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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.