If you live in the Western world, chances are that you use Whatsapp to message your friends. It’s the number one app, with over a billion users, why not? It’s actually unusual if people don’t use Whatsapp. But if you come to Far East Asia, it’s a bit of a different story. Very few people actually use Whatsapp, because there are other options in play. The biggest one is without a doubt, LINE.
LINE, unlike Whatsapp, has worked hard on monetizing their product. Outside the official LINE app of messaging, video and voice calling, and the ever-popular stickers, there are over 30 other apps that spin off of it. Shopping, make-up, an app for foodies, and, of course, a host of game apps. To give a bit of a personal explanation, my mother never got into the smartphones or technology. In fact, she probably wouldn’t know how to turn on the iMac in the living room right now. Back when I was on the iPhone 4, she still had a flip phone. But then one day, a couple years ago, her cousin got her on LINE and a cheap smart phone, and we’ve hardly spoken to her again. Ha. I kid, but not really. She’s on it all the time, though. And when she goes into her LINE app, there’s like a million and a half messages every time. Every morning promptly at 6, her phone buzzes like mad with people messaging ‘good morning’ stickers and memes of the inspirational variety. She follows the local city government, she’s in at least five or six chat groups (that I know of!): one for her choir, one for her women’s group, one for her business, etc.
What does this have to do with marketing? Well, my lovelies: EVERYTHING. Marketing and branding is becoming personalized. Everything is about targeting and based on your algorithm this or that. With LINE, people are given the ‘freedom’ of choosing a brand or organization they want to follow. Local businesses, especially in Taiwan (where I can speak with some authority), also have LINE groups where they push their latest offers and new products. You can also add official organizations like CNN or even celebrities! A friend has recently started selling food her mother makes to her network of people. In her LINE group alone there are 60 people that will get messages as soon as they’re ready to take orders or to tell people about a new product. Heck, my milk lady texts me twice a week to ask if I want milk before her delivery round. I can’t imagine how many people she has in her LINE network. The local city government sends out messages a couple times a week, too, to keep us up-to-date on when water might be turned off, where roadworks take place, and importantly, if there’s a Typhoon Day to be had.
According to legend, LINE was actually created in the wake of the Tsunami in Japan as a means of getting information round to people and letting people get in touch. Nifty, and it has definitely grown a lot in the last few years. How many people do you know that use LINE? The next few weeks we’ll be further exploring the possibilities of LINE and how we can capitalize on this, particularly in the Asian market, for marketing and branding purposes.