Remember PointCast? It was one of the first desktop-branded applications and it came along before many discovered the power of the Internet. Users got a free application that provided news and stock information. Unfortunately, the PointCast application ate up too much bandwidth at a time when most home users still used a dialup modem. Eventually, the company fell apart, but it was the first of a trend: desktop branded applications.

Desktop-based applications provide users with free tools to make their lives easier or Internet surfing more interesting. Some applications have added a nasty component, though: spyware. But not all free DBAs are bad, and they can help a company increase its visibility. When done right, DBAs are beneficial tools and give marketers a way to keep customers engaged with their company by providing them with entertainment, information, or functionality.

According to DMNews, Southwest Airline's DBA Ding! users were 45 percent more likely to buy tickets through Southwest than the average visitor, and the service averages $60 million a year in sales.

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.