Leverage App Marketing Adiaphora And Coloring Outside The Lines

Learn how to quickly sort through marketing ideas and find the best ones.

When promoting an app (or any product), marketers can waste a lot of time trying to optimize things that don't matter and get stuck following so-called rules that are nothing more than very general guidelines. Then they wonder why they aren't getting the results they are looking for and give up way too soon.

But how do you tell what is right and wrong in app marketing? Just to be clear, we aren't talking about the ethics of marketing, but rather marketing strategies that will get you more downloads. You obviously shouldn't follow every tip that you read online, but how do you know what to follow and what to throw out? What about your own "oddball" marketing ideas?

This post will help you to quickly identify marketing rules and hopefully give you the inspiration to test things that you might otherwise think are too weird to work. We will also provide you with some examples of what we have seen our customers and other marketers doing.

Right And Wrong

To illustrate the different degrees of right and wrong in app marketing, let's take a look at another area of study where right and wrong are often debated.

Nowhere else is this more closely considered than in the area of morality, human actions are almost always judged through this lens. The trouble with this is that morality is very much measured on a sliding scale. The perception of right and wrong often depends on subjective influences such as: culture, religion and just plain personal opinion.

However, there are some things that most people would consider absolutely wrong, such as: stealing, cheating and intentionally harming others. We can consider them as close to hard and fast rules as you can get.

Then there are things that fall into a very large moral gray area, like: telling white lies, not keeping promises and sampling grapes at the grocery store before you buy them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from rules are things that don't matter or are neutral. For example, the act of siting on the ground has no inherit good or bad associated with it.

In Stoic philosophy, things that morality neither requires or forbids are called adiaphora, derived from a Greek word meaning "indifferent things."

In a similar way, marketing strategies can be rules, in the gray area or adiaphora. In order to do find out which category they fall into, you have to be willing to question everything and "color outside of the lines."

Objective Testing

Everything starts with being able to measure the results of your tests. Take a scientific approach to testing and isolate the results of your changes. What was the exact increase or decrease in your downloads after you made a change?

Sometimes you need to incorporate several changes into one update, so you cannot test the effect of one change, but do the best you can. Your ability to differentiate what works and what doesn't depends on it. Until you can figure out for sure if one strategy works or not, do not jump to any conclusions.

Marketing Rules

There are a few black and white rules when it comes App Store Optimization and marketing your app successfully. For example, you must optimize your keyword field in iTunes, you have to track how your app ranks for its keywords and keywords in the title of your app will help you rank higher for those terms in both iTunes and Google Play.

On the flip side, there are strategies that decrease your downloads. They will usually be specific to your app or category.

But beyond a few basic rules like these, all other strategies are in a huge gray area. A strategy in the gray area can become a rule if has been proven to work through testing. Likewise, if it has no effect, then it is something that doesn't matter.

The Gray Area

There are a potentially infinite number of marketing possibilities that reside in the gray area. App icon deigns, keyword combinations, paid ads, website designs and more.

Be willing to consider all possibilities. The only reason not to test an idea is if there is too much risk associated with it.

Marketing Adiaphora

Then we get into strategies that are neither good nor bad. If you test an idea and you cannot prove that it has any affect on your downloads, then it really comes down to personal preference.

For instance, if you test 5 different background colors for your app icon and get similar results after each test, then there isn't any point in continuing to wonder which one is better. Just choose the color that you like best. Cross the idea of optimizing the icon background color off your list and move on to the next idea.


Description Format

An employee of one of our customers does an excellent job of testing every possible advantage in ASO. She works for a big game publisher and is willing to test anything that can give their games the edge.

For example, she wondered if using bulleted list of features in the app description would lead to more downloads or if a paragraph format would be more effective. Most people wouldn't think to test something like this, but this is just one example of how she considers all possibilities and we think it is awesome.

She is quick to point out that not all of the results of her changes are quantifiable. But whenever she can point out a correlation, it becomes a marketing rule for the game.

Keyword Rankings

Ranking in the top 10 for all of your keywords will get you more downloads, right? Some of our customers have asked this question and the answer is: not necessarily.

If the keywords you are ranking well for aren't "download" keywords, or relevant keywords that people would search for to download your app, then your top rankings are meaningless.

So question the concept that if you are ranking well for all of your keywords, you will get more downloads and also question what people really search for when they want to download an app like yours. What people actually search for may surprise you.

Landing Page Titles

If we look at an online marketing example, it is generally accepted that a killer headline is the foundation of a landing page that converts well. But what if you "colored outside the lines" and had no headline at all?

Most people would assume that the results would be terrible, but there is only one way to find out. Surprisingly, in this example, removing the headline actually led to a 28% increase in conversions.


There are actually very few things that are absolutely right when it comes to the technical strategies that can be used to market your app. So don't feel like you have to follow everything you hear. Learn to question everything and prove it with quantifiable results. You may find that a lot of what you considered to be fact, is actually opinion or just doesn't apply to your app.

What are some lessons that you had to find out on your own? We would love to hear about it in the comments...

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Hugh Kimura

Written by: Hugh Kimura, Head of Content

Date: May 2014