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In Advertising
Social Media

By Phil Murphy

Ello Social Network & The Anti Marketing Concept

On 05, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Advertising, Blog, Social Media | By Phil Murphy

Ello, every hear of it? Ello, is a relative newbie to the social media scene, but despite (or perhaps because of) their limited invite-only module, everyone seems to be talking about the platform.

In fact, the site gained so much traction and interest during their initial launch that they literally had to close off the site to new users, making invites to the site rare and that much more desirable. The reason, their servers supposedly could not cope with the influx of new accounts. However, with a plethora of other social media networks to choose from ranging from Twitter and Facebook to Google Plus and Snapchat, why are users so eager to join Ello? Why would anyone need yet another social media outlet?

The answer lies in their anti-marketing strategy which revolves around an ad-free social module. Why ad-free? Probably because it’s the only social media network that currently promises to not sell user data to companies looking for advertising material. It’s the only social media network guaranteeing pure-privacy. In the first line of the post registration page Ello boldly states, “Your social network is owned by advertisers….Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.”

Ello took the simple step of promising users that they will never see an ad, and that their data will never make its way to the hands of companies looking for marketing data. The result is that Ello is rising in the wake of Facebook, Google+, and Instagram’s many advertising flaws, which include selling data, advertising based on what users are doing on their phones or computer, and other. Some users want their privacy, and Ello is working an anti-marketing concept against the many social media networks we already know and often love to hate.

A 2013 study showed that some 53% of the Irish population has a Facebook account, making it the most popular network in the country. Facebook is a great platform for advertisers which has struggled to find the right mix of dispruptive advertising formats vs. a purely social UX. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, initially refused to have ads on his platform. Web hosting at scale is expensive and Ello will have to monetize some source of income either through app downloads or subscriptions.

In fact, Ello actually looks a lot like the early Facebook. With no ads, a stripped down and simple user interface, and an exclusive invite-only access method, it’s almost the exact same strategy that skyrocketed Facebook into fame in 2008 and 2009, although they did not explicitly state an ad-free module at the time.

Ad Free Sales Modules

While Ello may be using ad-free as a claim to fame, the concept isn’t a new one. Many successful apps, including Whatsapp, have actually relied on ad-free marketing for some time. Whatsapp provides a valuable service free of annoyance and in turn, users support the app by either buying it or purchasing extras. The ad-free module is the only thing that separates Whatsapp from dozens of other VOIP apps that offer WiFi texting services, but Whatsapp is the most sucessful. Whatsapp, for example, had over 45 million downloads at 99 cents per, or for free. They do not display any adds at all. Yet the app recently sold to Facebook for some $19 billion. Their value comes from not only the user base, but also from the revenue potential of the app. Whatsapp, like many other apps, is a sort of freemium app, which means that it’s services are free and ad free. Rather than selling ads and data, they make money by selling extras such as chat emoticons, and add-ons from their shop. Other successful ad-free modules include free games like Dungeons and Dragons Online, which make the majority of their money through the sale of extras and in-game add-ons.

Ello aims to operate on a similar basis and promises to offer social media add-ons and features for a premium rate to users. Essentially, they intend to sell social functions to users who want to add items to their social networking experience, allowing them to make money without infringing on the privacy of, or annoying, their users.

What is Anti-marketing?

Anti marketing is the concept of using an already existing company or marketing scheme and presenting it in a negative light to sell something else. In 2013, Amazon used anti-marketing to point out that their Kindle Fire HD had the same quality screen as Apple’s iPad, thereby selling thousands of eReaders to unsuspecting users who wanted a full-function tablet. Another famous example is Gregg Karber, who famously used anti-marketing to teach Abercrombie & Fitch a lesson with his #fitchthehomless campaign after CEO Mike Jeffries commented that his clothing was “exclusively for the young, thin, and attractive”. Karber purchased secondhand clothing from the company and distributed it to the homeless, and the resulting YouTube video garnered over 8 million views on YouTube.

Even GreenPeace are notorious for their usage of anti-marketing material, often subverting logos to create negative depictions of companies they are campaigning against.

How Ello Is Using Anti Marketing

While ad-free is nothing new, Ello is selling their website on an anti-marketing module, directly opposing themselves with Facebook and other popular social networks by deliberately saying that they are better without the ads. With various slogans that include “You are not a product” they appeal to the user sense of injustice at having their data used for marketing. By setting themselves up as opposite of Facebook’s open advertising model, even directly pointing out violations like mapping connections, posts, and posts to friends for advertising and sales, Ello is telling the world that they are everything that Facebook is not. The result is an anti-marketing scheme every bit as brilliant as Karber’s anti-Abercrombie and Fitch video. Will Ello be successful? Anti-marketing may raise awareness of digital advertising conecpts on social platforms but will users abandon Facebook? I don’t think so!

How Can Brands Use It

Anti-Marketing is a great marketing concept for disruptive new entrants to a market, but it’s to be used very cautiously. In fact, it is, to an extent, something of the mud-slinging tactic of the marketing world. Ryanair a multi billion business has grown organically under Michael O’Learys stewardship through anti-marketing concepts. Whether you love or hate Ryanair, anti-marketing concepts have created a brand will become one of the worlds largest airlines.

However, what everyone can take away from Ello’s quick rise to popularity is not their anti-marketing, but rather their use of user experience as a marketing tactic, which worked for Whatsapps used for marketing. Is anti-marketing the new secret sauce to founding a company and getting it bought for $19 billion!

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