Is Asking for a Positive Review Smart Marketing or Morally Objectionable?

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We recently posted about a promotion whereby you send an email to the developers and they give you a free copy of their app. What we didn’t mention, because the details weren’t included in the promotion materials, is that every customer who emailed the developers for their free app received the following email:

Dear MMMOOO user,
Good day!
Thanks for join the PROMOTION of Weather Plus:
FREE for a limited time, Write us an email to unlock it, INCLUDE YOUR PIN. We welcome your GREAT comments to help us improve this GREAT app.

So will you be so kind to write a review for us, you can give nice stars, and reasonable feedback. If you leave a reply we we will done it in one working to input your PIN in our system.
If you really dont want to write a review, you may just leave a 5 stars for us. we will done this inside 3 working day. You see there is a large quantity of requisition, so we are really very busy in dealing with emails. You see each day we serve more than 50000 users worldwide.

Besides, you can surfer our BB portal to explore more FREE and Premium products at app world:

Thanks for your participation and trust,

Customer service
Sincerely & Executive, Unlimited!

This marketing strategy raises some interesting questions about whether the practice of giving away free copies of an app in exchange for a positive review is smart marketing or morally objectionable. Should a promotion for a free app come with no strings attached, or is a developer allowed to ask for something in return for giving away something they have invested money? Many users look to the reviews to determine whether or not they’re going to purchase an app, and dishonest reviews that manipulate the system could have a negative impact on other users. Another angle to consider, is that perhaps it’s the fault of the store for creating a review system that can be manipulated so easily.

The marketing strategy is clearly effective. There are 208 Ratings on the Weather Plus Lite app and it has a full 5 star rating.

The company has done variations of this promotion in the past. When MMMOOO launched a World Cup 2010 theme called Love Football Love KAKA, they said they’d customize the homescreen badge for you if you left a 5-star rating on their theme and email them. This promotion was also very successful with 28 Ratings (15 Reviews) and a full 5 star rating. On App World, the theme has 775 reviews with a 4.5 star average rating.

You can’t blame a BlackBerry user for writing a positive review in exchange for a free app. It doesn’t take very much effort and everybody loves a free app or theme, so why not? The practice does lower the value of App World and Mobihand reviews. If more developers were to adopt this strategy, the entire review system would eventually be broken. Perhaps there should be more pressure on App World and Mobihand to create a review system that isn’t so easily manipulated. Mobihand’s review system is the weakest in terms of reliability as you can leave a review on a Mobihand app without proof of purchase. App World requires that you purchase the app, but reviews are all treated equally and sometimes a 1 star review will be left even though it wasn’t the fault of the app or developer. For example, many users will leave a 1 star review if the app doesn’t work, and they haven’t taken the proper steps of doing a battery pull or reset before testing the app. App World could really benefit from a review system that gives weight to certain users who have proven themselves to be knowledgeable users. This could be done with a system similar to Yelp’s review filter (explained below).

So I’ll put the question to the reader: is taking 5 star reviews in exchange for a free app smart marketing, morally objectionable or evidence that review systems need improvement?

  • bsharwood
    I work at another Canadian startup that is a platform for reviews - We focus on home improvement pros. The subject of encouraging good reviews is always on our mind - as it is with the folks at Yelp. We think there's nothing inherently wrong with encouraging good reviews but you have to accept the bad with the good. You need to accept (and the publisher needs to post) review that say things along the lines of: "This Product was okay - I might use it again - please send me my free stuff" - That review, while useful in a way, tells a story. We've seen this kind of thing backfire.
    But more power to MMMOOO. It's using social media (reviews) in a good way.
  • Scott Rafferty
    I emailed MMMOOO twice and made an offer to MMMOOO to provide honest feedback and suggestions for their application only after being able to use the full version. I have yet to receive an email confirmation that my pin was in their system. (I emailed it to them in both emails).

    I have been on a search for a more perfect weather application and have yet to find one that does it all (I have settled on BerryWeather as it was lightweight, fast to load, included radar and alerts for multiple locations and lots of other features and was glad to pay for it).

    I would leave positive feedback only after finding the application useful and if not found useful, I would delete it and find another application.
  • Jonah lin
    hi, i shall just dealed your PIN in our system. get it activated now :)

    now still weekend, i was trying spend as much time as i can. so many emails, more than 2000 emails.
  • Jonah lin
    Dear MMMOOO users, we are struggling in growing. Sometimes, we may be too eagerly to want some sth.
    but all the promotions are based: we do what we promised. if the users not make review, only if he send an email, he will get full version.

    at this process, if someone can help us make encouraging reply, then it will be so kind to us.

    we will learn from your feedback as well, we will try not to express the meaning so directly, you know, we need your support. but we will put more energy to dig the app better.

    and i APOLOGIZE so much for bringing bad feeling to you guys. you know our mission is: Enrich Your Mobility!

