The StartupNation Blog Trends, tips and real-life anecdotes from industry experts

Customer Love: No Love Like Free Love

FREE LOVE, or the art of giving away your stuff to consumers, is an enduring trend. Now, more than ever, FREE = GOODNESS. 

From airline tickets to Wikipedia, and from laundry detergent to music downloads there is an all-out war for consumers’ ever-scarcer attention and resulting new business models and marketing techniques. There are also benefits from the ever-decreasing costs of producing physical goods, the post-scarcity dynamics of the online world, the many C2C marketplaces enabling consumers to swap instead of spend, and an emerging recycling culture.

Examples:

  • To celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama, doughnut purveyor Krispy Kreme UK (a company that has had several brilliant marketing campaigns) gave out free Americano coffees. To take advantage of the promotion, which ran the entire week before the inauguration, customers needed only to enter a participating Krispy Kreme UK shop and say, “Yes we can!” to a barista. They’d then walk away with a free Americano coffee.
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  • FreeGreen offers free, downloadable green house plans. FreeGreen’s team of engineers and designers works with industry-leading product manufacturers to create home designs that incorporate different combinations of products, materials and vendors. It also provides 3D images, energy simulations and written descriptions to help consumers find the right fit for their lifestyle. FreeGreen relies on paid placement from product manufacturers, but it takes pains to be transparent about the products it displays.

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  • Freecycle.org The Freecycle Network is a grassroots, global organization with over 5.7 million members in more than 85

    Countries. It started as a small circle of friends 2003, who had a item that local thrift shops would not accept. In an effort to protect our planet and recycle a perfectly useable bed, they started a network of friends online and offered the bed. What began as only 30 members just over five years ago has now developed into many millions of members worldwide. There are now over 10,000 volunteers who devote their time and energy to this worthy cause.

     

    The Network is currently growing at the rate of over 40,000 new members each and every week. This nonprofit gifting movement enables individuals to gift items in their local communities rather than to throw them away, thus keeping over 600 tons out of landfills daily. In 2007 Freecycle was ranked by Yahoo as the third most searched environmental term on the planet following only “global warming” and “recycling.”

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There used to be a joke that if there was one TV left in the world, it would be on sale. I guess the same could be said of matresses (when was the last time you bought one of these without a sale?).

Home spas are on sale for 50% off. Someone told me that Chipotle is offering a free burrito if you just come in. Everyday seems like the kind of deal you might only get on Black Friday.

To look at the reason this is happening, you only need to look at the latest GDP numbers. In the 4Q08, GDP fell by 6.2%, the largest drop in 27 years. Consumer based businesses are especially hurting.

It seems counter productive, but we need to help the economy by continuing to consume to the best of our financial ability. In the end, we are a consumption based economy. Be seduced by that deal or cut your own one with the store. Make yourself feel good by getting a deal and helping out a merchant. Both of you will be glad you did.

What deals have you recently taken advantage of?

About the Author: Christine Haskell

Christine is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft with several years experience in the .com industry. She recently started social venture labs, an idea incubator for those leading small mission-driven businesses or organizations looking to create relationships, share ideas and [...]

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