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Finnish colouring book app for adults storms the market

Finnish colouring book app Recolor has gathered over six million downloads. A major boost came in the spring when the app was included in Apple’s charitable campaign raising money for WWF.Sumoing

Colouring books for adults have become a huge hit, but you do not need pens and paper to enjoy the experience. Finnish startup Sumoing has brought the same immersive experience to mobile.

Over nine million downloads, one million new users every month and a steady place among the top ten entertainment apps in the US. The success of the ‘Recolor’ colouring book app since its launch one year ago has taken even its creator Sumoing by surprise.

“We have done quite a few creative apps prior to this and it has been a surprise how massively big audience love colouring,” says Ilkka Teppo, Sumoing co-founder and CEO. “And we are only getting started. We have focused on iOS so far and just started on Android.

What makes colouring on a mobile app so appealing? A key factor is its ease of use. You can choose a picture from over 900 illustrations, pick a colour and just tap the area where you want it to be applied. Naturally it is a different feel from pen and paper, but Teppo says the digital world also expands the experience. Colours can have animated effects and pictures can come in 3D.

“Colouring fits how people use their mobile phones very well,” Teppo describes. “You colour for a moment when waiting for the bus and continue when you have another free moment. The experience is similar to gaming. It is entertainment, but with a more creative touch. It is not about competition, but creativity and relaxation.”

Selection, selection, selection

Recolor has found its audience particularly among 18 to 44 year old women in the US and UK. It is far from the only colouring app targeting this market, but Recolor stands out with its focus on variety.

“We want to offer something for everyone, no matter if you are a child or a grandparent, whether you like cats or mandalas,” Teppo explains. “There are no limits for content in the digital world. If a CD fits twelve tracks and Spotify has two million tracks, then our goal is to be the latter one.”

“With a colouring app everybody can get a feeling that ‘Hey this looks really good, I did this’. Mass market appeal requires that sense of achievement,” says Sumoing CEO Ilkka Teppo. Image: Sumoing

While a selection of the illustrations are free to use, access to the whole library requires a subscription fee. At the moment most of the pictures are sourced by Sumoing, but the goal is to open up the service to all aspiring illustrators to upload their pictures for others to use. Teppo expects to reach 10 000 pictures by the end of 2016.

The ‘Spotify’ of colouring books

While Recolor is in the league of its own, it is not Sumoing’s first dabble with success. Since the company was founded in 2012 it has launched four photography apps and gathered a total of 25 million downloads.

Most of users have come from the US, which is not an easy feat for an eight person startup based in Finland. Teppo does not have a simple recipe for how to make it across the Atlantic, but he believes geographic distance is not an issue.

“We use Apple and Google stores for distribution so we don’t have to worry about distribution channels,” Teppo explains. “We don’t need face-to-face selling, but reach consumers organically and through digital marketing channels.”

Sumoing has started to eye wider markets, but for now its focus is on app development. The plan is to expand Recolor into a fully-flexed platform where users can upload illustrations, turn their photos into colouring pictures, share their creations and interact with others.

“We are nowhere close to being ready, but we have a clear vision for where we are headed. There is no global digital colouring brand yet, no ‘Spotify of colouring’ and that is what we want to become,” Teppo concludes.

Sumoing wants Recolor to become the ‘Spotify of colouring books’ with millions of illustrations. The next step is to build the app into a platform where people can add and share their own creations and interact with others. Image: Sumoing
By: Eeva Haaramo