After The Death of "i" Branding, Will Apple Ditch the iTunes Brand Next?

By Evan Niu, CFA Markets Fool.com

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) began transitioning away from its iconic "i" branding several years ago, instead moving toward "Apple <product or service>" branding. The reasons were pretty clear. Since Apple can't trademark a single letter, countless others have attempted to piggyback on the "i" nomenclature with their own "i" devices, products, services, and even entire companies (like iHome). Over the years, what we saw was a relentless dilution of the "i" naming convention that increasingly had less and less to do with Apple.

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The long-term branding solution was to start branding things with "Apple." Think of Apple Music (instead of iMusic), Apple Pay (instead of iPay), or perhaps most notable, Apple Watch (instead of iWatch). At this point, Apple hasn't introduced an "i" product or service in years. Existing products like iPhone or iPad will certainly remain, but there's very little chance that Apple will introduce another new iAnything ever again.

iTunes does just about everything now, for better or for worse. Image source: Apple.

Is iTunes next?

The iTunes brand stopped making sense long ago, at least if the brand is expected to describe the service. iTunes expanded beyond just music over a decade ago, and now includes a wide range of content categories such as movies, TV shows, apps, and even ringtones (does anyone still even pay for ringtones?).

It's not just "tunes" anymore, and it hasn't been that way for a long time. As such, the iTunes brand has been declining in appropriateness for an eternity. It became a strong brand as the first mainstream digital storefront for music, which is probably why Apple has stuck with it for so long. As a function of iTunes' expansion, it's no longer just a music-playing app either. It has an integrated storefront for all types of media, and will play any of that media (other than apps).

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There are now signs that Apple wants to move away from the iTunes brand, starting with a subset of the content: podcasts. The company has now rebranded its first-party podcasts app as "Apple Podcasts," according to 9to5Mac. While there are some other ideas as to what this could potentially signal, like a possible podcasting subscription service, it could also mark the first indication that Apple will rebrand its digital content repository. The challenge then is: What would Apple rename it?

If Apple were to rebrand iTunes altogether -- which is still a pretty big "if" currently -- there aren't a whole lot of obvious or compelling alternatives. Apple Music already refers to the streaming service and doesn't encompass the other content categories. "Apple Content" is horrendously boring and doesn't appeal to anyone, and "Apple Media" is barely any better.

"Apple Play" wouldn't work because Apple's dominant mobile platform rival has already used "Play" for its own storefront. Apple Store usually refers to the retail locations. If you have any better suggestions, I imagine Cook & Co. are open to ideas right about now.

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Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.