It seems that Google relies heavily on creating free publicity for its brand instead of using traditional brand marketing.
Although Google regularly promotes its brand and services on its own online ad network, that soapbox hasn’t been the key to its ubiquity.
Instead, Google has relied on word-of-mouth and the media’s obsessive coverage of its every move to establish a prized brand just nine years after Page and Brin first set up shop in a Silicon Valley garage.
As the article notes, other online brands such as YouTube, MySpace and Facebook have done the same with their lack of traditional marketing. To paraphrase Bruce Lee it’s “Advertising without advertising.” The question is how do you create such free publicity for your site? Here are some of my observations.
1. Offer a Valuable Service for Free
When you look at Google or many of these other sites they provide services that their users find very helpful without charging for it. The value has to be there. There were search engines around before Google but they came into the market with a higher value product. A lot of it just goes back to the fundamentals of the user experience. Make it easy to use, fill a need, and make it free and you’ll attract an audience.
2. Creatively Use the Media
As mentioned in the article, Google can create a buzz simply by offering a prize for a trip to the moon or arguing over who has the biggest bed in a corporate jet. Getting major media outlets to hang on your every word and action is great position to be in.
How can a smaller site leverage the media? It depends on your niche. Press releases are one option to consider although your targeting has to be creative and precise. Attracting the attention of web celebs and giving them sneak peaks at your new site/product can work. Linking in with current popular news stories can work as well but this can have a limited run.
3. Make it Hip
The primary web demographic are 20-somethings. If you want wide viral appeal that’s who’s sensibilities you have to appease. Of course, you can target other demographics by appealing to their tastes as well. The key thing here is knowing who to target and staying focused on it.
4. Use Scarcity to Your Advantage
Invites are popular for many sites because it promotes a certain ‘cool factor’ and gives visitors an active way to spread the word. Only allowing a certain number in the ‘club’ can also increase the buzz just like it does at a popular nightclub. Of course, this can backfire so careful gauging of supply and demand is needed to prevent alienating new or current users.
5. Monetize Subtly
Google didn’t start offering advertising until they had already established a strong market position. Most other free services have taken a similar approach of being low key in their efforts to convert their traffic into cash.
One key area that free services can secretly monetize is in gathering demographic data on users. While they might offer personal privacy, visitors still provide them with detailed usage information that can be used to hone or to sell advertising campaigns.
Another way is email address harvesting. While many people don’t like give out their email, many will do it if they think the free service that’s being offered is worth it. While some opt out, many will simply default to opting in, thus creating a revenue stream.
What do you think? Is there something you would like to add? Leave me a comment and let me know.