Business Technology

Celebrities are now taking centre stage with apps

7 min read

19 August 2014

Many celebrities have led the way in early involvement with apps; Uber was financially backed by Ashton Kutcher, Edward Norton was the celeb behind Crowdrise, sharing platform Mobli gained interest from Leonardo Dicaprio and Lance Armstrong, and Draw Something partnered with Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias. However, chefs, actors and musicians alike are now teaming up with app developers to come up with their own personal branded apps.

Here are but a few:

Apps is like a box of chocolates

The latest celebrity to join the app world is Tom Hanks, whose Hanx Writer app (launched last week) now tops the Itunes store chart since yesterday. The app, available on iPads running iOS 7.0, was developed with Hitcents.

“In the late 70s I bought a typewriter – portable enough for world travel and sturdy enough to survive decades of ten-fingered beatings,” Hanks wrote on the app’s intro page. “I’ve since acquired many more – each different in design, action, and sound. Each one stamps into paper a permanent trail of imagination through keys, hammers, cloth and dye – a softer version of chiseling words into stone.”

Inspired by the “charming experience” that a typewriter provider, Hanks created his own iPad version, with the look, sound and manual pace of an actual typewriter… complete with the ‘ding’ noise at the end of each line. There are, of course, a few changes.

In a recent Apple Twitter interview, Hanks explains: “I wanted the sound of typing if nothing else…cause I find it’s like music that spurs along the creative urge. Bang bang clack-clack-clack puckapuckapuckapucka… I wanted the ‘report’ of each letter, each line.”

But unlike the average machine, you will find a boldly lit delete button readily available, including the ability to email, share documents, print, and save something for later use.

Swift gets carded

It was Michael Brown, vice president of American Greetings, who was approached by the Swift family – Scott Swift to be exact. Taylor Swift’s father suggested that the company help create a line of greeting cards that would be penned by his daughter.

Brown explains that “every song that she sings, she either writes or co-writes,” and that she would undoubtedly be good at it due to her talent for writing.

He goes on to say that “we’ll give her blank cards to write with. Or we’ll give her a mocked-up card. On the inside, we’ll have a note that says, ‘write a greeting card to a close friend you haven’t seen in a while.’ Another one might say, ‘Write a greeting card to your mom, whom you love very, very much’ or ‘Write a greeting card to your best friend for her birthday.’ We’ll give her a stack of 50 or 100 of those.

“She also has some influence on the design. It’s a very unique process. In the 11 years that I’ve been at American Greetings, we haven’t ever done it this way.”

In a statement, Swift said: “Lyrics are important to me, especially when it revolves around country music as it often involves telling a story, beginning, middle and end. My idea of a great song is also a song that says how I feel better than I could. I feel the same way about greeting cards.

“I’ve always been fascinated by feelings and how we express them to each other. Getting to write and design these cards is a wonderful experience.”

The great thing about the app is that the person receiving the message doesn’t need to have the app installed as well. It can be posted to a Twitter or Facebook account, and sent as a text message or email.

Alicia Keys “scores” an app

“I had just recently given birth, and I was like, I really want to get into the children’s space,” said Keys in an EW interview. “I was seeing the different things that I wanted to bring into his life — different DVDs or different TV shows that were on — I was realising how cool it would be to bring to bring multifaceted, multicultural music and stories into his world.”

So in 2012 Alicia Keys launched a storytelling app, alongside AK World Wide (her own company) and BentoBox Interactive, called ‘The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee’, complete with her own music. It tells the story of a little New York City girl and her grandmother – with a twist.

Starting off in her bedroom, the user can choose to write in a journal, tap into a music box playlist, play musical instruments or read books from her shelf which transport you to a different story.

“As technology continues to advance, I feel it is so important to continue growing and fostering those indelible relationships as children tap into the digital landscape,” Keys explained, hoping the app will encourage children to “express themselves”.

Kate Bosworth steals style

In July this year, Bosworth launched Style Thief, an app that allows you to snap a picture of someone’s clothes, find a store alternative look-alike and buy them in just a few clicks.

Co-founder Bosworth, who partnered with Samantha Russ, said: “Everyone can identify with wardrobe envy — that urge to ‘steal the look’ from a friend, a stranger, an editorial in a magazine or even the runway. Now you literally can by utilising Style Thief.

“Every time I look at a collaboration, whether it’s with product or an online presence or something like an app, it really is the melding of art and commerce, fashion and tech. Understanding how to refine search for customers is, I think, something on the forefront of tech and fashion.”

Although the app is nowhere near original, Bosworth has tech startup experience and is banking on a simple and user-friendly design. But she could be on the right track according to Scott Forshay, senior strategist at Mutual Mobile.

“Photography, especially on a mobile device, is a far more useful platform compared to things like texts,” he explains. “People love taking photos and sharing photos. I see that trend obviously continuing.”

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