Early on in 2012-2013, a handful of our apps were around celebrity themes – musicians, entertainers, influencers. I would take their names and images and I’ll make them cartoon formats and put them into fun games. And it did well. I made a good amount of money doing this. But it wasn’t a very long-lasting strategy. I definitely got letters from their legal team that said, “Hey, you can’t do this.”
But people saw that success and they go to the app store and see political apps going to the top of the charts, and they’re wondering, “Is this a way to make an easy buck? Can I do this?”
So, here are 3 things to think about when making your decision to use celebrities in your app:
1. You’re playing with fire.
You can make apps using celebrities, politicians, entertainers, musicians, or whoever the person is. But realize that you’re playing with fire. This is not something that you broadcast to the whole world, because on some level there is legal precedent for the celebrities to say “You can’t do that.”
There are laws about creating parodies and things like that, but once you get into that world, you’ve got to tiptoe around a little bit. You can do it, for sure, but know that there’s going to be people looking at you once you do it.
2. Law of diminishing returns
As you get more downloads and more money, because you’re leveraging their popularity, you will attract more attention to your app. You could attract the attention of a celebrity who might think, “Hey, why is there an app with my name and a cartoon version of me in the app store at #50 that’s making a couple of hundreds of dollars a day. Why are they making money on it and not me?” And as soon as you get that attention, that’s when you start to get the letters from the lawyers who are not happy with your app.
The law of diminishing returns says that, As you start to grow, your chances of staying under the radar go down considerably. As you become a success, you really set yourself up for failure in a much bigger way.
This is not legal advice. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t do this from a legal standpoint.
You might not get sued, but you’ll probably get a strong warning from the legal team to take the app down and potentially pay them what you have already made.
3. It’s really difficult to build a business on this model.
There’s no compounding effect. You really go for that one big pop and then hang on as long as you can until either the popularity goes down or you get a slap on the wrist by somebody else. And then you start all over again with a new celebrity or a new current event. And it’s really difficult to constantly be timing that over and over.
People have tried this many times, and 4 to 5 years ago it was feasible to a certain extent. But nowadays it’s just not a way to build a business.
So if you’re trying to make a quick buck, and see if it works, you can try it. You may go up the charts and earn a couple of hundred bucks, or thousand bucks if you’re lucky, maybe you won’t get caught. But over the long term, you’re going to have a very hard time making a sustainable income following this process.
As long as you’re very honest with that about yourself, you’ll be okay. You’ll be able to use this as a learning process as opposed to a real business opportunity that you’re going after.
To anybody thinking of doing a celebrity app, it can be a really fun, easy way to test the app business. But I’ll advise anybody looking to make a sustainable income, a couple thousand dollars a month, it’s going to be more difficult for all the reasons I just talked about.
All that energy may be better spent focused on building a product that doesn’t have the risks of using a celebrity, and following the marketing plans laid out in Bluecloud.
Rock and roll,
This is some fantastic advice. It’s great to hear from someone who has experience. I’m currently working on a celebrity app and this is some sound wisdom you just laid down. Thanks a lot Carter.
Well there goes my UFC vs WBC McGregor vs. Mayweather IOS App lol!
…however I would still pay for some decent Mayweather McGregor Game Sprites as just generic decent boxer sprites are hard to find anywhere! HINT!!!