Give your product away for free or you may go broke.

March 9, 2009 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

Free It isn’t a new topic, but it’s worth revisiting as it’s a tough one for companies and their agencies to get into their bones. This is not surprising. Telling a businessman he must give his product away in order to make money sounds absurd on its surface. It brings to mind Clov in Waiting for Godot, who famously said: “If I don’t kill that rat, he’ll die.”

If we look at the topic a little more closely, however, it becomes  less absurd. Indeed, it almost makes sense. As we move from an economy of scarcity to an economy of abundance (think digital assets with zero marginal cost of reproduction), how do you make money by giving something away? Increasingly, this is the central question more and more businesses will have to answer. And getting the answer wrong–or worse still, ignoring the question altogether–will earn you an express ticket to failure.

Media and the means of distribution are stronger than any one company or industry. You can’t fight them. It’s like opposing plate tectonics; there’s no point to it. Driven by these media and distribution forces, certain products “want” to be free. Consumers are smart enough to figure this out. Disagreeing with consumers about which products “want to be free” is, in the words of my junior high football coach, “like pissing up a rope.”  In other words, it is not recommended.

Here’s a link to an article from Wharton that should tide you over until Chris Anderson’s new book, Free: The Past and Future of a Radical Price, comes out in July.

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Entry filed under: Advertising and Marketing. Tags: , , , .

Why do we put up with scam ads? One billion Halo 3 matches = 63 CENTURIES of consumer engagement. Are any ad agencies listening?

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