Honesty makes the best word of mouth

Honesty makes the best word of mouth

C’mon marketers. How about you impress us by doing the right thing for no other reason than that? Some companies do, and it hasn’t seemed to destroy their business model or hurt their sales. On the contrary, Zappos, Trader Joe’s, USAA and others like them seem to be growing at a fabulous rate.

But somehow we still are continually confronted with situations like Microsoft’s recent how-old.net, where so many people happily uploaded photos to a site that purported to guess their age (28 – really, Microsoft?) only to learn that they’d signed away their approval for Microsoft to use those photos any way they want. Call me silly, but I’m pretty sure most people appearing in promotional content for a brand are getting some kind of consideration (read: money) for that endorsement. I’m also virtually certain that most if not all of the participants would not have wanted to agree to those conditions.

The problem is, they did agree.

We all agree to a whole lot of stuff like this every day. In order to use all the fun apps and widgets that brands are posting, we are typically confronted with a pop-up consent box with a very long scroll and an “I agree” button at the bottom. The scroll is generally pages and pages of legal language, much of which contains terms of art we wouldn’t fully understand even if we were to read it line by line – something I doubt more than a tiny handful of people are doing.

The result? Your photo on an ad for a product you have absolutely no interest in, with no compensation or consideration.

There’s no way, when this program was put together, that the Microsoft team sat in a meeting and said, “no one will mind giving over rights to their photos.” There’s a reason that language was buried in the scroll – so we would agree to it without having read it.

Well, I just think that’s bad manners. And frankly, I think Microsoft knows better.

So I’m challenging brands right now to change this behavior. Stop burying the loss of our privacy rights in the scroll. You know what will be controversial – post it right where we can see it, highlight it and make sure we don’t miss it. Or better yet, stop looking for sneaky ways to grab data you know we don’t want to give you.

We know that our valuable data is the only reason you’re creating these fun apps. We pay for their use with it. Be upfront about it – you’ll still get tons of engagement, and you’ll also get something more valuable: our loyalty.

That’s something brands can’t buy with any number of cute free apps. Even if they do tell me I look like I’m 28.

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