How marketers are leveraging WhatsApp to sell brands through stickers and GIFs

As WhatsApp does not yet support brands to advertise, marketers are creating engaging content in the form of GIFs and stickers to reach target audience

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Jul 29, 2019 8:23 AM

Earlier this week WhatsApp announced crossing 400 million users in India and experts say people in the country consume close to a quarter of a 100 million GIFs/ day. The combination of both numbers makes for an excellent marketing mix and brands have been quick to catch on to it.

The instant messaging app has a strong presence in India, thanks to the growing smartphone market in the country and the falling data prices. Marketers have taken to the platform to subtly push their brand message in a low cost way that assures more recall value and impact. This is where sticker marketing enters the picture. While bigger brands like Tinder, Tide, Reebok, Bacardi, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, Zomato and many others are taking to sticker marketing on WhatsApp, smaller players operating in a city or state level are also trying to make the most of the trend.

What is sticker and gif marketing?  “Every brand today is trying to leverage WhatsApp for its campaigns. As WhatsApp does not yet support brands to advertise on the platform, these brands fall back to creating engaging content and then leveraging WhatsApp’s ‘sharing’ behaviour to reach audience,” said  Arpit Kumar, Founder, GIFKaro, a GIF based content production company. Brands like GIFKaro, Gifskey, Xploree, BobbleAI are some of the tech start-ups actively helping brands to ‘sticker or gif’ their communication.

“WhatsApp has reached 400 million users in India thus making it one of the biggest markets. If we go by the figures then even if 10 per cent of the users are affected by these GIFs and stickers brands send out, it has a great scope for future business,” Kumar added.

This kind of marketing is a well-practiced one in the West. Sometime last year popular fried chicken brand KFC had partnered with mobile app Tenor for GIFs featuring the brand's mascot alongside buckets of chicken with love-themed messages around Valentine’s day. These GIFs were available via Tenor's GIF Keyboard app and also integrated into Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. The campaign was a huge hit.

While advertising still isn’t an option for the messaging platform, brands have their way around the medium.

“Brands have many different and unique ways to leverage the app to reach out to their target audience. While you can't advertise on WhatsApp, it is possible for brands to advertise on Facebook with a call to action button re-directing users to WhatsApp,” Adhvith Dhuddu, CEO of creative ad tech agency AliveNow, added. “What is known is anytime this year or early next year WhatsApp will allow brands to advertise in the ‘status’ section, similar to how brands are advertising on Facebook and Instagram stories. Informally, a lot of brands are doing interesting things on WhatsApp like creating multiple groups based on likes/preferences and sending out messages.”

Apparently this informal way of communicating brand messages on WhatsApp is also inexpensive. After all it isn’t only big campaigns that are effective. WhatsApp stickers and GIFs by brands are a classic example of low-budget high impact marketing that is used by smaller players too.

“Cost is subjective to requirement. Complete service bouquet that includes content creation, content conversion and content distribution starts at a basic cost of Rs 20,000 a month for just distribution. We currently service over 50 brands. While they are everywhere but even brands from the tier-2 cities use our services, 5 of these are from trier-2 cities. The demand is increasing because GIF's are more relatable than the content, one can also use GIFs to create a full 360-degree view of your product and it's features, which is more cost-effective as compared to the other marketing strategies,” added Kumar.

Is WhatsApp marketing through GIFs and stickers only to suit the taste of millenials? The answer is surprisingly no. “Without a doubt WhatsApp is going to be the next big platform for marketing not just among youngsters, but especially among the older audience aged 50 and above. This is because the young crowd is more active and present on Instagram and Facebook, but the older audience in the 45-50+ age range is much more active on WhatsApp. Think about our own parents, aunts, uncles, etc, if they're 50/55+ they are comparatively more active on WhatsApp vs Facebook or Insta. That opens up a huge opportunity for brands to reach a new audience,” said Dhuddu.

Brands are pretty upbeat about the opportunity. Bacardi for instance created stickers around occasions like Holi, Valentine’s Day and other special occasion to target customers on relevant days.

“The stickers we created for WhatsApp with Breezers around Holi did very well. The stickers are usually meant either for a particular location or something topical. It's a good medium where you can remind audiences about your brand. It's all about long-term brand building and WhatsApp stickers and GIFs help create the recall value we desire our brands to have,” said Anshuman Goenka, Head of Marketing at Bacardi, India.

 According to experts, personalization is the key in marketing and while a lot of global content is seamlessly translated into GIFs, the need to give them a local twist to appeal to the ever-growing smartphone user pool in India is now being addressed by brands.



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