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From Rob Weir <>
Subject Why do we need to market open source?
Date Mon, 03 Dec 2012 15:25:22 GMT
I saw a question on this list a week or so ago, along the lines of
"Why does a good, free product need to marketed?".  This is a good
question.  I hope I have a good answer.

I'd start by invoking the "awareness ladder".  Some of you are
probably familiar with it.  You look at your prospective "customers"
and put them in one of the following buckets:

1) Unaware -- does not know about your product or even the problem it solves

2) Problem aware -- knows about the problem, but not that there are
solutions, or that your product is a solution

3) Solution aware -- knows that there are solutions, but does not know
about your solution

4) Product aware -- knows about your product

5) Fully aware -- is using your product, recommending it to others, etc.

If you think of classical advertising, where you have a cream for dry
feet, you first need to convince people that dry feet is a problem
they should care about, then that there is a solution and then that
your WizzoFootCream is the best thing for them.  You take the customer
one step up the awareness ladder at a time.  You can't sell them the
foot cream if they don't first think that dry feet is a problem.

Note that the competitive "my product is better than your product" is
mainly at levels 4 and 5.  Until then you are not so much selling a
product, but selling an idea, the idea that there is a problem that
has solutions.

So what does this mean for open source like Apache OpenOffice?  What
problem are we solving?    I've sketched out some possibilities on the
wiki here:

Most of them are variations on "I need an office suite for X but I
don't want to pay for Microsoft Office".   Some people know that have
that problem and are looking for a solution.  (They are "problem
aware").  But others don't even know there is something like a free
office suite.  Others know there is a problem and that there are
alternative solutions and want to know what the advantages of Apache
OpenOffice are.

So even with free, open source software, there is still need for
marketing, especially with the earlier steps on the awareness ladder.

We might think that OpenOffice is one of the most prominent open
source brands around -- and indeed it is.  But I recently commissioned
a brand awareness survey of US internet users and only 24% of them had
heard of the OpenOffice brand.  So beyond the relatively small circle
of open source enthusiasts, we're still unknown.  Of course, this is a
huge opportunity for growth.

So yes, OpenOffice needs marketing, even though it is free.  But the
emphasis probably should focus on enlarging the universe of potential
users who are aware of this product category and of that OpenOffice is
the premier solution within that category.  In a sense we're the
ambassadors of open source to the wider consumer market, the first
open source product that many users learn about.



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