SAN FRANCISCO -- Good grief, Charlie Brown! The "Peanuts" character and his pals are joining the social network Path.
The San Francisco start-up has struck its first brand partnership with the "Peanuts" gang, still one of the most powerful brands in entertainment marketing which, like beloved global icons such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, has remained relevant to new generations.
Starting Friday, Path users can attach virtual stickers of Linus, Snoopy, Woodstock, Lucy and, of course, Charlie Brown, to messages they send friends on Path to convey thoughts and feelings more expressively than with a few typed words.
"Use Woodstock to convey a little cheekiness, or a snoozing Snoopy to show your blissed-out state. There are conversations that require Charlie Brown's lovable awkwardness, some that call for Lucy's muscle, and some for Linus's quiet wisdom," Path said in a blog post.
But will it knock the competition's block off? Path cofounder and Chief Executive Dave Morin says "Peanuts" is just the first in a series of partnerships that will bring brands to Path. Stickers, he says, are turning into a solid business.
Path bills itself as a more "personal" social network for close-knit groups of no more than 150 friends. Unlike Facebook and more traditional social networks, it was built for use on mobile devices.
In March it rolled out a new service that lets users send private messages and virtual stickers to their friends. Messaging has spiked growth on Path, which just hit 9 million registered users.
For the first couple of years, Path saw most of its growth in Asian markets -- Japan, South Korea, China and Indonesia. Recently it started to see significant growth in Central and South America as Path took hold with Spanish-speaking populations. Last week it spread to Los Angeles, and from there is now crisscrossing the United States.
Path now ranks as one of the top apps for iPhone and Android devices, Morin said, as Path adds about 1 million registered users a week.
I caught up with Morin to discuss the new "Peanuts" partnership and Path's recent growth spurt:
Path is having a growth spike at the moment. How many registered users do you have and how quickly are you adding new users?
We just passed 9 million users. We are adding so many users per day it's hard to keep up. But we're doing about 1 million new users per week right now.
Where is that growth taking place?
The United States. Americans are flocking to Path. Los Angeles tipped America for us.
How many registered users do you have in L.A. now?
It's hundreds of thousands.
You introduced private messaging and stickers in March. Is that driving growth and engagement?
We released a new version of Path at South by Southwest with a substantial new feature: messaging, which includes stickers and other fun and useful ways to communicate. We also added some great tools for people to tell their friends about Path.
When we think about growth and social network growth, one of the things we found through our growth in Asia is that a user who can find eight friends in seven days has a great experience on Path. So we have started to focus on adding features to find friends in seven days, and features that reduce the number of friends you need to have a great experience.
We also added some unique features to messaging which are probably really valuable to an L.A. audience such as ETA, which allows you to click drop a map into chat and show a friend what your location is.
How popular have messaging and stickers been for Path?
Very popular. Stickers in particular have been a really powerful and fun thing for people. They help you communicate things that normally would take 20 keystrokes or 20 messages, and reduce that down to a single click.
One of the key insights we had about stickers when we were doing all the testing is that people really love characters. Through characters you can express a lot more emotion.
Friday you are announcing your first brand partnership with the roll-out of "Peanuts" characters in sticker form. Why "Peanuts"?
"Peanuts" is one of the most beloved sets of characters of all time. We are excited to be the first to bring "Peanuts" to stickers.
Did you approach "Peanuts"?
Yes, and they were immediately receptive. We are excited about this first set of iconic characters. Snoopy sleeping in his dog house. Charlie Brown missing the football. Lucy selling advice. These are all things that are fantastic representations of the emotions that people experience every day.
Will there be other brand partnerships?
Yes, we are working with a variety of beloved characters. Consumers should expect even more coming from us soon. We're pretty excited to bring some of the most beloved characters of all time to Path.
Can you give us a sneak preview?
I'd like to stay focused on "Peanuts" for now.
Have stickers turned into a good business for Path?
It has turned out to be quite a good business. And we are just getting started. We're excited to roll out more partnerships with great brands.
We are learning a lot in a short period of time about what types of stickers people like, how to merchandise these and make them part of our core experience. People are asking us to use stickers in the real world. We are getting interesting requests from customers.
What kinds of requests?
People are asking us for stickers. They want to put them on their computers or on their notes, or have them around the house. They want physical versions of the characters. We would never have expected that.
Do you think more and more mobile apps and social networks will have these kinds of virtual stickers?
We think so. I think stickers give people a way to express themselves in their everyday communications in a way that wasn't possible before. It makes it more human, it makes it more fun and it makes it more meaningful.
It all started with the invention of emoji in Japan. This is the next step. We are excited to innovate and to push this forward, and give people yet more ways to deepen their personal relationships and communicate their feelings and emotions in ways that weren't possible before.