Marketing at zero cost

Sometimes, all it takes is one simple idea to spread your name far and wide in a very short period of time in the digital world. Last semester, I attended an interesting forum that shed light on Youtube’s marketing success. The speaker was a former Youtube employee who pointed out that the embed code is the key driver of Youtube’s success and it did not cost Youtube a single cent.

That’s right, you heard me. The code did not cost anything at all, but heck it certainly served as a powerful marketing tool. So what makes this code so special then?

The idea was incredulously simple. This simple code gives people the power and control to embed videos uploaded in Youtube into any website that they want. Each embedded video player would fit seamlessly into any website with only a watermark to distinguish themselves.

And just like that, like a virus, it leeched onto blogs and popular social networks like Facebook and MySpace as its host and propagated itself across the internet like wildfire. People found new ways to sharing content on the Internet. They weren’t just the audience; They were the advertisers too. In 12 months, Youtube was a company that was bought over for a whopping $1.6 billion and has become the mainstream video provider for internet users across the world.

Moral of the story here?

In this digital age, it isn’t about the grand campaigns that would work. Grand is grand, but once the campaign is over, your brand could easily be forgotten if the idea doesn’t stick. Sometimes, all you need is to plant a simple ‘seed’ on the net which, when planted under the right conditions, would grow organically at minimal cost.

In the past, content producers have control over the sort of information that goes out to the consumers. Now, with the advent of the internet, holding onto that control may even backfire for some businesses. Users are now active and highly aware of their own needs and desires. They could easily drop you if you do not give them what they are looking for. Understanding your audience is even more crucial than it was before. Just take Youtube for example. They conduct several usability tests and ethnographic studies in each country to understand not just the local culture, the audience’s internet habits, interests and motivations for using a site, but also how they would explore the site so that they could design a site that would tailor to every segment’s needs.

Give the control back to the users and design it to mirror what users want and would naturally like to do on the website with ease, and you would find that they would keep coming back for more.

To end this off, this little video illustrates how the Internet has shaped the advertising/marketing sphere, and how we should make use of the affordances of the internet for effective communication.

If you can’t see the video, click here. It will open in a new window.

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