WhatsApp sits on the first screen, the first row from the bottom on my mobile. Facebook is now relegated in the fourth screen, lost in between COVID-19 infection tracking app (which I use regularly, by the way!!), loyalty apps from railways and airways, Mastermind, and a couple of mapping alternatives to G-Maps. WhatsApp is genetically embedded into what I do every day, Facebook is my notebook for birthdays.

Still, when the news came out that data, traffic, or whatever would have been happily shared from WhatsApp to any other Facebook galaxy of companies, I felt the chill. Then, after, I realised the chill was just a ‘me-too’ one, admittingly we all do far more silly things that could hinder our privacy – eg. discovering via an app and an unknown link to click which sort of magical being we were in the Medieval ages (no, this does not exist, do not ask! At least I think so, I am not sure…) – and in fact, using WhatsApp is quite the least of my worries.

Nevertheless, I have downloaded Signal – I still do not remember this name by heart – and started to use it with a handful of friends and colleagues. A real handful, I swear. So, the big question: why all this fuss about WhatsApp? 

I have decided to ask a sample of people I know – from business and marketing professionals to creatives and artists, all ages – to understand whether we have a case or is just another schizophrenic, pandemic-speed reaction to rather boring news. I have used the TRI-Model framework to dissect the loyalty we once had in an app into its components and understand where WhatsApp failed us  – if at all – and where it was still dominating the IM – Instant Messaging – landscape (2bn users globally).

Know what?

WhatsApp came across as highly unethical – 3.8 points out of 10, people thought it was not playing fair and the impact of the news seems to have affected, but since I do know the ‘sample’ of people I did ask the questions, I am inclined to believe this is a basic assumption about WhatsApp and lots of other IM (and companies?): “I am with you, but I cannot pretend I like you, I simply use you for a lack of better alternatives”. The problem for the ‘better alternatives’ in this quest for IM dominance is mainly one: WhatsApp came out as very, very strong in terms of ‘usability and performance’ (from 8.4 to 9.0 on a couple of related variables).

A question came up: where do customers draw the boundary between ethics and convenience? How radical is that boundary so to force a shift to an alternative? Furthermore, is that boundary real and thick enough to stand the trial of habit and direct loyalty somewhere else?

I believe the answers can be found focusing on a few concepts – and analysis, of course – including brand perception and product augmentation, however in reality I feel it is all down to basics: why should we – people – change IM, and how cumbersome is this change for us? Ethics is a powerful concept, but we are all still genetically programmed to reward convenience. Not for much longer, I believe!

Here’s our quick analysis on WhatApp using the TRI Model:

Deconstruct TRI model

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