Why Dropbox's Space Race is Genius
If you know Dropbox, you know that they are the master of referral marketing. If you look for information on referral marketing and best practices, chances are that you will wind up reading something about them. In fact, the Wikipedia page about it even cites them as a successful example. In line with their historical acclaim, Dropbox has done it again: today they launched an incredible marketing campaign called The Great Dropbox Space Race.
How the Space Race Works
Their blog post announcing the program's launch says, "Earn points by referring your classmates, friends, and professors to Dropbox (they just need to sign in with their school email and install Dropbox if they haven't already), and by getting them to complete the "Get Started guide". As you and your classmates earn more points, everyone from your school registered for Space Race will get more free space. Cosmic." Cool - sounds like a million marketing campaigns that have come before, right? Wrong. Let's dig into why this campaign is so powerful and how you can learn from it.
Make the Reward Worth Working For (Or not)
First and foremost, Dropbox is giving away something that students want. Furthermore, they are giving away their actual product rather than following in the footsteps of many companies and giving away prizes that are irrelevant to their business. But it doesn't stop there. The power in this program is that it does not polarize it's audience: it allows both the freeloaders and the power referrers to play. Those who are willing to go out and blast their networks will both help everybody in their school and get the usual 500MB bonus for everybody that they sign up. Wow.
The Beauty of Playing on Identity
Many companies have attempted to pit schools against each other in their marketing efforts but rarely have I seen campaigns that really get people moving. In Dropbox's case, they did well by implementing a top ten leaderboard on the main landing page. This allows the top referring schools to feel a sense of prestige and may give them a stronger sense of urgency to move up a place or two. Furthermore, it allows schools to pit themselves against schools they may consider their rivals. I attend UC Berkeley and I saw students saying, "We are doing well, but we still need 400 more points to beat Harvard. We can do it!" That's the power of identity.
The Reward is Only for a Limited Time
In behavioral economics, Prospect Theory states that humans feel greater pain from losing something they already have then they feel pleasure from gaining something new (it is also called loss aversion). If you've ever used a free trial for something before, you've felt the power of prospect theory. In the case of Dropbox, they set their limited time offer for a very long time in the eyes of the user, but a relatively short period of time for the company (hopefully). When the two year offer is over and done, the users who filled used up all the new space will more than likely pay for Dropbox's service rather than going on a deleting spree.