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GMail: Using Invites To Create Buzz

12 Jul 2004 by Matthew Linderman

Paul Scrivens writes that the GMail invite process has built a buzz for GMail that traditional advertising could never have achieved.

Already they had created a wonderful service that easily would have grown through word-of-mouth advertising, but instead they only allowed a certain number of individuals in at a time. Surprisingly, they probably did this more for testing and load balancing reasons than for advertising, but it seemed to help enormously on both fronts.

Reminds me of some advice Chris Matthews gives in his book “Hardball” that goes something like this: When you’ve got bad news, get it all out at once…when it’s good news, drag it out for as long as possible. Instead of one “We’ve launched” announcement, Google has (inadvertently?) been able to milk their launch buzz for weeks.

18 comments so far (Post a Comment)

12 Jul 2004 | beto said...

However, Gmail already had a very important asset on its favor well before its launch - the strong backing of the Google brand, with all its "good guy" connotations, contributing in no small way to its desirability factor.

It is now easy to see how the Gmail-by-invite effect has been a major success - by doing so, Google has effectively exploited that "members only" club feeling, that desire of belonging to the "chosen few" that has been a major part of many ad campaigns for many years (but somehow has not been applied as effectively). It may be part of human nature - the harder something is to get, the more desirable it becomes. One just has to look at to see what some are willing to do to get something so conceptual as a Google email account with 1 GB of storage. That's how I think even those of us with more email accounts than we can really manage still managed to get seducted by Gmail.

12 Jul 2004 | JF said...

We did something similar with our private Basecamp launch.

12 Jul 2004 | Don Schenck said...

I'm in!

12 Jul 2004 | Darrel said...

Is it a 'length' issue or an 'availability' issue? Or both?

I read an interview with Gene Simmons recently talking about his marketing tips. He had menioned to 'always under-supply' to generate demand. No matter what Kiss slapped their logo on, they always under-supplied the product to ensure a sell out.

12 Jul 2004 | Tomas said...

I beg to differ. What is and was so attractive about Gmail is not the exclusiveness, but rather the excellency of the service.

12 Jul 2004 | Derek Featherstone said...

I beg to differ. What is and was so attractive about Gmail is not the exclusiveness, but rather the excellency of the service.

Service means nothing to you if you haven't tried Gmail. The exclusivity and the Buzz makes you want to try it, and it is the quality of the service that will keep people using Gmail and convince them to switch from Hotmail, Yahoo! or whatever other service they are using.

12 Jul 2004 | Taylor Garries said...

You can't just under-supply to create exclusivity and buzz. The key is to undersupply a desireable product.

Lets say Microsoft is going to introduce a new premium mail service to compete with GMail (they are, aren't they?). We'll say Microsoft's new product is called SuperHotmail and has some similar features as GMail. I don't think the same limited roll-out would work, Hotmail's brand is totally eschewed by the public, you don't have the same kind of expectations as you do of GMail. The demand isn't the same without the same desirability of the product.

GMail is desireable because (as someone else mentioned) of the power of the Google brand (which is about the best example of a great modern brand). You want GMail because your experiences with Google have been a certain way and you'd like to see that same brand promise (the good-guy factor) brought to email. The limited roll-out is a way of creating more demand for an infinitely availble product.

When supplies of a product are limited, under-supplying that product will sell it out. If Gene Simmons only supplies half the Kiss T-Shirts the market demands at a concert, that's poor business. He's losing out on 50% of his potential sales at the concert.

The trick is to under-supply a product to increase the demand, and over time, increase your sales.

If Kiss were to consistently sell-out of t-shirts at a venue, so that it became well known that the supply was low at Kiss concerts, then it would probably work to increase demand over a much longer term. The problem is that there isn't enough time at a single venue to build that buzz for it to be effective. If I were Gene, I would just try to sell as many t-shirts as possible.

12 Jul 2004 | Chason said...

well, yeah, but then at the next concert he could sell t-shirts to that 50% at double the price. :)

12 Jul 2004 | Darrel said...

If I were Gene, I would just try to sell as many t-shirts as possible.

Well, he seems to have done allright for himself doing just the opposite. ;o)

BTW, I have no idea what is so great about Gmail. It's...web

Granted, you get lots of storage, but still, the hype seemed to overshadow the actual product in this case. I'd probably use my account more if it worked better in Firefox and Safari...

13 Jul 2004 | Ian Firth said...

My only issue with my gmail account is with possible blocking of incoming mail (spam filtering?). Mail sent outbound from my Comcast SMTP server takes 1-2 hours to arrive in my gmail inbox. The same email shows up at any other account I have instantly.

13 Jul 2004 | pb said...

What amazes me about Google is that not only are they terrific technologists but very capable in marketing, product development and promotion.

13 Jul 2004 | jupiter said...

How do they select users for their invites - are they trying to reach opinion leaders like web designers or tech savvy folks to spread the word or do they just invite their advertising customers?

13 Jul 2004 | Douglas said...

re: jupiter

"Active" Blogger users have been getting invites, though most people are getting invites from people who got invites now. Beside every email to a gmail user is an "invite this person to gmail" link.


13 Jul 2004 | Benjy said...

Can anyone throw a GMail invite my way? Thanks in advance...

13 Jul 2004 | Al Abut said...

I like Kottke's idea - what if Gmail's combination of private launch and account referrals to friends could be a friendly whitelisting move?

I haven't received a single piece of spam since I got my gmail account about 2 months ago and I have to guess that's the reason why - only actual real people can use it, invited by friends, no spambots. Low tech and we'll see how well it scales, but it looks like it works for now.

25 Jul 2004 | Mike said...

Someone who has an invite please give me one here

25 Jul 2004 | Mike said...

10 Aug 2004 | bimal said...

please send me gmail invites

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