Proxy marketing: It's the (other) product!

Want to promote a product? Launch another (free) product! That way, you build awareness, goodwill, and a community of users that you can then implicitly educate on the value proposition of your actual offering. Sooner or later, they'll be ready to open th

Garlik
In this new age of "radical transparency," British firm Garlik has unveiled a new way to gauge popularity on the internet. The "QDOS" digital status rating system factors in how many times a person's name appears in a search, as well as a person's popularity, impact, and activity, among other criteria. Garlik's system plays on the phenomenon of "vanity searches:" googling" and comparing oneself to others. I couldn't resist the temptation: My QDOS score is Q3176 -- that's less than Nelson Mandela (Q6624) and Woody Allen (Q7764) but more than "Home and Away" star Paul O'Brian (Q2929). Yay! Other interesting comparisons: Pope Benedikt (Q6889) scores higher than the Dalai Lama (Q5749). And Barack Obama (Q9983) trails Ron Paul (Q10233)...

Garlik plans using its system to eventually guide people into investing in identity protection services. This is an interesting strategy that we will see more often: creating a service as a value-added teaser to in fact market another, commercially more viable service. Let's dub this "proxy marketing." Want to promote a product? Launch another (free) product! That way, you build awareness, goodwill, and a community of users that you can then implicitly educate on the value proposition of your actual offering. Sooner or later, they'll be ready to open their wallet.

Ideablob

Another recent example of this strategy is Ideablob, the much hyped crowdsourced idea-sharing site, which essentially is a proxy service run by Advanta, one of the largest credit card companies in the US. DEMO judged: "By providing the more than 25 million small business owners in the U.S. with an interactive environment for advice, counsel, and idea exchange, Advanta is defining the power of community in its truest sense." Ideablob touts itself as "a place to grow your ideas" but it may in fact be a means to grow Advanta's client base.

Of course "marketing by proxy" isn't really a new thing as marketers have always partnered with other "proxy" third-party services to move into markets where they had only limited expertise and brand elasticity. And yet, what's new is that marketers seem to become more aggressive in marketing the proxy product itself. Proxy and actual product are often under one and the same corporate roof, and the boundaries between them are blurring. Smart marketers think of proxy strategies as win-win's, designing the proxy product to ideally become its own profit center.

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About the author

    Tim Leberecht is Frog Design's chief marketing officer. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.

     

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