Saturday, June 14, 2008

Brainy vs. bonehead marketing

Tuesday June 17 is “Download Day” for Mozilla Firefox Version 3, a sophisticated update of an already powerful and easy-to-use browser.

I’m not sure how I learned about Download Day – it was most likely viral – either from Stumbling Upon the landing page advertising the event (highly rated by my fellow Stumblers), or perhaps because I added it as an event in my Facebook calendar. I clicked over to the Mozilla site and quickly signed up to pledge my support. Today I received an email invite from Mozilla reminding me of the day and to tell all my friends. A publicity buzz is being created because Mozilla aims to make this the single-largest downloaded program ever on a single day.

What a terrific example of a company that has its Web 2.0 house in order!

  • Strong viral promotion to create evangelists in everyday web surfers
  • The actual converting action, me downloading the new browser, is the perfect form of ‘experiential’ online advertising
  • Participating in an event with very democratic popular roots makes me feel like I’m part of a community of like-minded consumers, an important component to building trust and interpersonal relationships with the brand

On another note, Aeroplan and Yahoo announced paid music downloads in return for Aeroplan points, a move that has to be the dumbest loyalty marketing reward option I’ve ever heard of. In return for 5,500 Aeroplan points (that’s the equivalent of spending $5,500 on a co-branded credit card or a round trip flight from Toronto to Venezuela), you get 50 songs to download from the Aeroplan Music Store.

So I redeem my Aeroplan points for songs which I could have otherwise downloaded for free?

Remind me again why anyone would use this service?

Furthermore, who is this supposed to attract? Aeroplan is an elite loyalty program and the average age of its members is likely over 35. They’re business people, retirees, and family vacationers who actively earn and redeem points. If they’re listening to music it’s likely on cd. If they’re web-savvy enough to listen to MP3s, why wouldn’t they be using great paid services like iTunes or even better piracy and P2P services like bitTorrent? I think the online music space is crowded enough.

Aeroplan wants you to redeem your points for non-travel rewards. Flying is expensive. There are actually some non-revenue generating flights to vacation destinations because so many passengers are flying on points (although Aeroplan was spun off from Air Canada so the airline is compensated in cash for every flight redeemed). This explains why merch and entertainment options have become so prominent in the Aeroplan reward catalogue.

What is so boneheaded is the decision to not make this a free service. Again, downloading is ‘not illegal’ in Canada, and there’s even less risk when the files you share are torrents and you’re part of a cloud of other users exchanging only pieces of a single file.

Instead of redeeming points for songs, why not earn points when you download songs? Sounds interesting. A self-sustaining model could have been developed if more attention was paid to the marketing strategy. Aeroplan would also have appeared considerably less reactive and anxious to enter the online media realm.

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