Could Aaron Paul’s Off-Color Parody of the Yo App Entice Brands?

For better or worse, Yo has been one of 2014’s most talked about apps, and now, it is getting its very own celebrity parody.

Aaron Paul, former star of the TV hit Breaking Bad, has launched his own app in the iTunes store. Titled Yo B—h, after his character’s eponymous television tagline, Paul’s app lets you send several off-color greetings to contacts, including “Bonjour, B—h” and “Will you marry me, B—h?” The app also allows users to send and receive messages in Paul’s voice.

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Yo caused controversy last summer when the app, which at inception simply sent contacts a single word, “Yo,” was valued at $10 million and was held up by many financial institutions as a nonsensical high water make for start-up mania. However, since then, many high-profile names, such as BuzzFeed and the Miami Dolphins, have adopted Yo into social strategy, using the app to roll out content to followers.

Yo is unimpressed by Paul’s attempt to capitalize on the original app’s notoriety. When approached for comment by ClickZ, founder Or Abel responded cryptically, “Just because you shot Jesse James don’t make you Jesse James. I am the one who knocks.”

To register for Paul’s app, users must supply their phone number and allow push notifications. After they successfully register, users are then connected to their first friend in the app — Paul himself, who is registered as AP. A notification invites users to “Yo B—-h” Paul any time.

While on the surface, Paul’s app seems just as silly as the original, many think that it’s a smart move to create a spin-off of the widely ridiculed app.

“It’s less useless than the Yo app,” says Jason Levy, senior vice president (SVP) of experience, strategy, and innovation at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness. “It’s a novelty but I think for fans of his and the show it’s fun. Fans will play with this but not for too long. It’s sort of a disposable app, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it does look like it’s a sign of the app bubble. However, this stuff does sell.”

“I think Yo B—h is brilliant,” says Andrew Solmssen, managing director of Possible. “As is usually the case with something like this, it will work, once. I think it will have real success and it will get a large number of downloads over a short period of time before it fades and is no longer the flavor of the week.”

But the disposable nature of the app could turn into a selling point for future brands hoping to get people talking, according Levy.

“This could usher in a new era of disposable brand apps where the idea is not to become a utility that people use all the time, but very much like an ad, you watch it and then it’s done,” says Levy. “Maybe there is a place for disposable apps that create a big craze, get people talking about the brand, create a buzz, and then a month later the next news cycle comes on and everybody forgot about it, but for that moment in time the brand has some excitement around it no different from a TV spot that’s really cool.”

If Aaron Paul’s take on Yo becomes as highly buzzed about as the original, we may see brands partnering with celebrities in an attempt to create brand awareness in much the same way that brands already operate across paid social.

“It definitely taps into a zeitgeist of everything that’s going around digital, mobile and technology, and disposable content,” Levy says. “It’s sort of like, ‘How do I play into that space?’ If this gets downloaded and gets eyeballed even if it’s just for a week, sometimes that’s all a social media campaign is for, so what’s the difference?”

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