apple bono release 300x169 U2, Apple, and the Power of PermissionI don’t want this to be another post rehashing all that was brilliant and wonderful about U2’s partnership with Apple in releasing their new album, Songs of Innocence.

I also don’t want it to be another post about privacy and how horrible and intrusive that whole U2/Apple campaign was. There are plenty of posts that have been written about both sides of that coin, and there is a lot of truth to be had on both sides. Yes, it was brilliant, and yes, it ticked a lot of people off.

But the real issue here is not that U2 offered their album for free, but the concept of permission. I was discussing this with my students, and one of them noted that she was a country music fan and didn’t like U2. (On a side note, she’ll probably be failing the class based on that alone…). Another student noted that it seemed to be an issue of how far Apple went, and therefore was a matter of permission. It’s one thing to offer an album like this for free, and yet another to force it on people.

As a die-hard U2 fan since their very first album, I was ecstatic. And for Apple, it worked, because I’m not an iTunes user. I dislike the service. But you better believe I opened up my rarely used account just to listen to Songs of Innocence. But what if you’re not a U2 fan? What if you not only don’t like them, but you hate them? While I find it hard to believe that such a person exists, it could happen!

Then I got to thinking, what if Apple pre-populated my iTunes account with the music of someone I can’t stand. Would I be upset? Perhaps.

I mean, Nickelback? Shudder! I get it. I really do.

But it’s all about permission. When it comes to marketing and business, just because you think you’re doing someone a favor by giving them something for free, doesn’t mean they will see it that way.

Never use your customers’ personal information without their permission. Never add them to your email list without their permission.

At a time when privacy issues are at the top of our collective list of concerns, anything that even appears to violate someone’s privacy will get you in trouble.

Be smart. Ask permission.