App Naming: Brand Name vs. Generic Name

Why not both? What should be the name of your next app? That’s a good question. Apart from some basic app naming tips, common sense and avoiding common mistakes, there is the issue of choosing between a brand name vs. generic name.

Here is my take on this based on my personal experience and my observations of the app market.

Advantages of a Brand Name

First of all, it’s important for the press and to stand out. If you app name is a brand like “WeightDrop” instead of “Weight Tracker”, you are obviously more unique and the press can easily pick it up. You can build a nice social media presence around your brandish app name. All the important social media accounts and the domain name will probably still be available if you add the suffix “app” to it.

There is also the issue of word of mouth. Let’s assume that your app is a hit and people talk about it in the real world. It would be awesome to have a cool brand name. Plus, when users search for your brand name in the App Store, they will probably find it as the #1 search result. If you have a generic name, it often happens that you tell your friends the app name, but it does not show up as the first search result which is quite confusing.

Oh, and one more thing, unless you have a damn good reason, once you have a brand name and you are just a little bit successful with it, by all means, please don’t ever change it. This happens sometimes with great apps that suddenly feel the urge to rebrand because the original name doesn’t “feel right” anymore. Sure, you might get some press for your clever name change, but it’s taking all your hard work building the brand and throwing it in the trash.

Generic Name: ASO matters

I’m a huge believer in ASO because it works. App Store Optimization is the process of improving the visibility of a mobile app in the App Store. It is basically SEO in the app world. The goal is to rank higher for specific keywords then your competitors and thus getting valuable downloads to rise in the top charts. Ranking in the search results means life or death for your app because it is one of the only places to get visibility.

As of time of this writing, the app title is the most important thing in ASO. Going brand name only will not get you far in the App Store search results, especially if you have some competition in your niche.

Let me give you an example from my own app development experience. So, I was young & stupid & I did not know about ASO yet. I made this high-quality app and of course I wanted a brand name for it, because all the other cool apps in this field did it, too. So I named the app “Pictastic” and that was the whole App Store title. Huge mistake, check out the graph below.

Pictastic ASO update

As you can see, the app had about 20 downloads per day. I was very disappointed and left the app to die. But then I learned about ASO and made an update with basically ASO changes only (title, keywords). The new app title was “Pictastic – Awesome Photo Editor with Filters, Text, Fonts & Doodles”. Still, some very competitive keywords, but this simple change increased the downloads to about 200 downloads per day. 10x increase!

It shows that ASO works and that your app will die, if you choose to go brand name only. Unless you get traffic from outside the App Store, but that’s not the case for most apps.

Conclusion: Do Both

At the current state of the Apple App Store, you are far better positioning your app for success if you do ASO. If you are planning an app that you hope will get press coverage etc., you need a brand name. If you think that you can get away with a generic name, do it. Maybe the best descriptive generic name is still out there for your app. It even seems like the App Store search favours exact match app names a bit, just like Google does with exact match domains in the SEO world.

But by all means, you should leverage ASO and add an descriptive sentence with keywords after your app name. It may not look pretty, but that’s what works well in the Apple App Store right now and brings great benefits as stated above.

So, what’s your take on this? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter!

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