open source marketing


You know you’ve created something good when your fans create a crop circle to honor your product. Yesterday, I read a nice piece from Business Week about how Mozilla is leveraging grassroots and guerilla tactics in its bid to become mainstream.

There are dotcoms, and there are dot orgs. Dot org means there’s a mission, a higher calling. It smells cleaner. It invites you in, treats you as family.

With Mozilla, the mission is to make the web – our experience of it anyway – better. A group of passionate people, united in this cause but lacking money, tapped the lurking talent of the hacker community at large. You know the story. They built a great product, and by virtue of its, well, virtues, it now claims 10% of the browser market share. We love it because it’s for the people, by the people. And, oh yeah, it’s great browser.

So what does a company like Mozilla do when they want to take it to the next level? What do you do when you have a great product, a small but devoted – even zealous – following, but lack the money for traditional marketing?

Actually having a great product is the first hurdle. Lots of fans who love you for your basic “goodness” (as in not evilness) helps too. People thought Internet search had been conquered in 1998, that it was an over-crowded space, a commodity, when Google appeared on the scene. Craigslist now dominates the classifieds business. Both of these companies owe some of their success to the “for-the-people” reputation they cultivated.

Mozilla’s answer is to try its open-source philosophy – and expertise – in the realm of marketing. In the spirit of influencing the influencers, they reached out to their highest profile fans and asked them to put “download Firefox” buttons on their websites. 85% said yes. And it’s spreading. From 100 popular websites, to 10,000 when Firefox finished its testing phase, to over 65,000 websites as of today.

As for the most passionate Firefox devotees, Mozilla hasn’t had to ask for help. In many cases – the recent crop circle incident, for example – they’ve learned about it after the fact.