September 26, 2014

Ello: Genius Marketing or Just Another Fad?

by Jaimie Siegle | Advertising Systems Inc.

Have you heard about Ello? If not, don’t worry, you will soon. The latest social media network, dubbed by news outlets as a type of “anti-Facebook,” Ello requires an invite in order to join. Many successful social media networks started out that way, of course, Pinterest being one of them. Initially Facebook was available only to college students until it extended its reach to high schoolers, and finally the entire population. Today, there are about 1.3 billion active Facebook users, and all of them provide the network with valuable data and demographic research.

According to Business Insider, website creator Paul Budnitz said the site has been receiving 27,000 invitation requests an hour. The simply designed site, which promises to never sell ads or sell user data to third parties, has generated hype as a “punk rock,” minimal version of Facebook,“ or something like Facebook’s alternative, liberal younger sibling. As a result, it’s  quickly becoming a discussion topic on competitor sites like Twitter and Facebook: “Ello being anti-marketing is of course great marketing. Hipness is a good fix for a poor product,” tweeted comedian and Vice writer Grant Pardee, who also brilliantly described it as “a friend’s apartment who only has a futon and a TV but insists it’s because he’s really into minimalism.”

There may be some truth to Ello’s notion that people are tired of being eerily advertised to and dissected into profitable market research data — not to mention trying to be sold something every few seconds. There’s also something to be said about the longevity of a simple, bare bones website design. My favorite example of the “less is more” aesthetic done right? You may have seen it before:

Moreover, without advertisers, how will Ello sustain itelf and profit over time? Indeed, the network’s manifesto sounds noble, but whether it’s actually executable or an Emperor-in-New-Clothes situation cleverly developed by marketing teams strategists remains to be seen.

Is it the exclusivity of the invite-only marketing (or ‘anti’-marketing) that has allowed Ello to skyrocket in popularity? Or is it the promise of an ad-free, less intrusive way to communicate with friends? While it may not make Facebook disappear anytime soon, it will be interesting to watch whether Ello can hold to its hype. And if history can provide any insight into how future circumstances are played out, odds are not with Budnitz  and Ello. (Remember Friendster? Exactly.)

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