The next time you go out for a drive or for a walk, take a moment to look around you. But really look. You’ll find stickers from Apple, Reddit, GoPro, Under Armour and many other large companies all over the place.
It’s natural to assume that these large companies have armies of people going around putting these stickers up all over the place. The fact, though, is that in most cases, their customers are the ones putting up these stickers. It’s obvious for the stickers you see on laptops, bike helmets, cars and other personal items, but even those on street poles, walls, and bulletin boards and in other public areas have often been put up by customers.
But why would a company like Apple use stickers? After all, they probable have a bigger marketing budget than the GDP of many small countries. They can definitely afford to be more creative, right? Of course. However, the marketing team at Apple is smart enough to use every effective promotional tool at their disposal, including stickers.
Stickers Straddle the Fine Line Between Advertising and Gift
People perceive stickers differently to most other forms of advertising, and companies like GoPro and Under Armour understand this. If you go on eBay now, you’ll find people selling Under Armour and Apple stickers, among many others. And there are quite a large number of listings, which means that people are buying them.
In other words, people value these stickers so much that they are willing to pay for them. So, when a company hands out stickers with their brand, especially a large company that has created a culture around their products, they know those stickers will be perceived as a gift rather than an advertisement.
Stickers Act as Validation
Apple has built a brand that’s focused on lifestyle and prestige. They’ve built the idea that if you own an Apple product, you are part of an exclusive, prestigious club. Thanks to this positioning, many people buy Apple products precisely for the prestige.
And what better way to prove to the world that they are part of this prestigious club than to put up stickers of their favorite brand on their personal items. That’s why you see Apple stickers on people’s cars. They want to be validated as an owner of an Apple product.
Apple makes it easy for people to feel validated too. They make sure that with every product you buy, you get two stickers included, which further encourages people to make a statement and show the world they are part of the Apple family.
Stickers Put the Decision in the Hands of the Consumer
When handing out stickers, you are putting the decision in the hands of your customers. You aren’t telling them to put up the stickers. You aren’t bombarding them with TV ads or billboards. You aren’t interrupting them with flyers. You’re giving them a gift and the decision of what to do with it is theirs.
Large companies understand how powerful it is to put the power in the hands of the consumer. By letting them control the situation, you gain a lot more because people want to tell others about this awesome company that makes great products and empowers them.
It might not seem like such a big thing but when people are constantly bombarded by ads from external sources, the ability to support their favorite brands when and where they choose is priceless. Instead of being told you should buy this, they’re saying “I choose to buy this brand.”
And by putting this power in their hands, it’s guaranteed that others will perceive a brand stickers on someone’s personal items as a personal endorsement. After all, they had to actually put the sticker on their car or on their laptop, which means it was a personal choice. They were in control and others will see it as a glowing recommendation for the brand they are advertising.
Stickers Work Online Too
In the era of camera phones, people post a ridiculous number of photos online. And when someone receives a free gift of stickers, you’ll often find them taking photos and posting them online, whether it’s a selfie with the sticker, a photo of the product along with the sticker, or even just the stickers themselves. They might want to show the world what an awesome freebie they got, or just to validate that they are part of the in-crowd that purchased the product in question.
Regardless of the reason, companies like Apple know that their stickers will not only end up being displayed in the real world, but also online. And they love it even more when those stickers are used creatively and people display their art because it attracts even more eyeballs.
Stickers Can Be Used in All Stages of Marketing
Stickers are effective whether you’re trying to acquire new customers, keep existing customers, or build loyalty by ensuring an amazing experience. By handing out stickers to prospects, you introduce yourself in a way that provides value, creates an emotional connection and ensures people will want to learn more about your brand.
Once you’ve invited people “in”, you can offer higher quality stickers to cement the relationship. You can use stickers to create a community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about the same thing, and stickers are the “secret handshake”.
When someone has made a purchase, you can include special stickers as a gift, which validate their purchase and their membership in your “special” club.
Reddit increased their exposure by plastering their alien stickers all over the place. Once the community started growing, members were putting up the stickers, and now, people are getting tattoos of the alien.
The biggest companies in the world know precisely how powerful tickers are, beyond just being cheap compared to other marketing channels. Stickers can be used to build powerful communities, offer validation, and they give people a choice, which is so much more than any other marketing tool can do.