How to Write a Converting App-Store Description

I’m on the app store. I need a new dating app/ removal company/food delivery service… I have no prior knowledge of the service, no referral from friends, nothing at all to go by.

Dear developer….I need you to tell me why I should hit download, I want to use you, really, I do, but see I have the jitters, I’m going ‘no reviews?’, ‘no pictures?’ no endorsement by well-known news publications? This is a scam! We’re negative like that, even positive humans who like to support startups and be at the cutting edge of the next great app.

Your app store description is your elevator pitch, your Dragon’s Den moment in the spotlight, and the stakes are high. You get 4000 characters, and a few words before the ‘click more’ button to convince your future customers you’re not just legit, but can actually change their lives for the better.

If you thought writing website copy was hard, this is another level. You don’t get to optimise your app store copy. You can’t split-test it and work out the highest converting formula. All you have to go on is whether or not it works. A simple yes or no, download or don’t.

Your app store copy makes all the difference. And every single word counts.

Ok, let’s get to it. I’m going to use some copy we recently wrote for a newly launched app as a case-study.

We worked with the founders of Loafly to create their visual ID, name, website and tone of voice so we already had a head start on finding the right approach for their app store description.

But before we could start selling this awesome service, we had to create initial engagement.

You get two chances to say what you do before your visitors need to make the decision to hear more about you:
1) The subhead under your app name:
Deliveroo
Restaurant food, delivered.

2) A one-line description before the ‘read more’ button

Before I get onto the actual nitty gritty – what to include, spacing, bullet points etc, we need to talk about tone.

If no one’s heard about your app before, you need to make it super clear what it does. Loafly is fun, light and energetic. Their app store copy reflects that but also makes it super easy to understand.

When I wrote the app store description for Moonpig’s new stickers app, my rules went out the window. When you’re writing for a brand that’s an established household name, you can get a bit more playful.

If you’re the new kid on the block, play it safe. Even big fish like Ocado and Uber say it like it is.

Uber is “a ridesharing app for fast, reliable rides in minutes – day and night. There’s no need to park or wait for a taxi or bus”

See how they use 3 features (fast, reliable, 24 hours) and 2 benefits (no need to park or wait).

If you’re launching an app as a brand extension to your main brand, or want to do something a bit kooky because you’re already known and loved, go for it. It’s a risk you can probably afford to take.

OK, while we’re on the first impressions part of this tutorial, screenshots or app previews are a great way to showcase usability, keep your app store page on-brand with your palette and add a few engaging lines of copy to the main screen (2000 characters do not account for copy you add to your app preview slides – so there’s a cheeky hack, but keep it simple and impactful).

By giving your previews a bit of love and a splash of brand identity, you can turn something like this:

Into something like this:

OK, so you have a catchy app ‘subhead’ you’ve got some kick-ass previews with added features and benefits, you’ve got sticky, slicky, can’t-wait-to-read-more-about-it preview copy…

Let’s write this description.

But first, let’s stop calling it a description, because you’re not writing a description, you’re writing a sales page. It’s got to hook, engage, captivate and sell your app to unaware browsers who found you through your marketing or promotion.

● A sales page draws the reader in with a compelling intro
● It uses images sparingly
● It uses features and benefits to overcome objections
● It supports the statements it makes with testimonials and reviews

When you’re writing an app store ‘description’ or a sales page, follow the same format.

Oh, but as an aside, and maybe his is stylistic, but if you want to tell your story and it goes something like ‘I was almost broke, yada yada, I hated my life, I hit rock bottom and considered eating my sofa for sustenance, then I discovered (insert life changing service you’re trying to sell here) and now I sit in my pants all day watching the 0’s in my bank account multiply’ – it’s probably not going to get approved as an app store description, also maybe just stick to actual benefits for your users.

Things to do:

● Say who it’s for: parents, professional singletons, hedgehog owners etc.
● Say what you do – your value proposition
● If you’ve been mentioned in the press, or by influencers add a snippet like “as seen in The Guardian”, or “Tony Robbins recons it’s sick”
● Include the number of downloads (if significant)
● Include star ratings and reviews (if you have them)
● Give all the details your customers will need, e.g: delivery, payment or in-app upgrades
● List all your benefits – especially if you’re light on reviews. Try scribbling down all your features (delivery before 1 pm, reusable packaging, supporting social programmes, variety, latest fashion… you get the idea), then for each benefit jot down how it will change your customer’s life for the better. The trick is if you’re saying ‘so what’, it’s not a benefit yet.
● Use symbols >>> or *** to break the text up
● Add ‘get in touch’ information

Something like this:

Things not to do:

● Talk about yourself and your journey
● Focus solely on features
● Make it too cheesy or salesy
● Write nothing at all – people like to be sold to, just not in a pushy way

So there you have it! Appy-days, you’re well on your way to writing a great app-store description.

