“We’re getting a video a minute, it’s pretty crazy.” But what comes first the brand or the idea for successful mobile apps and games?

What comes first – the great idea or the brand that pushes it?

If you make an app and no one downloads it will no one play it?

On her talk show, Ellen DeGeneres plays a game with celebrity guests where she holds a card up to her forehead showing a word or name, like “Justin Bieber.” The guest then gives clues to Ms. DeGeneres to help her guess the word.

It is the rizzla game in some parts of the world!

It’s a game that many have played in college dorms or bars. Some call it Celebrity; others might call it Charades (not british people).

So… Why not turn this into an iPhone game?

That’s the idea the producers of the Ellen show came up with in October. They hired an iPhone app development studio, Impending, to design and code the game, and released it Thursday in Apple’s App Store.

“Big news!” Ms. DeGeneres said on her Twitter account. “I’ve got a brand new game! Its called ‘Heads Up!’ and you’re appsolutely gonna love it.” Within several hours, Heads Up! had soared to the No. 1 spot on Apple’s list of best-selling apps.

In Heads Up!, you can pick a category like blockbuster movies, animals or music. Then you hold the iPhone up to your forehead with the screen showing the word, and your friends shout clues at you. After you guess it correctly, you put the phone face down and hand it to the next player, who gets a new word. The players pass the phone around, guessing as many words as they can until time runs out.

Unknown to most new players, the front-facing camera on the iPhone is recording a video of the whole game session. The players can save the video, share it on Facebook or even “Send to Ellen.” Sending the video to Ellen posts the video on the Ellen show’s Facebook page, and producers will pick out their favorite videos to play on the television show.

“We have 700 videos uploaded already,” said Daniel Leary, digital producer of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and a creator of the app. “We’re getting a video a minute, it’s pretty crazy.”

The game costs $1 in the App Store. Mr. Leary declined to comment on how the revenue would be divided between Warner Brothers, the Ellen show and the app developers. But Bob Mohler, a senior vice president of Telepictures Productions, which produced the game, said its purpose was to expand Ms. DeGeneres’ brand in digital media. The show already has accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, he said.

“We expand Ellen’s digital footprint pretty broadly,” Mr. Mohler said. “We’re just constantly trying to find the next idea to continue to grow.”

But my point here is not about the idea – which is borrowed from something many years older than Ellen – or her digital footprint – it’s about ideas and innovation. And what comes first – the ability to advertise a concept to millions for free through a show format – or the app itself? 

I think we have just answered our own question 🙂

Perhaps a bigger question is why aren’t more big brands i.e. people or ideas with followings and significant airtime, why are they all not making apps and games yet?


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