I love stickers. They’re so simple, so satisfying to remove and apply. I think a sticker can also be thought of like a tattoo. They're personal, and though the first one is a huge decision, every one after that feels a little less crucial. I know because I was that guy: the guy with all the stickers on his car.
If you were behind me in traffic, you could basically steal my identity, because the answer to every security question was represented somewhere on my back window. From my lucky number to my favorite band to the college I attended, it was all there for the taking.
For most of us, stickers tend to fall within the political, spiritual, educational, or sports categories. I have driven around with a St. Louis Cardinals, a TCU, a Bright Eyes, and (God help me) a Lambda Chi Alpha sticker for free. Actually, I PAID for the stickers. I wanted everyone in my rearview mirror to know exactly what I am about. No surprise, as those subjects are the ones we most closely hold—sometimes embarrassingly—to our own personal brand.
But what about products and services? Why isn't anyone driving around with a sticker on their car telling people how much they love Bounty paper towels? While we're at it, why don't brands pay people to put these stickers on their cars? Bounty probably wouldn't have to pay you very much. And, before too long, everybody without a Bounty sticker would be asking themselves, "What’s up with all the Bounty stickers?"
Well, one of the reasons I, like you, don't drive around with a sticker for Bounty or any paper towel company is because it doesn’t fit my brand. And since I spend an unbelievable (really, you wouldn’t believe it) amount of time thinking about branding, I have come to this conclusion: There is no greater indicator of a brand’s equity than a sticker. If you reach what I am calling "sticker status," you are one of the most powerful brands in existence.
"Sticker status" is defined (right now, by me) as “a consumer perception of a brand’s value that is high enough to elicit the placement of a sticker on an object in the consumer’s daily life.” Many brands have achieved a modicum of sticker status, but few are recurring stars in this arena. The stickiest stalwarts I’ve seen are Apple, Yeti, Buc-ee's, Browning Buck, and Costa. It’s pretty clear that sticker status is regional, and it's pretty clear which region I live in. I assume that if I lived in Portland, there’d be a few more Patagonia and hemp-based brands on my list.
Sticker status is also the best reminder to marketers that the brand is about the customer, not the company. If a brand is able to clearly, repeatedly, and unapologetically tell their story, they will find an audience for whom that story resonates. And the customer will repay them by placing a sticker in a place—their day planner, their laptop, or their car—for all the world to see. Because a great brand is not about the brand at all. It’s about the people who love it.
P.S. If you want the best custom stickers, check out Sticker Mule. They didn’t pay me to write that. I would write it a lot more times if they paid me. I'm just, obviously, someone who really enjoys a good sticker.