Bad Apps Hurt Brand Names

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Companies with big brand names are hot to exploit the market for smartphone apps, but pushing programs without forethought into the market can do their reputations more harm than good. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of Americans say that if an app backed by a brand is not useful, helpful or easy to use, it results in a negative perception of the brand.

What's more, more than a third (38 percent) of Americans who use mobile applications say they are unsatisfied with most of the brand-backed apps in the market, according to a survey of 781 online adults conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by EffectiveUI, a user interface designer in Denver, Colorado.

Many big brand companies are entering the apps arena with the wrong orientation, said EffectiveUI's president, Anthony Franco. "They're viewing this channel as an opportunity to market to consumers," he told PCWorld. "They're viewing it as a 'campaign' -- a way to build out eyeballs and drive traffic and drive conversions and impressions."

"What the survey shows," he continued, "is that that is a pretty big mistake."

Apps shouldn't be confused with Web-based marketing vehicles like micro sites, he asserts. "If you launch a bad micro site, it falls flat," he said. "If you launch a bad application on the apps store, it creates a very negative perception of your brand."

According to the survey, consumers have certain expectations about brand apps shoved their way. Seven out of 10 (74 percent) feel the apps should be easy to use. Three-fourths want the app to do what they want or need it to do. And more than half (57 percent) think it should be well designed. "They don't expect to be marketed to," Franco said. "They expect to get something done in this channel."

If an app doesn't meet a consumer's expectations, that person won't hesitate to let others know about it, the Harris pollsters found. Almost a third (32 percent) of the respondents say they've told others when they've had a bad experience with an app.

On the other hand, when they like an app, they're not shy about letting others know about that, too. More than half (57 percent) say they've recommended an app based on a good experience, and nearly two-thirds (66 percent) say they've downloaded an app based on a review or recommendation.

"The takeway from the survey for brands is to treat this as a new channel," Franco opined, "and treat this as a channel that you have to offer your customers utility."

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