May 03, 2010

An app by any other name is the same

According to The American Marketing Association (AMA), a brand is defined as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” Key word here = differentiation.

My job entails creating new identities for companies … products, services, new corporations. In doing so I strive to create a moniker that stands out from the competition; a name that effectively positions the offering in a way that offers distinction and memorability.

So why is it that iPhone apps don’t appear to operate under the same guidelines? I was searching for a calorie counter app the other day – type in anything related to calories, exercise or fitness and you are inundated with apps that promise to trim your waistline and increase your cardio stamina. Problem is, aside from the price and the star-based feedback, how do you tell them apart? At first glance alone, how do you differentiate?

Here are the results of my app search for ‘calorie':
Calorie Tracker
Fast Food Calorie Counter
Calorie Counter
Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker
Daily Burn
Lose It!
Restaurant Calorie Counter
Calorie Smart Counter
Calorie Counter by FatSecret
Fast Food Calorie Checker

So which ones did I download? The ones that stood out from the rest of course: Daily Burn and Lose It! since they appear to offer more than just a ‘tracker’ or a ‘counter.’ They’re promising me something more … an emotional and aspirational benefit rather than just another diet tool. Sold.

I’m certainly no developer, but because the iTunes App Store is primarly icon-based (and the icons are so prominent on the iPhone screen), it’s likely that the app’s visual representation is much more important than the verbal moniker. Still, I’m a namer and I’m looking for interesting names when make my purchase decisions.

Netflix for example has created guidelines for developers in naming Netflix-related apps. Great approach Netflix. This is a good example of a company encouraging others to help them build their brand, but keeping tabs on their standards and brand principles as well.

What do you think? Is an engaging icon enough to differentiate from a sea of look-alike app names? Or would a distinctive name be the catalyst for your iTunes download? If you’re looking for a repository of available apps for the iPhone, check out Apple’s site.

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