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Technology Trends: Celebrity Apps- Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Celebrity Apps

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Celebrity Apps

Shelves in the virtual aisles of app stores are packed to overflowing, making aimless browsing a painful task. It wouldn’t be so bad if the problem was merely volume and if the overall quality of the apps could be counted on, but the vast majority of products is opportunistic garbage. With such a vast, daunting selection to choose from, there is competition for our attention, and few things leap out at us like the name and visage of a familiar celebrity. Yes, as on our cereal boxes, cutlery sets, and soft drink cans, so on our mobile apps: faces, names, and personal brands connect us to product. Sometimes the connection is mutual, allowing celebrities to reach out directly to fans with news, photos, and fresh content. Other times, the app itself is profit-generating product. In either case, the attachment of a recognizable celebrity to a quality product can mean instant credibility, or at least a distinguishing, attention-getting mark.

Celebrity apps have been around for a few years now, but momentum appears to be picking up in these past twelve months, with a few twists here and there to make things interesting. Some apps are little more than mobile versions of a celebrity’s website, delivering news and information in a more touch-screen, mobile-friendly environment. When content is fresh, this is nothing to be scorned; when a musician or other performer connects regularly with a captive audience, he or she can generate buzz within the primary market before new product is released. If exclusive content is also available, such as new music available for download only through the app, users get a kind of fan-club vibe that can enhance the experience for all involved.

If there is a popular genre of app, there is a celebrity-themed version of it, as with the pop star whose messaging apps allows fans to send each other personalized greeting cards with images relevant to the musician, or the basketball star whose arcade game centers around a superhero who defeats enemies by hurling basketballs at them. Other celebrity apps capitalize on and encourage communicable fandom in familiar genres, enabling users to add images of the celebrities (or thematically relevant stickers) to photos. Devotees can share photos of themselves alongside (or decorated like) their favorite teeny bopper heartthrob or hip hop artist, or through an app’s voice modulator, record themselves singing in the style of their favorite musicians.

Last year, a new, celebrity-backed app topped the charts when a popular actor lent his name and personal evangelism to what was essentially a text editor. The app, which simulated the look and sound of typing on a typewriter, apparently struck a nerve with the masses, as did the actor’s nostalgic yearning for the days of ribbon and actual carriage returns. The actor worked with the developer to bring the product to fruition, and the result (with in-app purchases, of course) has been a pleasing experience for user and (presumably) actor, yet another way celebrity and product have connected to audience.

Last week, a new app was released from beta, conceived by a well-known actor and director, but also promising content by other celebrities. In this case, celebrities weren’t merely pitchmen, but creators of the app and creators of original content. The app, a kind of social list-making service, allows users to create and share lists while following other list-makers, including news media outlets, popular magazines, actresses, and writers. It provides engagement with celebrities, much like other social networks, with a slightly different approach to content. Rather than 140-character thoughts or retro-filtered selfies, the celebrities share their ideas and thoughts about entertainment, food, or any other list-generating concepts. The app has taken off, with coverage in print and online outlets. Similarly, although perhaps with a looser definition of “celebrity,” another app allows users to read commentary by political experts from around the country on the political events of the day. There’s no celebrity branding on the app, but the content itself is generated by columnists, bloggers, and other commenters on national politics, allowing users to comment and share, engaging with an entirely different set of (in some circles) well-known personalities.

The landscape of celebrity apps is varied, and it continues to evolve. Lifestyle, photo-sharing, messaging, gaming, and even productivity apps have found life and exposure through connecting with celebrities, and there doesn’t seem to be a slowdown on the horizon.


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