Marketing using an iMessage Sticker App

I did not watch the WWDC Keynote live. For some reason, I rarely do. But I did watch it a few hours later, while working at my computer.

Some things I liked. I am optimistic about improvements watchOS 3 will bring to my used-every-single-freakin-day Apple Watch. I like that Siri is being opened up to developers[1]. I’m intrigued by Apple’s use of differential privacy[2].

Some things I did not like. Syncing desktops sounds like a horrific nightmare. Due to Apple’s frequent problems with iCloud syncing, the new Optimized Storage feature of macOS Sierra is also nothing I want to touch.

But of all the things I disliked, the announcement of iMessage stickers was, by far, the worst. My first reactions were, UUUUUUGGGGHHHHH and I’m not 13. This did not, at all, sound interesting.

Then, it got worse. They announced that developers could create iMessage stickers without a single line of code. Everyone and their dog is going to make a sticker app. I can only image how many resources Apple will have to dedicate to keeping copyright infringement out of the iMessages App Store.

As a side note, aren’t the animations used to peel a sticker off the sheet a little skeuomorphic for a post iOS 7 Apple?

Still, I downloaded the video for the iMessage Apps and Stickers, Part 1, anyway. Then, shortly after, I downloaded part 2.

Wait, what?

Despite not caring a flipping bit[3] about virtual stickers, I was intrigued by the new possibility for app discovery. By watching the first sessions, I also hoped to discover what else might be possible with iMessage apps outside of the stickers realm.

However, while watching the videos, I had a little revelation. I realized that our Gus apps had a bunch of super cute, original characters. These characters could work perfectly as iMessage stickers.

iMessage plus Gus characters
Unfortunately, Apple rules seem to prohibit screenshots of the sample Gus sticker app. Use your imagination.

Combining this with iMessage app discovery, maybe this was something worth further investigation, after all.

Marketing using stickers

The main goal of a Gus sticker app would not be direct sales, but rather brand awareness.

Always be branding
Always be branding

I know we have a great product. We receive a fair number of emails from enthusiastic users confirming this. The problem is, as I see it, not enough people know about Gus.

How does a sticker app help with brand awareness?

At a macro level, iMessage is nothing more than a social sharing app. People receiving Gus stickers will automatically be prompted to install the Gus sticker app via a link below the message. This is built into iMessage on iOS 10.

Bob will send a Gus sticker to Jill. Jill will download the app and send Gus stickers to all her friends. You know. Because she likes them so much.

Based on this concept, we can spread the Gus brand to new, potential customers. Not all of them will be interested in a language app for kids. But some may be. The goal will be to ensure that people know about the other Gus apps. Perhaps through links to the website or apps from within the Gus sticker app? I need to see if this is possible and permissible.

Yeah, but is it worth it?

The most basic form of the sticker apps is extremely simple and quick to create. I would venture a guess that dealing with iTunes Connect will require more time than the actual app creation.

One might think that the generation of the image assets could take a bit of time. Luckily, one of the first decisions Alice and I made while making the original Gus on the Go app was to create all of our assets in vector graphic format.

Neither of us knew how to use Inkscape, but I already had a strong inkling we needed to go down this route. We learned the tools and stuck to it. Our initial effort paid off when we ported to Android and again when Apple started releasing more devices with different resolutions.

Since I wrote some scripts to to export images from all of my SVGs at any resolution, asset generation will be super easy.

Our early decision will once again pay off.

Having removed any and all difficult barriers, it seems almost silly not to proceed.

The worst case scenario is spending a few hours to create and upload this sticker app and it ends up doing nothing for brand awareness. Under the best case scenario, the sticker app becomes super popular, tons of people download the app, we get featured by Apple, and the Queen of England knights me. Sir Yono. I like that.

The reality is probably somewhere in between.[4]

But, due to the amount of time I need to try this out, the return on investment does not have to be high to make it worthwhile.

If all goes well with a Gus sticker app, I have some ideas to make an interactive iMessage app that works with the language learning apps we already have. That, however, is a blog post for another time.

I probably spent more time thinking about, writing, and editing this blog post that it will take me to create the sticker app.

Do you have a similar idea for marketing your app through an iMessage app extension? Feel free to ping me on Twitter if you want to discuss it. I’m @yonomitt.

Have a nice day,

  1. Somewhat… baby steps  ↩

  2. This was the first time I had heard of the concept and it sounds super interesting.  ↩

  3. Binary pun.  ↩

  4. Awww… I was ready to buy a trusty steed and go off to fight dragons.  ↩