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.

Read on to see what readers have to say about the following marketing challenge.

Next Marketing Challenge

Blogs, wikis, and other e-marketing tools—which get results?

Click here to offer your advice or here to ask a question.

What do you think about branding that comes to the desktop?

I've used desktop-branded applications (DBAs) like WeatherBug and Southwest Airline's DING! These are free applications you download to your desktop and receive live updates or use them as a tool. They provide subtle branding messages to promote customer interaction with a brand. My organization is in a consumer-based business with a healthy amount of visits to our Web site. We'd like to consider providing such an application for our visitors. How do marketers and the public feel about such desktop branding?

—Stan, CMO

The readers who responded agree that DBAs can help a company out in two ways:

  1. Offer a free application to get your brand in front of more customers.

  2. Retain customers with a valuable tool.

Offer a free application to get your brand in front of more customers

Look on anyone's computer (with permission, of course), and you most likely will see a branded toolbar. It could be Yahoo, Google, MSN, or some other brand. These don't come with spyware or adware, but the companies benefit because DBAs keep their names in front of customers. That's why the search engines offer toolbars or packs—they want you to use their search engines, so they try to make them convenient with a toolbar.

Mariyam Rushdha says that the DBA concept would work well because so many of us are using the Internet while encouraging users to use the product more, but it has its downside:

So there you have a product that is easy to use, convenient and up to date—just exactly what a customer wants. But a customer's point of view may be totally different. I have also used some of these products, and sometimes the live updates get to be too much. In rare cases, some companies using this form of promotion overdo it, and it becomes more of an inconvenience to the consumer. Consumers also tend to ignore these freebie services. I know because I have done that countless times.

The cost of creating the DBA and offering it for free can still pay off, as it only takes a few hundred out of millions of people to download and use it. After all, blogs and Web sites will report on the free tool, and "free" entices the readers to download the application. They may or may not have heard of the company behind the application, and this could lead to brand recognition and recall when they need such services.

Retain customers with a valuable tool

While a DBA provides brand recognition and recall, it also helps with new and existing customers. When you provide something of value and they keep using it, then you've strengthened customer loyalty. If a DBA isn't valuable, customers won't hesitate to stop using it and uninstall it.

Anna Barcelos, marketing director with Business Link International, says that companies need to consider the value of the application rather than just provide any freebie:

As with any tool, the focus should be on providing value to the end users first, and the branding comes after that. It must be relevant and able to address their needs, or else there will be no interest. I'm sure you've seen the question "What's in it for me?" (WIIFM). WIIFM is the perspective you have to take with end users, and you must answer how your application will benefit them. If you can address that with your application, then it can be positive branding for your company. With regard to the application itself, it should be very simple and fast to install/uninstall and should not in any way affect computer speed or other applications.

One reason PointCast went away was because its application was slow and caused users' systems to slow down as well. Anything that takes time and effort will be ignored. Customers don't have time for that. So remember, the DBA needs to be easy and fast.

Next Marketing Challenge: Can You Help?

Time to get into blogging, wikis, newsletters, or what?

Our company has finally agreed to implement more online/electronic marketing strategies. We're aware that we need to evaluate every tool to see if it aligns with our strategy and our target market. We're a little overwhelmed with all the possibilities. I'm sure many readers have gone through this. Which electronic marketing applications did you select, why and how have they worked out?

—Joan, Marketing Manager

If you have a situation or question needing a few hundred brains for ideas, 180,000 MarketingProfs readers are ready to deliver their thoughts to resolve your challenge. Share your question and you'll get a chance to win a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

Subscribe's free!

MarketingProfs provides thousands of marketing resources, entirely free!

Simply subscribe to our newsletter and get instant access to how-to articles, guides, webinars and more for nada, nothing, zip, zilch, on the house...delivered right to your inbox! MarketingProfs is the largest marketing community in the world, and we are here to help you be a better marketer.

Already a member? Sign in now.

Sign in with your preferred account, below.

Did you like this article?
Know someone who would enjoy it too? Share with your friends, free of charge, no sign up required! Simply share this link, and they will get instant access…
  • Copy Link

  • Email

  • Twitter

  • Facebook

  • Pinterest

  • Linkedin


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