Are you a hawkeyed defender of intellectual property? Do you hate getting swindled by yet another terrible knockoff of an otherwise fine product? Does the sight of shysters videotaping movies in the theater give you the heebie-jeebies? BrandBounty wants you!
By Seth Weinstein, Digital Editor-at-Large at Ziptask.com
BrandBounty is a new app for iOS, released just last month by Hollywood/Beverly Hills developers Telethrive and CuriousMinds. Users of the app take pictures of counterfeit goods or copyright violations, tag them with some relevant information, and submit them to the app. A successful identification of infringement nets the whistleblower any number of virtual prizes or even cash rewards. Users can also enter contests where the goal is to find infringements on specific brands.
As the platform's website explains, copyright infringement and counterfeit goods hurt everyone. Through the process of everyone chipping in to collaboratively weed out these faulty wares, we ensure that the remaining products are of the caliber we've come to expect. Compared to counterfeit articles, authentic goods last longer, are safer to use, and are of higher general quality; plus, the brands selling them enjoy higher revenues and less pressure to reduce the worth of their products to compete.
Unfortunately, that mostly serves as sunshine-and-flowers marketing rhetoric. The reality of the situation is that this app is going to fail, and probably should have never been developed in the first place. But don't take my word for it; let's break this down into individual points of failure.
Working For The Enemy
We'll begin the assessment by pointing out the obvious: in 2012, the average American consumer is not super-inclined to help out Big Business. Despite where one sits on the political spectrum, most of the public can agree that the economy is not in its best shape, and big businesses were a key factor in getting it there. The company's website claims that copyright infringements lead to many lost jobs, but I'd wager that the people who lost their jobs don't really blame the infringements for it. They just see a company that didn't have their back when things got tough. And when you're looking at it from that view, your first instinct isn't to heed the call of duty and jump out of your chair to help Bossington J. Moneybags make an extra dollar. No, your first instinct is probably to ask...
Why Do I Care?
No one likes a tattletale, and there is a lot of negative societal stigma to being a "snitch". If you want citizens to rat out wrongdoers, their incentive has gotta be more solid than a gift certificate to Starbucks. Yes, when we get down to the core values of human existence, reporting wrongdoers helps us all out in the long run. But counterfeiters aren't murdering people's families, they're not physically hurting anyone or making areas unsafe, and they're not making sensationalist news headlines. Mostly, they're just selling knockoff or lower-quality merchandise to John Q. Public at rock-bottom prices. And since money is tight in modern days, reporting these infractions won't make you a community hero; it'll just inspire the masses to shake their fists and yell to the heavens...
Give Me My Stuff Back!
Because some people like their crappy imitations. They enjoy being able to purchase a recently-released movie for $10 and watching it in the comfort of their own homes. They enjoy owning a facsimile of a designer fashion article for a fraction of the price. They might even get a chuckle out of seeing the horrendous and obviously bogus cartoon character dolls offered as carnival prizes. And for the most part, the general populace isn't dumb, either. They know that the purse they buy on the street from a man selling them on a blanket isn't going to have the same craftsmanship as the true $2,000 item, and they know that the "myPod" hanging up as a prize in an arcade luck game isn't going to work as well as the real Apple product. But people like options nonetheless; it's why price-conscious buyers enjoy things like store-brand items in grocery stores, thrift and pawn shops, and secondhand internet markets. And here's the clincher: in addition to BrandBounty encouraging people to work for individuals they don't like, about a cause they don't care about, and against their own perceived best interests, the final-nail-in-the-coffin flaw...
The App Itself Is Pretty Bad.
And that's apart from all the moral and social issues mentioned above; we're talking about an app that just plain doesn't operate well. Submitting a "tip" about a faulty product is a multi-page process that involves scrolling through slow-loading and poorly-formatted lists, cringing at broken layouts that cut off large chunks of text, and being frustrated at the fact that it's impossible to view the full description of any of the contests. The lackluster quality of the app is reflected in the tip submissions; of the dozen or so that I clicked through, few were of a high enough quality to be helpful to the wronged institutions. In fact, most consisted of unhelpful photos, mislabeled tags, and nonsensical comments.
One person had submitted a screenshot of the BrandBounty app itself as a tip to Apple. Despite myself, I had to partially agree with this snarky dissident; compared to other efforts that successfully rally a crowd together to perform grandiose acts of altruism, BrandBounty stands next to them as a shoddy knock-off of the real thing.