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Online Marketing Tip: If It Feels Wrong, Don’t Do It

Ok, so we’ve got quite a storm brewing from a story in the Washington Post the other day that basically says that word of mouth marketing, well, read this.

The FTC issued an official opinion stating that people who endorse of a products, and who are compensated for their efforts, must disclose the nature of that relationship to their “customers”.

Now, some are already trying to tie word of mouth into Affiliate Marketing, which I think is a big, big stretch. I’ll have more of my thoughts on this here and over at ReveNews over the next few days, but I wanted to write this post to illustrate one key message.

And that is… if what you’re about to do “feels” wrong, it probably is.

This rule can be applied to anything, but in our case, online marketing more specifically, across search engine optimization, email marketing and affiliate marketing… as well as any other type of marketing you can name.

The next time you’re about to do something, think to yourself… “Does this feel wrong?”

You know what to do.

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6 Awesome Comments So Far

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  1. Tony
    December 12, 2006 at 11:44 pm #

    Hey Jim,

    Word of mouth is exactly how Amazon conceived its Associates affiliate program; and as you well know, there are hundreds of thousands of sites that are written with good content, some are even reviews, but seeded with tons of affiliate links. Heck, you know Rosalind Gardiner’s story probably better than most as well.

    Check out Bryan Clark’s thoughts as a (former?) lawyer who has gone up against the FTC once or thrice: Affiliate marketing is a potential target for this kind of FTC opinion (http://www.copyblogger.com/affiliate-marketing-disclosure-now-required-by-law/)

    Perhaps the more practical issue is — does the FTC have the resources to police the web on this issue? Probably not.

    Does this translate into the smaller fish not having to worry? Probably — but if it ever does translate into actual law / legislation, it might put enough of a fear into smaller affiliates to make a real dent in the affiliate marketing industry.


  2. Jim Kukral
    December 12, 2006 at 11:47 pm #

    Tony, you’re right, this isn’t enforcable. It’s ridiculous.

    I think we’ll know more in 24 hours, but for right now, I’m just trying to stop the end of affiliate marketing meme from spreading. It just ain’t gonna happen people! :)

  3. Tony
    December 12, 2006 at 11:50 pm #

    Actually, I see that you’ve already commented on this at Darren’s blog.

    I just wanted to come here and point out to all the probloggers out there that the need for alarm is in my opinion not warranted. Unless you’re writing content that is made to fool people, keep doing what you’re doing and let’s let this play out. Nobody is going to jail for affiliate marketing is what I’m trying to say. :)

    Perhaps theissue is for people, or blogs, who do it unintentionally — and don’t disclose who or what they’re doing, but merely act like another “informative site”.

    For those cases, its probably very easy to stick a disclaimer on the top of things … but again, I wonder if it will make a difference at all to the bottom line.

    I know you’re opinion of “its better” … and I hope its better, but I’ve yet to see any “marketing experiments” on this (and I hope to, one day, at marketingexperiments.com) to establish anything one way or the other.


  4. Jim Kukral
    December 13, 2006 at 12:15 am #

    If you reread the statement, you see that they focus on “companies”, not blogs, or bloggers, etc… I don’t think we should glance over that word. They intend to go after corporations, not Joe Blow blogger.

    I still don’t see this as enforcable in any way. However, it’s a simple reminder to “do the right thing”. :)

    And it’s not going to slow down the affiliate marketing business one bit.

  5. Brian Clark
    December 13, 2006 at 8:30 am #

    >>If you reread the statement, you see that they focus on “companies”, not blogs, or bloggers, etc… I don’t think we should glance over that word.

    Right, but who do affiliates represent? Companies who sell things. Both the principal and the affiliate are liable for deceptive advertising.

    I think your advice “to do the right thing” sounds good to most of us out here. But we know that golden rule if often trampled all over, especially when there’s big money involved.

    We may well see over-zealous bloggers making it their mission in life to “out” deceptive affiliate marketers. And can we be sure that a competitor is not going to decide to become an FTC informant?

    It’s a crazy world we play in. :)

  6. Jim Kukral
    December 13, 2006 at 8:35 am #

    “It’s a crazy world we play in. :) ”

    That’s for sure. Thanks for stopping by everyone. Brian, again, thanks for the tip.