By now, it has become a common experience for Akira Morikawa, CEO at Japanese social networking platform LINE Corp., to be stopped on the street and be asked – through some weird grimace and gesture – to create a new emoticon in the LINE messaging app for some human feeling or non-verbal action that just can’t be expressed in words.
The LINE messaging application, born in the wake of the major communication breakdown after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, has far outpaced both Facebook and Twitter in terms of initial growth. The people who do work for LINE attribute a large part of this growth to the cuteness of its virtual stickers – cartoon characters or colorful emoticons – that people stick at the beginning or at the end of an instant message to convey humor or a particular feeling. And the emoticon creation department at LINE is up to its head in orders, as despite an already vast lineup, demand is high for more new stickers.
“Some people want to apologize through Doraemon, others through Anpanman,” Morikawa said in an interview at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Thursday, referring to two popular Japanese anime characters that already have their own sticker series in LINE. Morikawa expects the requests for new stickers to snowball, as LINE’s messaging service is now going abroad – most recently launching in the Philippines, another IM and text-crazy population. “A bow may work in Japan, but not in other countries,” Morikawa said.
LINE boasts of gaining 150 million users worldwide in just two years, a veritable exposition on the exportability of Japanese cuteness. More than two-thirds of LINE users are from outside Japan, raising demand for a more diverse range of stickers. In the last quarter of fiscal 2013 ending in March, Morikawa revealed that LINE’s sales rose by 92% from the previous quarter to 5.8 billion yen (around 57 million US dollars). Half of that total came from games, while 30% is accounted for by sticker sales. When ask if LINE is already making a profit, Morikawa deflected the question arguing that LINE’s freedom from having to make a profit is its biggest strength.
[via Wall Street Journal]