Most of the apps you have on your phone have names that feel impossibly good, they’re perfectly aligned with what the app does and stick in your brain. How do you end up with an app name that good? The answer lies in those same sentences above. You have to analyze what your app does, how you want to appear, ask yourself the right questions and get brainstorming! The simple fact of a good app name is that there’s very rarely an “aha” moment, most popular apps get by on brand recognition and cultural ubiquity, rather than having a name that’s so jaw-droppingly creative that you can’t help but download it.
Let’s look at some of the most popular apps on planet earth – and think about them like we know nothing about the companies behind them. Some of them sound flat out dumb – Facebook? A book of faces? What does TikTok even mean? Instagram makes some level of sense, but for a portmanteau it’s long and somewhat of a mouthful. None of them are particularly smooth or intuitive – they're just innovators that have successfully dominated their respective markets. The names appear to be well chosen because we’ve accepted them as part of our everyday lives.
You can do better! With a little extra thought (and some better examples) we can learn from apps whose name really do hit the mark.
YouTube and Netflix both perfectly encapsulate the services that they offer, are short, and easily get stuck in your brain.
With these winners in mind – let's go through a simple process.
Think about what your app does
Dating app Tinder set the world ablaze with it’s swipe based system – making it easier than ever for users to signify interest in others. But what does tinder mean? Tinder refers to the tinderbox – a method for causing a spark to start a fire. Tinder took this simple concept – the “spark” that is the basis for both fires AND relationships, got creative, and the rest is history.
Have some fun
A good, creative name is often one that makes you think a little bit but not too much. How do you tap into that yourself? Have a little fun. It will go a long way. Whether that’s swapping out a letter for that little bit of extra cool pun factor or tapping into a universally recognized cultural concept, there’s a lot to be gained by taking things that little bit less seriously.
Let’s look at some examples:
Waze, an app famous for its disruption of the navigation industry and saving you that 10 minutes on your commute, is just the words “Ways” spelled differently. Not only is it relevant, it is also memorable.
Robinhood, an app revolutionizing the personal investment industry chose its name based on the fictional character who would steal from the rich and give to the poor. By associating that cultural context with their financial platform, it differentiates them from the rigid banking and investment industry and also implies a level of service and success with the app that they would struggle to find with another name.
WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging apps, is simply a play on the popular turn of phrase “What’s up?”
No – you don’t need two words – seriously
Keep your app name to one word – no exceptions! Use a portmanteau or simply put two words next to each other, but never use the space bar. The shorter and more compact your app name is, the easier it is to remember, and the easier it is to associate with the services that it’s offering. There is no substitute for brevity!
The verb is the word
Use a verb when trying to name your app – you want your app to inspire action, start with the name! Your app provides a service – make sure that you’re incorporating that service into the name itself. If all else fails, try trending suffixes to easily create new app names. “-ly” and “-ify” have been some of the most popular in recent years, spawning apps like Spotify, Brickify, Muscal.ly (now tik-tok), Leafly, you get the point. This trend has become so ubiquitous that people are even writing articles just to complain about it.
Do your research
Make sure you’re not the first to make a grab at your app name, and if its simply too good to pass up – make sure you’re free from any trademark concerns. This guide from Gerben Law shows you how to avoid most of them.
Make sure you can rank!
Even if your app name is unique – it may not be unique enough for you to rank for it as a keyword. Make sure you can end up on the front page within a few months. If your app name is too general, you may end up having to compete with decades old domains with millions of back links. Organic search traffic is key to the success of most small apps, yours is likely no different. Make sure you know how to set and execute an effective SEO strategy for both the web and the app store – your success is dependent on it.
And that’s it. If you’re still feeling stuck, reach out and we’ll see what we can come up with!
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About the Author: Cameron Avrigean
Cameron Avrigean is a Marketing Coordinator at fivestar*. Cameron is an analytics fanatic with a penchant for copywriting and social media. He works with the marketing team to create engaging content, and is looking for the next big thing. Cameron holds a B.S. in Business Management from Point Park University.