Still confused about where to start? Drop me a line for a free 15-minute consultation and we can chat about how Idea Dolls can help.

Good luck and thanks for reading!

Is cultural appropriation ever appropriate?

It’s been a good few months since the Jamie Oliver’s jerk-rice scandal, and it’s taken this long to release this piece because I’m still scratching my head trying to work out what that was even about, and how I can advise the brands we work with at Idea Dolls to use cultural equity in a more responsible way.

So here’s the issue I have with Jerky-Oliver gate:

Jerk Chicken is a Jamaican dish which originated (some believe) when a group of African slaves escaped into the Jamaican wilderness and ‘jerked’ wild hogs (lol) which they’d hunted. They then marinated the meat in cooking pits. The term jerk comes from the Spanish ch’arki – or Llama – a south american method for preserving meat.

If we’re going to do it properly, the meat needs to be a wild hog, and you need to cook it in a pit, and actually jerk chicken is culturally appropriating a South American dish which was culturally appropriated by Spanish invaders.

The purpose of this thought piece isn’t to rant about the rise of cultural appropriation and how utterly ludicrous it is (tempting as that might be), but to really figure out where this term comes from, whether there’s anything we can learn from using cultural curiorisy to elevate the brand stories we tell without causing offence, and how we can avoid misappropriation.

I will look at the challenges brands face when expanding internationally without considering the translation of their cultural equity – I’ll also try to not use academic jargon so in simpler terms, how do you market a product with a brand-story that resonates with one culture in a new market, who have totally different cultural values, and just don’t get it.

Lastly, I’ll be suggesting a third way of getting round the cultural appropriation minefield, by using cultural values instead of cultural icons to represent a brand story. For example, using minimalist design instead of actual Japanese icons to convey cultural values of simplicity and functionality.

When is cultural appropriation appropriate?

Let’s consider this advert for Coca Cola, the motivation behind the campaign is to sell the idea of Coca Cola as an African brand that gets African culture. But is this cultural appropriation ?

OK next example…

Pepsi and that campaign.


Somewhere in the boardrooms of Pepsi, this concept was paraded around like a naked emperor and no one said a thing. But when we look at the two examples side by side, is Coca Cola any better?

Laura Sommerville, Coca Cola’s Global Brand Director explains ‘when an idea taps into the fundamental human truth, there are no borders or boundaries to how far it can go’.

So an idea that’s a cross-cultural fundamental truth but not the cultural icon is not cultural appropriation.

But, yet, that Coca Cola ad, isn’t quite tapping into any fundamental truth, really, is it? They just somehow managed to get away with appropriately appropriating and avoided landing in hot water out of sheer luck, much like any of the hundreds of brands who use cultural icons to sell everything from curry to tea, yoga mats and moroccan themed candles.

Leveraging culture in brand identity is integral to connecting a product with a big idea. We are, after all a construct of our culture, our influences, our heritage or combination of all of those and much more besides.

In an era of globalisation, connecting with culture has never been more important to crafting meaningful brand stories.

“The rise in the power of the market, this rise in materialism, has given people an increasing need for meaning in their lives, both as consumers and employees. Human beings have always needed meaning, a dimension beyond the utilitarian, beyond mundane things we have to do from day to day. People need a sense of identity (who am I?) and belonging (where do I fit? ). Materialism creates a vacuum of meaning, and brands stories fill that vacuum”
Jones, Branding, Oxford

The possibility of connecting products with ideas without ‘resorting’ to cultural symbols will be explored in the final part of this series, but let’s say we want to use cultural symbols, we like using cultural symbols, cultural symbols help us show curiosity and actually bring us closer together.

But when it comes to using cultural icons to sell products, are we culturally appreciating, or culturally appropriating?

Before we can consider this whopper of question, we need to define cultural appropriation, which would be easy, if there was one clear definition of the term. And therein lies the problem:

The term was first coined by colonialists in the 1900s, but only appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary last year.

Cultural appropriation refers to a dominant culture using symbols of a minority culture for its own gain. That is, if we take Wikipedia’s definition.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, cultural appropriation is defined as:

“A term used to describe the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non‐Western or non‐white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.”

