IPhone App That Saved Life in Haiti Reaps Rewards

Developers Can't Always Count on That Type of Buzz, but Consumers Are Willing to Pay for Trusted Applications

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- For iPhone developers, it's hard to break through the clutter of 140,000 apps. That is, unless your app helps a man stay alive for 65 hours trapped in rubble after the earthquake in Haiti -- and CNN reports the story.

That happened to aid worker Dan Woolley, who credits his survival to the American Heart Association's Pocket First Aid & CPR app, which he used to look up instructions on how to treat things like "excessive bleeding" and "compound fracture."

On CNN he called the $3.99 app a "high-tech version of a Swiss Army knife that enabled me to treat my own injuries, track time, stay awake and stay alive."

Top 50 paid app
That was good enough to help it break the top 50 paid apps in Apple's App Store. The American Heart Association declined to elaborate on sales, but between Dec.r24, 2009. and Jan. 12, 2010, the app held steady at No. 97. After Mr. Woolley's rescue, it saw an uptick, moving up to No. 89 on Jan. 18.

Two days later, on Jan. 20, the same day Wired posted a widely picked up story about how Mr. Woolley used the app during his ordeal, Pocket First Aid & CPR rushed past more than 30 apps to move up to No. 57.

It hovered there for a couple of days before ultimately cracking the top 50 in the App Store to reach its highest spot at No. 49. That's no small feat for a paid, non-entertainment app; it rose above the likes of CNN Mobile and Shazam, bested only by the likes of gaming apps "Grand Theft Auto" and "Call of Duty."

That bump may be short-lasted; as of Jan. 27, it has fallen back to No. 76, and sales seem to be on their way back down.

One five-star review
And the first review those considering purchasing the app will see is from Mr. Woolley himself, explaining that the app saved his life and giving it five stars.

The application was originally released by Jive Media in October 2008; then Jive partnered with the American Heart Association to re-release the app using all its content in June 2009. A portion of the revenue goes to Jive to cover past and future development costs, and another chunk to the American Heart Association to further scientific research of heart disease and stroke.

Jive Media's co-founder, Doug Kent, declined to share revenue derived from the app with Ad Age, and would say only that "the sales increase has been pretty dramatic."

He added that Pocket First Aid & CPR did manage to get into the top 15 highest-grossing apps on revenue terms, and that it hit No. 2 in the health and fitness category in the App Store, up from a ranking between 60 and 70 just a few weeks ago.

"Usually a promotion of some kind will only help something for perhaps a few days," said Peter Farago, VP-marketing at Flurry, a San Francisco-based mobile analytics firm. "This is showing impact for at least two weeks."

Flurry estimates the difference between being ranked 100 vs. 50 in the App Store can on average translate into five to 10 times the sales volume. "This makes sense given that the awareness around the tragedy in Haiti and Dan Woolley's story definitely struck a chord with people, as the app store sales increase shows," Mr. Farago said.

A trusted brand
While it's not quite an easy strategy to repeat for other IPhone developers -- American Heart Association and Jive Media captured lightening in a bottle with Mr. Woolley's story -- it is a good reminder of consumers' willingness to pay for brands they trust, even in the world of apps. Pocket First Aid & CPR is one of a host of first-aid apps listed in the App Store, and some, like one from WebMD, are free.

"Woolley's story inspired me to buy the CPR app, which costs $3.99 and feels like a very sound investment," Yahoo tech blogger Christopher Null wrote Jan. 25.

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