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,
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,
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?