With 1.7 Million New Users a Day, Will This App Be the Next to Take America by Storm?

Line's revenue-generating model has brands queuing up

Line, which has 181 million monthly active users worldwide, has yet to truly market its mobile app in the United States. But the Japan-based messaging platform has already built up 25 million American users while its rapid global growth has attracted big brands and celebrities.

While four-year-old Line is a chat app similar to WhatsApp, its recent growth appears to be more about emojis and stickers. The millennial-focused mobile platform has 46,000 playful, often cartoon-like images that are concocted by a vast network of artists and sold, e-comerce-style, in revenue-sharing agreements with the creators.

Consumers pay $1.99 for a pack of the digital depictions. Packs come with anywhere between 20 and 40 stickers and emojis, said Jeanie Han, CEO of the burgeoning tech player, which saw annual revenue climb year-over-year by 126 percent to $656 million in 2014.

"We've created a whole new language," Han said during her keynote presentation at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Wednesday morning. 

Chatting with Adweek before her speech, Han said advertisers are already eager to be on Line.

"You know, the Fortune 100 companies—we've got their attention," she said. "They've told us, 'We've heard that some of the companies you are already working with are seeing benefits in the millions [of dollars]." 

The consumer and entertainment brands Han alludes to include McDonald's, Coca-Cola, KFC, Maroon 5, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift.

"They are coming to us and saying that the engagement they are seeing is so much higher than other platforms," she said. "These celebs are telling us that it's a revenue stream they've never seen before. They say, 'I have millions of followers on my other social media sites, but I never monetize my social equity. But with you guys, I can start making money.'"

In addition to chat stickers/emojis, Line offers free voice messaging, games, videos, photos, a PayPal-like transactional feature and other bells and whistles. 

"We are not just a messaging platform," Han said. "We are now a life platform."

And evidently the characters created by the aforementioned artists nearly come to life, sometimes going viral and becoming minor celebrities unto themselves. Up to 20 percent of Line's messages involve them. 

"They even have their own plush toys," she added. "We have pop-up stores all over the world that sell them, T-shirts, you name it."

And it sounds like Line's U.S. presence may be ripe for growth. 

"We haven't done a major marketing campaign in the U.S. yet," Han said. A lot of the growth to 25 million users was due to small-budget effort targeted at the Hispanic market last year and pushing Line's free-calling feature. "We grew rapidly at that point," she said. 

Here are some other numbers that Line shared:

  • It gains 1.7 million new users every day.
  • While there are 181 million monthly active users, more than 560 million people have actually downloaded the app.
  • Thirteen billion messages are sent daily.
  • It offers 40,00 stickers and 6,000 emojis.

"A lot of our stickers artists were 'starving artists,'" Han said. "And now they are making money."