Tempting though it may be to poke fun at BlackBerry’s latest revenue source—stickers—they do appear to be selling well in a couple key markets. And by stickers I don’t mean the kind children paste on their binders. No, these are BlackBerry Messenger stickers: essentially, giant emoticons, which have actually been hugely popular in Asia. And it’s there and Africa where early sales of BlackBerry’s stickers, which launched earlier this week, have been strong.
According to Forbes, BBM Stickers, which come in $2 packages, are selling particularly well in markets like Indonesia and South Africa. For a closer look at the numbers, click here. These so-called stickers come in all forms, from yellow smiley faces to WWE superstars and Shaun the Sheep. Yes, they even have The Undertaker.
But don’t consider this a bold move for BlackBerry. The company is simply following in the footsteps of BBM’s competitors. More and more, messaging apps have been cashing in on paid-for stickers. Jon Russell, writing for The Next Web out of Bangkok, explains that stickers have become the norm in Asia, having been introduced by all the major messaging apps. Even Israel-based Viber, which in February sold for $900 million to Rakuten, a major Japanese e-commerce firm, jumped on the bandwagon late last year. The logic is simple: Build a critical mass of users with a free app, and then offer them treats for forking out extra cash. It’s a microtransaction business model, used by the likes of FarmVille and Candy Crush Saga, which have certainly flourished here in the West.
In short, BlackBerry is coming late to the game, though it’s understandable why. BBM initially existed as a reason to own a BlackBerry, but fewer and fewer people own BlackBerrys these days. The company decided to salvage BBM by turning it into a free app for iPhones and Androids (and CEO John Chen recently confirmed BBM will be coming to Windows Phone as well). The obvious question then is, if people aren’t buying BlackBerrys, how does BBM make BlackBerry money? Enter stickers.
Stickers may or may not ever become big in North America (QR codes, for example, while huge in Asia, never caught on here), but considering the amount of resources it requires to bundle together a few illustrations, it’s hard to imagine this move will do anything but help the company’s bottom line. And while BlackBerry has other plans to help monetize BBM, like ads and a money transfer service, its silliest-seeming one will likely play a key role. Line, for example, a Japanese-based messaging service, earned $31.5 million from stickers in Q3 last year—about 20% of its revenue.