    So, be so kind treat us softly!

    Jonah Lin

  • Tez
    Well, you mentioned that we dont need to do a review, but just leave an email. But when i emailed, you told me to write a review first!
  • Jonah lin
    Dear Tez, what's your Pin or email, so i can help you input it now.
    the email reply to you is at buffering email and invitation to help us. Even though, you not leave a review, when you emailed, we will help you to make it full, it's our promising.

    Thanks, you can email to me if you not get a reply in time @ ljl(at)

    Jonah Lin
  • Randyj
    The App World review system is a huge disappointment. App World has encouraged vendors to seek out positive reviews by any means by stating that they will reward applications with lots of positive reviews by giving them stronger consideration for the featured app carousel.

    I have two apps on App World and despite getting lots of direct positive feedback from customers I can not bring myself to ask them for a positive makes me feel dirty.

    I would like to see the review system loose the "star" rating because it is way to subjective and frankly easy to manipulate as your article suggests.
  • Eric at Ebscer
    The featured app carousel does not appear to actually be based on reviews. Of the 24 free applications currently listed the average rating is only 3.25 and includes a 1 star application from ING Direct. The carousel also currently includes the Go Netherlands "application" which has the stunningly awful rating of 0/5 stars. Unfortunately the carousel has nothing to do with the quality of the application, but instead is based on if you are working out of Ottawa or Waterloo or not...
  • It's true that you may have an easier time getting featured if you live in Ottawa or Waterloo, but from conversations I've had with the App World team, it's as simple as just asking them. Apparently all you have to do is send them an email and ask, and they don't get many requests. Maybe because of the confusion surrounding the featured criteria (of which there is pretty much none).
  • Marvs S.
    It makes the review system worthless if producers are essentially buying ratings.
  • SteveP
    I won't leave a fake review just to get a free copy, especially if it turns out to not really be a five star app, I'd be just as responsible for bilking others out of their money because I lied.
  • Eric at Ebscer
    BlackBerry AppWorld does not give developers the ability to tie a review to a PIN, so they have no way of confirming if you actually left a review or not. In the email you can just tell them anything you want...
  • Brady
    Even though I'm guilty of falling for this promo and leaving a 5 star rating, I do indeed feel it's morally objectionable and have since removed the app from my phone (too bad I can't remove my review).

    With this app in particular, you couldn't even test the full capabilities of the app until it is unlocked and to unlock it you have to leave a 5 star review or purchase it. A bit of a catch-22 in my opinion.
  • Jonah Lin
    dear Brady,
    i just confirmed, you PIN is already in our system.

    sorry for all the unhappy bringing to you. be so kind forgive us.

    Jonah Lin

  • It's a shame that you see it as "falling" for the promo but it's understandable. I think it would have been better if everything was put on the table and the developers were more upfront with the promotion. Because you had to email the company to find out about the terms of the promotion, it feels like there's an element of being duped. Maybe users should write a secondary review for these sort of promotions. 1 positive review to get the full version for free, and if the app is disappointing, a very bad and scathing review to compensate.
  • Jonah lin
    Kyle, good day! it's Jonah here.
    it's Saturday at Shanghai, i m still on board to dealing the emails, as the customer service staff.
    so the things may not so “Nakedness” as you think. We are kind to our users. we are humble to learn from this.

    And all we do is making our customer happy.
  • Mikebh
    "Being Kind" or "making our customer happy" might just as well allowing them to place an honest review. No matter how you try to justify or explain yourself, swapping a user license for a positive review is at best, buying ratings - at worst, a mild sort of blackmail for the user. I'm going to also assume that the number of comments repeating this sentiment over and over being lost on you is due to some sort of linguistic challenge. The grammar and structure of most of your replies seem to indicate either a tenuous grasp of English, or the use of web based translators.

    If you want to give away demos, give them away unrestricted. If you want to GENUINELY know what your users think of your product, let them tell you what they think. The "treat us kindly and softly" request frankly, incites me to do neither...
  • Viki
    I completely agree with Mike here....
    Making the customer happy or satisfied might just be enof for them to place a decent review in the store...

    I am the Manager of Collaber Solutions LLC a.k.a Vimukti technologies Pvt Ltd which has around 230 products till date & I am the one who attends the customer issues.

    Fine... we got some negative reviews too in the stores as they do not like some of our apps but you ought to accept them.... Not everyone likes everything

    I try to attend the issues fastly... coz I sincerely believe that our business runs only due to these good customers who download our apps!!
    Once the issue is solved, sometimes I ask them to write a review & that too only if he/she has liked the app & is using it...

    & yes.... I believe that luring the users in this way...Asking for a Positive Review in exchange of the free app is not a good business practice...
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