How To Succeed In App Marketing Without Really Trying...To P.O. The FTC

Ipad-Blocks-BThe Federal Trade Commission has gotten into the mobile marketing consultancy business. Sort of. The government agency issued a pamphlet yesterday entitled “Marketing Your App: Get It Right From the Start.” As you might imagine, they aren’t offering tips for how to game the iTunes “Most Popular” list the week after Christmas. The advice is aimed at helping app marketers avoid the ire of the FTC and its consumer protection efforts.

But if you press beneath the press release and actually read the full document or PDF, it has the sound of an endearing self-help manual. “Congratulations!” it begins. “The app business is burgeoning and you’ve decided to get in on the boom?” Didn’t I hear that voice in the opening scene of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying?”

The FTC is trying to convince developers large and small that building privacy protection and data transparency with consumers is their best policy.

“In addition, satisfied users may be your best form of marketing. Breaking into the business with an app that delivers on its promises is key to your long-term success.”

I was really hoping for the 16-mm film version with stock violin background music and black-and-white footage of a couple of young app developers making the fatal error of scraping a user’s contact list without disclosure.

“Johnny could have avoided this visit from the official at the FTC and avoided embarrassment at school if only he had learned the basic principles of app honesty."

Tell the truth about what your app can do.

Disclose key information clearly and conspicuously.

Build privacy considerations in from the start.

Be transparent about your data practices.

Offer choices that are easy to find and easy to use.

Honor your privacy promises.

Protect kids’ privacy.

Collect sensitive information only with consent.

Keep user data secure.

Always wear you app condom.

No, wait. Sorry. I got carried away. I kid, because I love.

The FTC thoughtfully is aiming this new document at SMBs, recognizing that the low barrier to entry for app making and distribution can turn anyone into a business with a simple upload to Apple and Android. Good for them. And overall it is good try. Why isn’t it an app, though?

But government is government. Not a hell of a lot has changed since we chortled at the straight-laced warnings from those 16-mm etiquette epics in middle school health class. Agencies can’t help but sound somehow parental. “Most people react negatively if they think a company is trying to pull a fast one by hiding important information,” the book advises. “Users are more likely to continue to do business with a company that gives them the straight story up front.”

So be straight with your app customers, Ace, and you will stay on the straight and narrow.

Cue the violins.  


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