Apps for (Famous) People

Celebrity fan apps are all the rage, with many companies offering celebrities their very own apps at little-to-no upfront cost. While apps can be powerful tools for some celebs, they can also require considerable investment of time and resources, and should be pursued carefully, in ways that are consistent with a celebrity’s overall brand and marketing strategy. When done right, an app can serve as a next-generation fan club and community, and even create new recurring revenue streams.

Here are three questions to ask before pursuing a celebrity fan app:

  1. Is the celeb’s fan base native to the mobile / social ecosystem? In other words, do they live their lives on their phones? Are they likely to express their fandom wherever, whenever? Apps are so ubiquitous that we forget there are significant barriers to entry: a fan must hear about / see the app, they need to click a download link, then install the app, then open it, and then they’ve got to invest yet more time to explore and see if it’s something they really want to use. All this to say that you need to make 100% certain there is a critical mass of fans who are likely to follow the celeb and interact with other fans on their mobile devices. And, it should be easy to reach them via social media channels, so a large, engaged following across platforms means it will be easier to reach potential users.
  2. Is the celeb going to be an active participant after launch? This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but it does help determine how much of an investment to make. If the celeb isn’t going to actively participate in the community and release exclusive content / programming in the app, then its utility for fans will be limited. A lack of participation also seriously hampers the ability to monetize an app, so set your expectations accordingly if you’re planning on in-app purchases or a subscription product.
  3. What ongoing resources will be available to manage and market your fan app? An app is a product. A good one will also become a community. Products and communities both require all sorts of ongoing management – technical (bugs, new features, etc.), human (user and post moderation, customer service, etc.) and marketing. Even if you get lucky and strike viral gold, every fan app will still require technical and human management. If you don’t have the resources to devote to the app’s success, then set your expectations accordingly.

You don’t necessarily need to check all three boxes to pursue a fan app, but if you can’t check at least two, I recommend taking a hard look at whether an app is really the right strategic fit for your celeb.

If you don’t think there’s a lot of hype surrounding the celebrity app space right now, look no further than Apple. The company is working on an original series called Planet of the Apps about app developers based in the celebrity capital of the world, L.A.