split between LINE and the creators.
I’ve heard that manga artist royalties are about 10%, so I think that these are quite attractive figures.
── Those numbers sound like a very attractive prospect business-wise!
According to surveys taken by creators, the motivation behind creating stickers comes from simply enjoying the process.
Certainly, some top creators have become really successful over the course of two years, but I think it's something you can't do unless you truly enjoy it.
Yuji Nishimura is one of those who have been consistently making stickers, their number of sets created so far reaching 541 as of November 6th, 2019. Their Gokugen Panda series was recognized as a sponsored stamp of LINE Hoken last year and, ever since then, Gokigen Panda has consistently ranked very highly.
In addition, a particular set may suddenly become a hot topic across social media even after quite some time has passed since it first went on sale. Around May this year, the LINE set ‘A 5-Year-Old’s Handwriting’, which features stickers based on the concept implied by the name, became a hot topic across social media, but it was actually launched back in February. I don't know when the best time to launch a new set of stickers is, but I think it's important to try to understand.
── Is there anything that the top creators do that make them stand out?
All of the so-called ‘top creators’ are passionate about doing their research.
Creators can view the usage frequency and other such data about the stamps they’ve sold. A creator known as Pote-Mame takes advantage of this, touching up and improving on the most popular expressions of their previous sets. It’s about constantly improving on what was already successful. I think that kind of mindset is what makes a top creator.
What makes stickers sell?
── What are some of the characteristics of the most popular stickers?
Many of our creators' response and reaction to new projects is what influences what will become popular.
For example, when the ban on using photographs to make stickers was lifted, creator Yoshinaga made a set of stickers titled ‘Niku-kun’ (‘Meaty’) based on a character made of literal raw meat. On the day the ban was lifted, he went immediately to the supermarket to get his hands on some meat to take photos, and submitted his creation the very next morning. This particular creator’s rapid response inspired a slew of photograph-based stickers, which instantly became popular.
In addition, there are many cases where a trend suddenly arises based on the idea of one creator. There is also a set of stickers that imitates the LINE text bubble, which actually became a hit the instant it was published.
── Everyone's ideas are pretty unique.
Last year, as a Christmas campaign, a special feature was planned to create stickers based on Christmas and winter themes. At that time, a sticker set based on greeting cards that was not particularly striking beforehand suddenly started to sell remarkably well.
Uniqueness can certainly be an advantage, but I believe the most important thing is that users feel the stickers can be used in practical ways for them.
── So, if one was to make a set of stickers featuring some kind of end-of-year greeting, it would be relatively easy to sell?
── Is there a particular style that's popular?
── White and round?
Stickers are a form of art, but they’re more than just a picture - they’re a means of communicating in the place of words. If one uses an inappropriate image in response, the conversation comes to a halt. White and round characters are easy on the eyes and don’t really hinder any conversation.
Nevertheless, stickers featuring more unique characters are also popular. The concept of unique, distinctive characters is also important. For example, this otter is part of a very popular sticker set known as the ‘Kawaii Uso Kawauso’, which is a play on the Japanese words for ‘cute liar’ and ‘otter’, which sound similar. Cleverly thought out characters based on a specific theme like this, which also happen to be adorable, tend to become big hits.
── What kind of stickers are popular outside of Japan?
For example, big, bubbly, and girly letters are popular in Thailand, whereas in Taiwan stickers based on popular artists and comical stickers are most commonly used. In Indonesia stickers featuring hot and fiery animation are popular.
You can really see what kind of stickers are popular based on that country's culture.
── Are stamps difficult to sell outside of Japan?
── Do you currently have a particular target group you're aiming at?
── What kind of stickers do women that age like?
── A huge number of stickers are sold in the sticker shop. How does one stand out without getting buried?
New official stickers are released every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 AM, so many users visit sticker shops and LINE stores at this time. So, just by selling at this time alone will increase the sticker set’s visibility.
Creators themselves can choose what time their stickers will go on sale, and they can calculate beforehand what would be the best time to release their stickers.
We want to support creators' desire to create
── You really put a lot of effort into supporting creators, with things like the LINE Creators MVP award.
Ideally, I would like many people to rank successfully. Since creator registration alone has exceeded 2 million people as of May, we spend a lot of time thinking about what our newer creators should do to be able to rank highly, despite only starting recently.
We are in an era where users make and manage their own content, and we also consider how our users should fine-tune their content so it aligns with what’s popular.
The creators' market was created in response to creators' desire to create, so our policy is to support creative activities.
At "LINE Creators Management", we help with not only sticker sales but also other activities, such as merchandise development. We talk to creators and help with setting up pop-up stores, as well as other similar businesses.
── That's really generous of you! It makes one want to try and create stamps themselves.
Creators are free to choose how many stickers they’ll put in each set from sets of 8, 16, 24, 32, or 40 stickers. If it’s difficult to come up with 40 different types of stickers at once, you can start with 8.
In addition, when you use the app “LINE Creators Studio”, you can easily create a stamp by simply taking a picture with a smartphone and putting a message beside it. You can also take photos with your friends and turn them into stamps.
If you just want to enjoy them among friends, you can sell stickers that only people who know the URL can download. I also made stickers for my friend’s birthday and got some back in return.
── There are lots of different kinds of stickers!
── I wanna make my own stickers right away!
── Finally, could leave some words of wisdom for budding future pixiv creators?
── Thank you so much!