Mobile apps represent the fastest-growing digital brand space. Recently, brand owners around the world joined the CSC Digital Brand Services webinar “Charming or Alarming: Your Brand’s Mobile Presence” to discover the size of the opportunity and the nature of the greatest threats.
Mobile apps are changing the way people engage with brands. With 1.75 billion smartphones now in use, consumers have adopted to them faster than just about any other technology. More than 100 billion apps have been downloaded1. Fifty-five per cent of Internet use now takes place on them2. Of the two hours 42 minutes people spend on average every day on their mobile, two hours and 19 minutes is spent on apps3. This means that the phone element of a mobile phone is one of the least used parts of the device. The phone call has been superseded by the app.
However, while people may be charmed by mobile apps, for brand owners they can be alarming. Trademark infringement, traffic diversion, counterfeit or unauthorized sales, distribution of malware or other security risks and a new way of phishing – these all are hazards that have to be overcome. It is far from easy. With the mobile app space still growing rapidly, brands must know where to look for critical infringements. Here are three of the most common examples:
1. Copycat apps provide one major battleground. Over 40 per cent of consumers say that the experience they have with brands on their mobile affects their likelihood to buy from that brand4. For brands, negative experiences can lead to higher customer service costs, reduced traffic and fewer sales. When the mobile experience isn’t provided by the genuine brand, but instead by a scammer, this can be a significant problem.
2. Excessive permission apps provide substantial risk for consumers and brand reputation. Created by fraudsters, these apps access data from mobile devices. Not only are contact databases, calendars or photos at risk, but so are shopping, banking or other personal details. There may be good reasons why some genuine apps ask for permission to access a photo library (entertainment apps, for instance) but there may be sinister purposes too. Apps that use phishing don’t even seek permission; they just steal data.
3. ‘Voyeur’ apps take over the phone’s camera to spy on the user. If activity like this is being conducted under a brand name by a copycat provider, the reputational risks are obvious.
Our Charming or Alarming webinar (recording available to view) contains examples of each of these types of app, highlighting the telltale signs that identify them. For instance, brands should check: is the mobile app provider friend or foe? Brand owners may find that some genuine brand enthusiasts have inadvisably set up a fan app, which, while it infringes IP, may have good intentions behind it. You must choose the battles to fight.
In our experience, unless companies have established practical and widely understood internal policies, the mobile app space is extraordinarily difficult to control, especially in large organizations where every brand owner and every project group decides they want an app. A brand’s mobile apps must be managed as a portfolio and the risks understood. While people are busy setting up apps here, there and everywhere, it’s less likely that one person is given responsibility to watch the broader space to understand what outsiders are publishing.
There is no doubt that IP infringement on mobile apps will increase. But there is good news. Brands that have done the right thing early to protect their digital IP can enforce their rights. But prevention and monitoring will become even more important as the mobile app space proliferates. You can only take action if you can see where infringements are being made. That almost certainly requires mobile apps to be managed centrally so that brands can quickly detect unauthorized users and take immediate enforcement action.
Enforcement is the final act in a process that starts with a clear understanding of your brand’s mobile app assets and the dangers that this growing digital medium represents. Enforcement options include delisting from app stores or dealing directly with the publisher.
The mobile app market will be worth $400 billion in 2015 5. Scammers are working hard now to exploit brands to take a slice of it. Brands must work even harder to beat them.
Watch a re-run of the CSC Charming or Alarming webinar
For more information on CSC’s mobile app services or to request a complimentary consultation with an online enforcement specialist, please visit cscglobal.com.