How a trained monkey can make or break your next app

Generally, the livelihood as an app developer looks bleak.   On August 8, 2013 Forbes article stated that the average Apple app generates only $4,000 in revenue, a lot compared to a $625 for a Microsoft app.

Why such low numbers?  MobiThinking revealed that between iTunes and Google Play there are 1.6 million apps in those two stores alone.  In fact, 54 percent of Android developers earn below the poverty line.  There is hope.  Some innovative companies are trying new ideas resulting in thousands, even millions, of downloads for app developers.  

Consider a growing Boston firm, PreApps.  Led by Sean Casto, a recent Northeastern graduate, and a former app developer himself, he became discouraged by his poor performing apps, his passion became helping indie developers build a buzz for their apps, generating successful launches.


Casto makes his products affordable to the developers with little or no money.  Prices ranges for app promotion on his site start for free and run up to $100 a month.  However, they offer additional services like writing press releases, app store optimization, and promotional video.  They will also develop apps for clients, though these services are not free.

A PreApps’ big performer has been Overkill 2 realizing 250,000 downloads the day of launch and 3 million since last April.

Casto claims that 80 percent of his apps either break even or make a profit but refused to be more specific.

Another company to watch is MoHound, which might look like a typical app analytics company, but their results show that they are both unique and successful in gaining substantial ROI for their clients.

“When one of our clients came to us with their game they were getting 1,345 downloads within a given 15 day period,“  said Andrew Contreras, chief of marketing for MoHound. “After installing our device fingerprinting technology in their ads and setting them up with the analytics platform, they were able to start making smarter decisions almost immediately. Within the following 15 day period they had 23,323 downloads , achieving an 374 percent ROI [Return on Investment] on their ad spend.


’’Mohound is different because we are developers building the tools that we need to make profitable businesses out of our apps,’’ Contreras said. “Without a positive ROI none of us have a business. ROI is king here and that’s how we align our objectives with that of our clients. We focus on ROI.’’

Like PreApps, Mohound’s founder, Carlos Mondragon, was a failed developer  himself, consequently, his passion also became helping others find their road to profitability.

Although Appency is a traditional app marketing agency, their campaigns are creative and unusual.  Out of Sacramento, they are one of the first app marketing agencies and have landed many high-profile clients such as Fox, NBC/Universal, and National Geographic.

A recent challenge was to bring attention to  their client at MacWorld 2013.  DreamWalk, developers of Jam for iPhone, used a monkey avatar.  The question was how do you stand out at at MacWorld, bustling with with 25,000 attendants.

To Aaron Watkins, chief executive of Appency, the answer was obvious: Use a monkey.  They hired a professional monkey handler, got the licenses, and snuck the primate through security in an animal crate.

In Sergeant Pepper attire, the beast was a smash. Anyone who showed  up with the app on their iPhone had their picture taken with the little critter.

Universal hired Appency to promote their Dr. Seuss movie, Lorax.  Watkins knew movie apps generally fail because consumers see them as marketing hype. Appency’s approach was to develop a Lorax mustache app that anyone could use and added a true Seussian pitch in the app’s description:


Or perhaps its your friends that are lacking some whiskers

Just pull up their photo and slap on some ticklers

Then email away, you can even send post!

To your friends and your loved ones you’re missing the most.

So now lift yourself up by the seat of your pants

and get to the app store and give it a glance

On the Lorax movie release day, the mustache app reached the number two spot in Google Play.

Good, but Apprency’s custom campaigns are leagues above the bootstrapper, with prices starting at $4,000.

Doug Atkins has one published novel, The Watchers, and is a participant in the Social Enterprise Greenhouse Incubator for his digital, educational tech game, Words From A Roll.

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