An excited prickly pear holding a balloon. An anthropomorphic ice cream cone waving a piece of waffle while melting in the heat. Cartoonish gray tabby cat and Tumblr regular Pusheen, dressed as a unicorn, his smug face hit with wisps of his own luscious rainbow hair. All of these super-sized images are probably on your phone, ready to convey your complex feelings with the tap of a single button.
If you haven’t heard of stickers, don’t be surprised when you start seeing them pop up pretty much every time you open up your Facebook (s fb) page. Originating in South Korea and catching like wildfire throughout the cuteness-addicted Pacific Rim, stickers are emoji on steroids that convey much more than a smiley face ever would — making them a popular way to communicate with friends for teens and twenty-somethings everywhere.
The rise of the sticker is meteoric, gaining a notable American home in March with the introduction of Path 3.0 and skipping over to mobile versions of Facebook Messenger roughly a month later. Stickers have been so sticky that although Facebook is not yet providing it, a handful of websites have already hacked a way to bring stickers onto desktop versions of the platform to send giant smiley faces to friends without reaching for the phone.
It’s only natural that Americans would rapidly fall in love with stickers — captured perfectly today by the Wall Street Journal — because we can’t get enough of the cute stuff. And where we see gleeful little characters that tell our loved ones that we’re sick, working, or even eating tacos, social networks are seeing dollar signs.
Path has already put a premium sticker model in place, pushing new ways to communicate with friends via fluffy animal for $1.99. It seems like a small in-app purchase for cuteness, but the company’s ever-expanding bevvy of stickers (including a forthcoming pack with indie design website Threadless) will set up a thriving market that could tempt users into purchasing trendy stickers and collectors and feed their urge for more.
Facebook hasn’t released any premium packs yet — odds are it will happen after the system is fully enabled on all forms of the social network — but it has the potential to provide the network with a new source of cash based on users’ emotional quibbles.
Come on, who can say no to a cat in a party hat?