Holler’s Animated Stickers Are Right Place, Right Time Marketing

Brands like HBO Max, Ikea and Snickers use custom designs to enter social conversations naturally

Friends could send Venmo payments for drinks using HBO Max's Sex and the City sticker. Holler
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Users of apps such as iMessage, Venmo, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are probably familiar with the option to choose animated stickers to express emotions or simply liven up a chat. And recently, branded stickers have begun appearing when users type in certain words.

Holler is responsible for the recent rise of sticker campaigns designed to integrate brands into digital conversations. The company, formerly known as Emogi before rebranding in 2019, designs stickers in house, and in the past year has begun partnering with brands to create sticker campaigns as a marketing tool.

So far, Holler’s client list includes HBO Max, Snickers and Ikea. CMO Sarah Aitken said the company’s main objectives in teaming with brands are to boost awareness by creating stickers that are relevant to certain conversations, and to provide consumers with entertaining new ways of expressing actions and emotions.

Holler created a sticker inspired by Satriale's Pork Store from the Sopranos.

“What our platform does is recommend the right content, in the right moment, right when you need it,” Aitken said. “From a brand perspective, it’s about finding the right conversations to bring that brand in—where the brand is relevant, useful and can connect with one of our users in a personal conversation.”

For HBO Max’s launch week in May, Holler brought to life the streaming service’s partnership with payment app Venmo. Holler created its first branded sticker pack themed around HBO Max properties, including The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Doctor Who and The Wizard of Oz. The sticker pack was also available on chat platforms, for users who have downloaded the Holler app.

Depending on what a user paid for or requested on Venmo, an appropriate sticker would pop up. For example, someone typing in “takeout” could find a sticker for the fictional Satriale’s Pork Store from The Sopranos. “Drinks” would lead to animated cosmos for Sex and the City, and “rent,” a popular Venmo payment, activated a Friends-themed sticker. Users could also search for the sticker pack in a library by tapping Holler’s icon on whichever app they were using.

Holler views results from the HBO Max campaign as a success:

  • In the first three days of the campaign, the Sopranos “Takeout” sticker became the fourth most popular sticker used on Venmo, and overall saw a 5.25% share rate.
  • The campaign saw a 1.74% share rate overall.
  • The branded pack had a 21% share rate, meaning a fifth of people who actively searched for the pack in the library shared a piece of content.
  • 108,000 people shared the content on Venmo and via messaging during the weeklong campaign.

For the Venmo-based campaign, Aitken’s team researched the popular types of messaging and activities that happen across Venmo and chats, and determined how to translate those into shows and films HBO Max wanted to promote.

“It was a consultative approach of figuring out what types of conversations happen frequently and what content is shared frequently within our own library,” she said.

Some brands have also tapped Holler to create stickers as extensions of existing campaigns. The brand has worked with Ikea to boost a campaign around sleep products with stickers tied to saying goodnight or expressing tiredness.

For Snickers’ ongoing “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign, the Mars-owned brand tapped Holler to create its first sticker campaign in 2019. Holler designed custom stickers tied to Snickers “mood states” like excited, hungry, sad and bored.

Consumers shared Snickers content more than 81,000 times, with people most likely to share the excited sticker. The branded content also drew more than 42 million impressions.

The company teamed with Ikea to design stickers around sleep products.

“If a brand wants to be associated with the terms ‘happiness’ and ‘joy,’ we bring relevant content into those environments,” Aitken said. “We want to make sure any branded content we create is useful and brings value to that moment, rather than making it feel like an ad.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has also impacted Holler’s approach to creating content for brands, and potentially its frequency. Aitken said Holler worked with brands to optimize content for campaigns that began right before or during the pandemic, so they could remain relevant without giving users a negative or tone deaf experience.

In the age of social distancing, Holler reports its message volume has increased by 30% since March. The company’s 2020 State of Messaging Report, which surveyed 1,004 Americans, found 78% believe visuals help with self-expression in messaging and 70% would use branded visuals if they thought they were cool.

“We want to make sure that as we bring brands into conversations, the user has a great experience and brands can connect with people around moments that matter to them,” Aitken said, “be that a moment of intent or a moment of emotional state.”

ian.zelaya@adweek.com Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.