So is cultural appropriation the misuse of a minority culture’s symbol or any cultural symbols which are not your own?

I turned to Merriam Webster for a third opinion, but the term is not defined. I had better luck with the Cambridge dictionary:

“The act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture”

Cultural appropriation, if defined as a borrowing of a unique cultural value or anthropological trait in order to support the origin or universal appeal of said ideological trait (basically stealing bits you like from other cultures for the benefit of showing off how awesome that culture is for your own gain) exists in every single culture, and every layer of every subculture. Unless kept in total isolation, where the emergence of any cultural divide is vehemently stamped out, cultural appropriation will always exist.

But using cultural symbols doesn’t really seem to be the problem, it’s the ‘fetishising’ of another culture’s symbols or appropriating them negatively in a way that alienates the ‘owners’ of that symbol (if such a thing is possible). Kjerstin Johnson talks about the misuse of cultural elements that have a deep meaning being temporarily ‘borrowed’ by another culture without understanding the struggles or discrimination faced by that culture.

Take Gü Puds’ appropriation of the umlaut as an example – the founders have with no connection whatsoever to Scandinavian or Danish heritage. Actually, they played around with the French word goût (taste) before realising gout was probably not a good name for decadent puddings, and Gü sounded better than ‘goo’. Superdry has nothing to do with Japan, Häagen-Dazs – another umlaut appropriator and the list goes on.

George Lipsitz coined the term strategic anti-essentialism to mean a calculated use of a cultural form outside of one’s own. Strategic anti-essentialism can be observed both in minority cultures and majority cultures, as a way of anti-essentialising a given culture – basically opening it out to influences from beyond it’s closed group of ideals and values.

We could therefore use strategic anti-essentialism as cultural appropriation meant well.

But before we do away with cultural symbols altogether, because let’s face it, this shit is really confusing, let’s consider just how far our cultural curiosity has brought us, just how important sharing our icons, our fashion, art and beliefs has been to breaking down negative cultural divisions.

A Brave New World?

Let’s consider a world before cultural appreciation, a time where different cultures were ‘savage’ and cultural inadequacy was used to justify destruction of entire nations, cultures, languages and ways of life.

Socrates famously didn’t identify himself as being from Athens, but ‘from the world’. Sure, such crazy thinking led to his trial and eventual execution but it nonetheless inspired philosophers like Montaigne to look further than their provincial mindset, exploring ideas, cultures and beliefs beyond their own.

Montaigne observed European cultural arrogance unfold from behind his inn dinner table:

“Once out of their villages, they feel like a fish out of water. Wherever they go they cling to their ways and curse foreign ones. If they come across fellow-countrymen… they celebrate the event… With morose and taciturn prudence they travel about wrapped up in their cloaks and protecting themselves from the contagion of an unknown clime.”

He took an avid interest in books on the lives of indian tribes: Francissco Lopez de Gomara’s L’histoire generale des indes and Jean De Lery’s Le Voyage au Bresil.

He marvelled at the nudity of the Tupi tribe in Brazil who completely shunned clothes and thought Europeans very odd for suggesting they cover up, he admired the Peruvian fascination with big ears, the Mexican appreciation of the low forehead and how they “hold large breasts in such high esteem that they affect giving suck to their children over their shoulders”.

Between Montaigne’s birth in 1533 and the publication of his third book in 1588, Spanish colonists had destroyed around 70% of The New World’s population.

The Spanish pillaged and destroyed with a clear conscience. After all, the savages were not ‘like them’.

“We could understand nothing of their language; their manners and even their features and clothing were far different from ours. Which of us did not take them for brutes and savages?”

Curiosity about other cultures isn’t just something we should be ‘allowed’ to do, it should be actively encouraged. Acceptance and celebration of diversity even integration and the birth of new subculture should should penetrate every level of our communication, in fashion, art and when it comes to brand creation, yes, our brand stories, our packaging design even the dialects we use on micro-copy.

Who wants to live in a world where we don’t share cultures, where diversity isn’t celebrated and inspiration isn’t drawn from anywhere and everywhere to form new art, new literature and new ways of thinking.

The more we tread on cultural eggshells, scared of causing offence, the more we open the doors for segregation and the death of curiosity.

I’ve gone off on a bit of an anthropological tangent there, but part two will tie back these foundations to practical steps you can take to leverage culture responsibly in your business.

I’ll look at the importance of cultural equity in branding, how brands are increasingly using creative ethnographers to understand the underlying drives of a culture before expanding the brand into new markets, and what practical steps you can take to avoid fetishising cultural icons, while promoting cultural curiosity in your business.

