The Logic Behind Gmail
If there was one identifier in your life you would not change, what would it be?
My mom would say, her phone number. I would say, my email address.
Email is one of the most important first-mover based businesses, and Gmail has come into this market and effectively grabbed a powerful market share in its beta stage itself. How did this happen? How did they make such a first mover based business into their domain? After spending many sleepless nights on this, I have a theory!
First, they came out with a great product. Gmail was nothing like ever seen before. A 1 GB inbox, Ajax based pages which ensured quicker loading, convenient address book and retreival, and so on. This is always the first step for a company that wants to take over a market. Make a great product!
Then, they realized that by offering so much storage space, they needed to make money somewhere. So they put in context-based advertising in email. Of course, there was an initial hue and cry about this, and the media caught on fast. The buzzword today, "Invasion of privacy", was so often quoted, that Osama Bin Laden became a no-news in comparison.
Then they began their marketing campaign. It wasn't much actually. In my opinion, the only smart thing they did initially was that they made it an invitation based service. When you don't give a great product to a customer, he absolutely HAS to have it. The craze for gmail invites became so bad that someone actually auctioned off a few invites on eBay.
So they built a cult. A gmail ID became something to be proud of. Some people had actually paid for it (on eBay!). Now, if you paid for something, wouldn't you want it to be as good as an official email ID from, say, VSNL or sify? So now, gmail became an official looking email ID for a person. My bet is, if you pick up a random sample of ten gmail users, you would find atleast 6-7 of them with a email@example.com email ID, or firstname.lastname@example.org . Of course! It was now something to be proud of! It wasn't just another free email service. The google brandname helped too, because gmail was its first big project after the search engine itself, and everyone around the world was discovering the joys of "googling".
So, slowly and steadily, and still in beta stage, gmail began acquiring customers from the other email ID providers. Yahoo was nice to them. They offered mail forwarding services, and made silly attempts to catch up by increasing their capacity to 1 GB too. It was obvious that they were now the laggards. Yahoo was just not "cool" anymore. Of course, in the ancient Web 1.0 days there used to be a service called hotmail, which has positively the most tacky and inconvenient interface in the web today. For a long time, they also had a policy of increasing inbox size to 250 MB only for American users. They managed to retain a few american customers, but pissed off many non-Americans like me.
As gmail grew, they kept upgrading their services, to include a gtalk with excellent voice capabilities, and then a gtalk within gmail (god save meebo!)
Slowly, a set of staunch gmail supporters emerged, who refused to use other services. In fact, these were such loyal customers that kept recommending other users to email. The new bunch of Web 2.0 users slowly flocked to gmail. They also handed out more invites, and this cycle began to move faster and faster.
Today, there are over 5 million users of gmail, and these are serious users, who use gmail as their official ID sometimes, for personal mail too, and would swear by their service.
Gmail managed to effectively break into a market that people thought was completely based on the first mover advantage. Another hint that effective marketing can break such dumb old cliches?
The Logic Behind Gmail
- » Published on April 26, 2006
- » Type: Opinion
- » Filed under: