Marketing from Me to You

Posted on July 5, 2007

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Today???s big news comes from eBay, a relatively predictable entrant into the free online classified space with the new Web site, Kijiji. (As others have commented, the name is silly and doesn???t read well in print or in your Web address bar.) eBay???s marketing tactics aren???t under the radar here.  Instead, the news prompted me to take a closer look at how my generation markets to, well, my generation.

Like most GenXYZers I know, I???ve never actually placed an ad in a newspaper.  I???ve bought and sold many things online (both from businesses and individuals), and I???ve even scanned print classified ads ??? although this was years ago, and I???m not convinced the medium still exists. 😉  What I am sure of is Craigslist.  Bloggers have argued that Kijiji is trying to compete with CL, but for a number of reasons, I disagree ??? plus, they???d never win and here???s why:

CL has acquired a massive user base simply through word of mouth marketing.  I assume the marketing textbooks are already being revised??? Even in the past year, the site???s unique visitor count has gone from just over 10 million to more than 21 million.

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I first heard of CL (how else, but from a friend) while I was searching for an apartment in the Web site???s San Francisco home.  Not only did I find great roommates and a new apartment, I also landed my job through the Web site???s employment section.  To this day I continue to share countless laughs with friends over the Best of Craiglist section, I???m in the midst of my second CL apartment hunt (this time in Boston); I???ve bought and sold furniture and a car using CL, and even simply given stuff away. 

Why does CL work for me and so many others?  Why are we addicted?  I think we???d all agree that it???s simple to use, and that because of its massive following, you???re guaranteed to find a lot of ???stuff??? in one spot (a characteristic Kijiji won???t be able to replicate immediately no matter how much money eBay pours into the site).  More importantly, I believe that CL caught on like wildfire in part because of its underground appeal.  Everyone ??? meaning me and people in countries and cities I???ve never heard of ??? uses CL now.  But, that???s a far cry from where CL began with one small, discrete Web site in a sea of San Francisco startups.

All the while, Craig has stayed as true to his loyal users as we have to his Web site.  CL maintains its underground look and feel with its text-only home page and downright boring dual color design scheme.  Also, as daring visitors to CL know, every time you visit the site, you???re only clicks away from content that is sure to make you blush.  When Craig Newmark packaged all this up and started spreading the word, he created a paradigm-shifting service and experience that will have a lasting impact on me and most of the digital generations to come.  The best part is: he???s not the kind of guy who would say ???paradigm shifting.??? 

When GenXYZ visits Craiglist, we???re both looking for something, and feeling like we???ve already discovered something.  This is exactly how peer-to-peer advertising should be.  Sorry Kijiji: We???re onto you.  We???ve seen hundreds of companies just like you, backing an old idea with a new look and more money.  We ignored them, and we???ll ignore you, too.

Craigslist ??? 5/5 stars
Kijiji ??? Too soon to tell   

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