Free Business Model for Free

imagesDecades ago, when I was an advertising art director in NY, one of our clients used advertising copy which pointed out a main competitor was going out of business.

The competitor was a home furnishing business. It had huge signs in the store front which said, “Going Out of Business”!

The “Going Out of Business” business sued our client. Turns out the furnishing store’s LLC was officially “Going Out of Business”, LLC. They never had any intention of going out of business.

Their model was to get people in the store who wanted something for free, then do hard upselling. I always thought that was a bit disingenuous. It also seemed to invite a customer in which was not in the mood to tolerate less than spectacular deals.

The internet seems to have a dynamic similar to this these days. Only less disingenuous.

My good friend Brian Newman featured a post about Monty Python giving away all their stuff on Youtube for free. The effect was not a going out of business sale, but soaring purchases of their DVD’s.

Chris Anderson, of The Long Tail fame, has been promoting his book “Free, The Future of Business” for some time, but his piece in the WSJ this week put it best. Give it away.

So if you are in the media business, or any business for that matter, and the money flow has been pinched off like a cement truck parked on a garden hose. You might want to seem to be “Going Out of Business” ala my ad client’s foe, but have an interesting offer which engages them in a non-traditional way.

As Monty Python famously said, “And now for something completely different”!


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