Discussing The Brand of a Browser

I attended a fantastic presentation by Steven Heller hosted by the Art Directors Club of Metro Washington DCFirefox Logo on Friday night and he explained that Brand is a fetish… it is when people don’t just identify with something but embrace it. This concept fascinates me especially when it falls in the realm of an a-typical product. People get totally juiced up and excited over so many things; there are mini-cooper meet-up groups and people who are obsessed with Harry Potter, but I am fascinated when a group of enthusiasts rally around something meant to be functional.. often dry, and usually transparent… like a web browser. Firefox has organically grown an enormous group of brand loyalists using guerrilla marketing and online tactics that go far beyond anything that their competitors are doing. From that they have defied odds and currently maintain a healthy stronghold on a substantial percentage (36.3% in December 2007 according to the W3C) of the browser market. How are they doing it?

They are not evil.
Firefox is a project of the non-profit Mozilla foundation:

devotes its resources to promoting openness, innovation and opportunity on the Internet. We do this by supporting the community of Mozilla contributors and by assisting others who are building technologies that benefit users around the world.

Firefox campaignThey go so far as to spell out exactly what they are all about in their own Manifesto which states their goals and principles. Dude, what is cooler than a manifesto? I mean Pirates and people who start revolutions have manifestos.

The first time I read this document my heart skipped a beat… an organization that believes in all the idealistic wonderful web things I do? OMG How can I not embrace that? An excerpt of three of their principles are as follows:

  1. The Internet is an integral part of modern life–a key component in education, communication, collaboration, business, entertainment and society as a whole.
  2. The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible.
  3. The Internet should enrich the lives of individual human beings.

Openly stating and documenting all of their non-evil beliefs online in a manifesto makes them hard to dislike… and modern day pirates. Arrrr!

They make a great product & experience (which organically creates word of mouth)

There are lots of great advantages to Firefox, the customization really sets them apart from the other products to the average user. While being open and secure are big pluses, the average joe is going to notice all the fantastic plug-ins they can use to make their browsing experience unique.
As a Web Designer I constantly rely on (and recommend) the Web Developer Extension. My friend, the Catch-up Lady (an avid Firefox user) constantly recommends the All in One Gesture Add-on.

They have fun.

Spread Firefox On Car Window

Fun designs, fun T-shirts and fun promotions abound. They don’t take themselves too seriously and that makes using their product that more attractive. They recently held a competition called Operation Firefox where they encouraged their users to use guerrilla tactics to place a 3.5 foot Firefox sticker in a public space. Insane challenges and a manifesto… pirates. Arrr!

They leverage successful online and offline marketing tactics
Spreadfirefox.com houses a complete toolkit that helps people spread the word online through photos, banners, and talking points as well as offline events where Firefox enthusiasts take to the streets. Rather than utilizing traditional marketing tactics Firefox has decided to go this low budget route leveraging and amplifying the word of mouth their product has already created and giving their users to do the same. They take all the work out of it, making it simple and effective.

Mozilla Store GraphicThey look good
Firefox’s logos, buttons, banners, and even T-shirts are all well designed. Its a pleasure to have the Firefox logo sitting in my dock, and their T-shirts are witty and fashionable. Their microsites like Operation Firefox and the Mozilla store all have organic tangible feels to them. Taking something like a browser that exists only in the online space and giving it a very offline feel.