Pop Momand probably had no idea what he was starting back in 1913 when he introduced Keeping Up With The Joneses. Even though the phrase has subtlety changed in meaning over the years, we know what’s being implied when we hear someone is “Jones’in it.” We know they are attempting to keep up their social status by having what the neighbors have, or better. Conspicuous consumption and consumerism are topics best left for economists, but I think there is a striking parallel in the iPhone marketplace.
How many apps have you seen, or perhaps personally downloaded, that ultimately serve no useful purpose? They are simply hunks of code, sometimes with appealing artwork as their only redeeming quality, that rehash what’s already on the owner’s web site, or are a mashup of other information already available from your web browser. They simply exist because the owner thought they had to have an app for their business to keep up with the Joneses (competitors) or to try to capitalize on the iPhone hype cycle.
Why do you want an iPhone app? Is it just to keep up with the Joneses? Ironically, the original comic strip actually wasn’t about the Joneses, in fact they never actually appeared. It was about the main characters, the McGuineses. Likewise your app shouldn’t be about your competitors – it should be about your customers. Those are the main characters in your app. How will your app serve their needs?