“We have GMail Invites!” Okay, actually we don’t, but this phenomenon has been spreading through the web the past couple of weeks, and it has really helped to build a buzz for GMail that traditional advertising could never have achieved. What makes this even more special is that the cost to Google was zero.
Already they had created a wonderful service that easily would have grown through word-of-mouth advertising, but instead they only allowed a certain number of individuals in at a time. Surprisingly, they probably did this more for testing and load balancing reasons than for advertising, but it seemed to help enormously on both fronts.
On the web almost everything is free including web-based email services, so when the most popular technology company today offers an email service that gives you 1 Gigabyte of storage for free you are going to be interested. Along with the storage aspect, the rave reviews that the service has received — even while still in beta mode — only helped to increase the service’s popularity. Add the fact that the only way to get one was through an invite and you probably have yourself the best marketing scheme of the first half of 2004.
However, as companies must notice though, it wasn’t the invite only scheme that worked for GMail, it was the product itself. Without an excellent product that would generate buzz the invitations would have been useless and probably placed just above spam in annoyance level. In any case, whether they meant to do it or not, Google has hit a homerun with both their product and marketing that has caused all the other major players (Yahoo, Hotmail…) to take notice.