Branding Case Study
The most interesting creative projects are the ones that at first present themselves as impossible contradictions. While initially named App Nanny (the governess who looks after young apps?) at some point in the early years the company had opted to drop the N making themselves App Annie. Not only was their name confusing, their brand was for all intents and purposes nonexistent. Research showed that App Annie’s target user base was primarily 90% male, between the ages of 25 and 35, and (unsurprisingly) almost entirely engineers.
Bridging all of those gaps to create a coherent and consistent brand identity posed a challenge, but the first step in our rebranding efforts was to render the company name less confusing. There had to be an Annie—that is to say, we had to invent one. App Annie needed a mascot. Annie and the overall brand identity would need to appeal to the target market. Of course, the brand had to be charismatic while also inspiring confidence, and inspiring confidence in the hearts and minds of engineers is no easy task.
Annie went through several revisions, none of which felt quite right. They looked good, but they were missing that X factor that makes a brand great. Finally, inspiration struck when we suddenly recalled something cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson had written. A character from Cryptonomicon had been weary of entrusting his dental needs to a practitioner with whom he had no prior experience, which was essentially the same dilemma App Annie’s target users, the engineers, would be facing.
“When he finally turned to face Randy, he had this priestlike aura about him, a kind of holy ecstasy, a feeling of cosmic symmetry revealed, as if Randy’s jaw, and his brilliant oral-surgery brain, had been carved out by the architect of the Universe fifteen billion years ago specifically so that they could run into each other, here and now, in front of this light box. He did not say anything like, “Randy let me just show you how close the roots of this one tooth are to the bundle of nerves that distinguishes you from a marmoset,” or “My schedule is incredibly full and I was thinking of going into the real estate business anyway,” or “Just a second while I call my lawyer.” He didn’t even say anything like, “Wow, those suckers are really in deep.” The young brilliant oral surgeon just said, “Okay,” stood there awkwardly for a few moments, and then walked out of the room in a display of social ineptness that totally cemented Randy’s faith in him.” Cryptonomicon p. 779
That was it, that would do it. Annie was not an office lady or a math professor. We had tried both of these. Annie was an autistic nerdlet—someone who dresses unfashionably and who comes across as just a little bit arrogant. Annie and the brand would instill in users’ minds a subconscious feeling of extreme competence. Annie was not to be represented as a mere salesperson, like the dentist who tries to sell clients on teeth whitening services, but an unquestionable authority in her field. Someone, or some company, that would put to rest those problem-solving gears constantly turning in the minds of most engineers.
It was perfect. The new App Annie was an instant hit.
We worked with App Annie for the better part of the year, designing their website, office space, and promotional materials.