If you’ve enjoyed the read and want a heads up about when I’ll be releasing part two, add your email address here 

We won’t send you dull emails about it being Monday or special sales, but you might get the odd invite to a workshop. If you’d rather just find out about article releases, follow us on Insta @ideadolls

Thanks for reading Dolls!

Xx With love,

Siena
Founder, Creative Director, Sociological Worrier

Loafly Case Study: Adapting Brand Identity For International Markets

Following the success of the premium breakfast delivery app Milkman in Israel, founders Omer and Jonny wanted to bring their ‘healthy brekkie at the touch of a button’ service to the UK.

We worked with the team in Israel to understand their offering “breakfast you want to jump out of bed for”, and their target market “families and professionals who want to provide the best for the breakfast table but don’t have the time to scan artisan markets to source ingredients”

Our challenge was to position the brand in the premium category while adding warmth and fun – speaking to busy foodies who crave variety, convenience and a top-notch breakfast every day.

Lost in translation…

The transition from a premium service in Israel to a premium artisan brand in Europe wasn’t straightforward. In Israel, playful design is the stuff of children’s brands, and brand values of loyalty, comfort and wholesomeness are articulated through the product rather than the ‘symbol’ or logo.

Designs which tested well with a European target audience were completely lost on an Israeli market test, who didn’t understand the playfulness, and wanted to see the product more.

How culture relates to branding is a fascinating subject and one covered at length in Torelli’s Globalization, Culture and Branding, but even understanding the fundamental difference between how brands leverage cultural values cross-culturally to build lasting and scalable brand equity, didn’t at all prepare us to answer the question: “why does everyone in Israel not get the new design, while everyone in the UK absolutely loves it?”

Why don’t Israelis get ‘playful branding’?

We posed the question to Ido Bercovier, an award-winning artist from Tel Aviv. Ido doesn’t paint in the lines (so to speak), his art is controversial, and his vibe typical of the Tel Aviv artist scene.

The problem, he explained, wasn’t that Israelis didn’t get quirky, it’s a difference in the history of Europe and Israel. Europe has a long history of romanticism. Israel has been around a short while, we don’t want stories, we want action – we want practicality. Branding in Israel is functional, and even though founders of Iconic brands (like WeWork)  have their roots in Israel, when communicating to an Israeli market, the brand story is secondary or completely nonexistent.

But also, it’s about connection, Israelis are more connected and get out more. There’s a sense of community.

Branding creates a relationship between a consumer, a product and an idea so it’s completely logical that in cultures where there is a strong sense of community, the need to build a relationship with the brands you buy isn’t as strong.

Europeans need the story, we have more time for building a relationship with the brands we consume and the difference is the value we place in romanticism over practicality, and ‘perceived brand value’ through the connection we feel with brands.

Anthropologically, understanding this fundamental difference was fascinating and presented a new challenge – launching the brand in the UK meant we couldn’t use any of it’s existing ‘brand values’, the existing product needed a brand story, a look and feel and name that would give us story-loving Europeans the brand connection we crave.

Step 1 Name

The first challenge was to name the brand – Milkman wasn’t premium enough for the UK market, where the milk-round isn’t anything exciting or new.

After rounds of names, playing with various articulations of words that said ‘morning’ and ‘happy’, Loafly was chosen as the favourite – an ownable brand name which combined the main product offering ‘loaf’ with ‘lovely’ – we love how satisfying it is to say, like the feeling of that first bite of the perfect breakfast sarnie.

Step 2 Design

Then we set about exploring colors, fonts and tones:

Before settling on a warm colour palette that injected a bit of fun and energy to the typography, with the ‘O’ bringing energy and warmth, while creating a market-relevant, ownable wordmark that can be used on its own as the brand icon.

The final font  was slimmed down from the earlier, chunkier versions for a sleeker, more premium look and feel.

3) Launch

Loafly’s visual ID was rolled across social @loaflyuk, the Loafly app and the new website Loafly.co.uk, where we explored more ways to apply the new identity through playful assets and illustrations. An illustrated ‘burst’ of breakfast ingredients in the hero panel creates a sense of energy and excitement, as if all those great goodies are just waiting to jump out the bag and onto your table. A rounded sans serif and thicker, bolder headline font complements the section panels adding colour and fun without looking too childish.

Loafly rolled out the design onto their new delivery bags…. Ready to land a breakfast of champions on lucky Loafly doorsteps.

Hurray! No more soggy cereal and stale old bread.