MacKeeper's decade-long journey to win back customer trust | Cult of Mac

MacKeeper’s decade-long journey to win back customer trust


MacKeeper's decade-long journey to win back customer trust.
MacKeeper got a bad rep after some bad decisions. Here's how the controversial Mac app turned things around.
Image: MacKeeper

This post is brought to you by MacKeeper.

By Andriy Shvets, CMO at MacKeeper

If you’ve heard of MacKeeper, you may have seen phrases such as these: “Avoid MacKeeper like the plague.” “Invasive malware.” “Get rid of it ASAP.”

As MacKeeper’s chief marketing officer, it pains me to read comments that disparage or warn against our software, especially because they come from people who had real and genuine concerns about the way we marketed our product.

MacKeeper: A short history

Released more than a decade ago, MacKeeper is software designed to protect Macs from malware and give users tools for managing data and optimizing their systems. The goal of MacKeeper is to provide a Mac user with a complete software toolbox for staying safe and private: antivirus, adware cleaner, identity theft guard, anti-tracker and virtual private network. On top of that, MacKeeper adds optimization tools, and cleans out junk files, duplicates and unnecessary apps to improve system performance and free up storage.

While the software worked well, and got some great reviews, several unfortunate business decisions caused problems. Some users complained about aggressive popup ads. Others found MacKeeper difficult to uninstall.

It’s true that MacKeeper earned its bad reputation. But it’s also true that the mistakes we made taught us a valuable lesson in the importance of maintaining customer trust. As a result, we have now completely changed our business practices. And I’m pleased to say that in 2021, we exceeded 60 million users.

Our current customers reward our efforts constantly with positive feedback and praise for our friendly and helpful customer service team. We’ve also earned positive reviews from prominent media, including TechRadar, Forbes and Macworld.

But, despite all our changes and achievements, I understand that some in the Mac community remain hesitant to give MacKeeper a second chance. As someone who joined MacKeeper after the company changed ownership, the focus of my job has been to fix the problems that caused our negative image and to chart a new path forward.

We’ve worked hard, and I’d like to take this opportunity to explain our mistakes, what we learned from them, and what we are doing to make sure it never happens again.

What happened

MacKeeper was launched in 2010, and by 2011 our software had been installed more than 1 million times. As the product grew, we explored new streams for marketing and promotions to drive sales. That included affiliate channels, which work on a revenue-share model. In other words, the more our affiliates sold, the more they made. Of course, we wrote brand and compliance guidelines for our external affiliates to follow.

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to know if every affiliate is abiding by them, along with the additional rules and agreements of our partnership. The responsibility fell on us to monitor for bad actors — and we failed to do so.

As we learned later, some of our affiliates were installing MacKeeper onto users’ Macs via bundled distribution, and without the customers’ permission. Many of these resellers used aggressive messaging and ads that scared Mac users into falsely believing their devices were infected with malware. We eventually became aware of our customers’ complaints and hired an expert to look into the issues. But by then, it was too late to prevent a major hit to our reputation.

Where we are now

These bad decisions became part of MacKeeper’s history and they cannot be erased or changed. Our team knew that as we faced our options. We could:

1. Give up and leave the industry.
2. Try to hide our past by rebranding and launching under a different name. Or,
3. Grow from our mistakes and keep changing the digital landscape for the better.

Even though it was the hardest, we chose the third option. This meant admitting to our errors in judgement, giving back to those affected by our actions, and completely transforming MacKeeper as a company.

Today, we no longer use aggressive marketing. Instead, our ads — whether they come from affiliates or from us — are based on adding value to customers. We also strictly enforce our affiliate guidelines governing ads posted about MacKeeper. And an internal team closely monitors for any aggressive or noncompliant ads.

If we find any violations, we either impose a monetary penalty or immediately ban the affiliate from the program. This means we often refuse potential affiliate marketing opportunities in order to prioritize our reputation.

As an added layer of protection, we also hired a company that specializes in scam detection. This partner uses a script to scan websites for MacKeeper ads, then sends us any cases of affiliates breaking our rules. We even started developing a proprietary service for detecting dishonest affiliates.

We recently launched MacKeeper 5, which gives our software a refreshed new branding and design. We now offer real-time monitoring and one-click scan and fix for Mac issues. We even added 296 new locations to our VPN. And all this comes with 24/7 plain-English tech support.

Apple notarizes MacKeeper

Now we’re seeing results. In April 2020, Apple notarized MacKeeper, starting from V4.7.21, recognizing the software as meeting the latest security requirements for macOS Catalina and all later macOS versions. Following that, in March 2021, we reviewed the source codes of all our systems to get our ISO-27001 certification.

In addition, Clario, MacKeeper’s parent company, received a certificate verifying that all Clario-owned products’ data security systems meet current industry standards and best practices. The latest version of our software, MacKeeper 5, received the highest possible scores from AV-Test, including a 99.7% proven virus-detection rate. On product review website Trustpilot, MacKeeper earned a rating of 4.7 out of 5 from more than 1,700 reviewers.

Today, our team is striving to further build customer confidence, by working with Apple to release MacKeeper software on the App Store. We hope this step will continue to demonstrate that MacKeeper’s transformation is genuine. As always, our reputation is our No. 1 priority.

What we learned

Lesson #1: We don’t rely entirely on affiliates.

Working with affiliates can create a valuable network, but we learned to choose our partners carefully. We now spend a lot of time vetting and clearing the lists of affiliates. We also know the value of setting up our company’s affiliate marketing processes carefully, choosing people who will run the department wisely, and monitoring its activity closely.

Lesson #2: We respect our customers’ informational hygiene.

Customers won’t tolerate annoying “buy buy buy” ads — and will blame the company behind them. It’s far more effective to communicate value to the user, not just the necessity to buy a product.

Lessons #3: Client-centricity helps build a community of loyal customers.
We know the importance of asking our customers what they need — and what they don’t need. We conduct customer research through interviews, reviewing every comment. We work hard with our community and on social platforms, valuing and respecting our loyal customers and their feedback.

Our battle scars have made us wiser and our product better. We now scrutinize everyone we partner with. And this has made our product not only better, but more trustworthy. We’ve made mistakes, but now we’re more careful than ever because we refuse to get burned again.

Andriy Shvets is chief marketing officer at Clario Tech, MacKeeper’s parent company. He has more than 10 years of experience leading marketing and product teams in software startups, tech service companies (B2B and B2C) as well as FMCG companies.