29 March 2010

The Scariest iPhone App EVAH

I mentioned the Good Guide iPhone app in a podcast with Maria Surma Manka a while back. It's a database of consumer products and corresponding ratings based on health and nutrition value, impact on the environment, and commitment to social causes or priorities. Until recently, the shortcoming of the app was its usability - you had to work your way through categories and brands etc to find the product you wanted, and if you're at the market it becomes a time suck.

Now they've added a barcode scanning feature so you don't have to work your way through their lists to get the info you want right away. Nice time saver. So I tried it out on a box of cereal.

And I learned immediately that the company that made the cereal has "violated the Clean Water Act."

And then I realized it's just a matter of time before I'm going to learn if a company discriminates against gay people, or is a union buster, or has a CEO that denies climate change, or has a political action committee that gives only to Republicans, or has a slew of OSHA violations, or doesn't pay any taxes, or has another product that's being recalled - ALL AT THE POINT OF SALE.

This means that a company will have nothing more than the time it takes to reach for the next product on the shelf to present its side of the story and restore its reputation. And if it hasn't built up its relationship with a customer ahead of time, and inoculated its reputation against this kind of "breaking" information, it's about to go the way of the dodo.


WyldKard said...

It's a good app, but the problem is in the lack of information presented. That, and the fact that if a company /has/ tried to make positive changes, I'm not sure this information is ever presented to the user, or if the folks at Good Guide make an effort to routinely follow up on every vendor.

Still, it's a great method to weed out bad seeds that may otherwise enter your cart.

David said...

you raise really important points. what happens when you provide a small bit of negative information about a product at the point of purchase? And what if that information is incomplete, out of date, or just wrong?

it's what companies are grappling with now. what if it's not Good Guide doing it - what if it's a political party? what if it's a labor union? a chamber of commerce? another company?

how does a company respond? the truth is it CAN'T - it needs to build its reputation and relationships ahead of time.