Jellyfish.com Case Anlysis

Once again, for my Marketing on the Internet class...

Jellyfish.com is a new breed of online shopping website. Instead of a simple task oriented interface, like Amazon.com or Wal-Mart.com, Jellyfish chooses to include a large experiential element to their web business model. The site works like this: you sign up and create a profile -- the profile is very similar to one that you would create for a social networking site, name, interests, a shopping wish list, and any photos you wish to include. From there, you participate in the Smack Shopping experience. Smack shopping is basically a reverse auction (the price drops as time goes by) with an unknown quantity of items. The items are organized in different shows (electronics, mens clothing, etc.) throughout the day. Users who watch the shows can participate in a live chat, as well as a variety of games where users can win coins, (which can later be redeemed for prizes), money, and other jellyfish schwag. Users can also win chances to co-host shows, which means they get to pick the merchandise that's auctioned, and spur the live audience to participate.

This is why Jellyfish is an experiential site -- it is designed to encourage users to spend inordinate amounts of time on the site, engaging with the brand on a level thats hard for other e-commerce sites to achieve. As one spends time on the site, social connections develop with fellow "smackers", and it becomes even harder to leave the tight knit online community. It is not rare to hear of groups of smackers getting together for real world events (recently, a group from the finger lakes area went wine tasting). This is the kind of devotion and engagement money can't buy. It's the kind that comes with a clever business model, and an ability to nurture and engage the customer in ways other online retailers cannot.

What is most interesting about Jellyfish, however, is the way in which they choose to market their site. Jellyfish doesn't advertise much online. That means no banner ads and no Google AdWords (a quick search of relevant keywords returned no results -- though if you search for "jellyfish" the site comes up on the first page). What Jellyfish does have, however, is an affiliate advertising program and an opt-in e-mail newsletter. Thats it. Yet somehow, Jellyfish managed to build enough traffic, and establish a large enough user base that Microsoft purchased the company in October of 2007. So how did they do it?

A big part of their traffic building strategy was turning Jellyfish into a Lovemark -- so adored by its users that they would do anything to get friends and relatives using the site. For several months last year, Jellyfish ran a contest called "Smack Daddy's Quest". Smack Daddy's Quest was the ultimate in a word of mouth recruitment campaign. How it worked was the Smack community was charged with reaching certain point levels (1o points were awarded for each new refferrel) reaching those point levels triggered different rewards (larger money pots for games, smacking a car, etc.). Users were provided with a custom referral link, static banners, an e-mail footer and a widget to use as recruitment tools. This campaign alone increased the user base of Jellyfish by over 30,000 users in about 2 months.

Jellyfish also takes advantage of a public relations style of online advertising. Much of their users sign up when a popular blog mentions the site in a blog post. Jellyfish will also run co-hosted shows with popular blogs like The Consumerist and Tree Hugger, which also generates a lot of traffic. Jellyfish users will also post to the message boards of Woot during their famed Woot-offs (instead of one item being sold per day, a constant stream of items are sold until everything sells out) which encourages even more people to sign up for Jellyfish.

The traffic building strategies of Jellyfish are an example of a small online company taking advantage of every method available to them, without necessarily breaking the bank. It's a strategy that will only work for a certain class of website, but if your site belongs to that class, it's a good way to go.


Going Green - One Bag At A Time

As a poor college student, the process of going green can often turn into a difficult and expensive proposition. There's no arguing that steps need to be taken to rehabilitate our increasingly sick planet, and ensure the continued existence of those things we often take for granted. That said, talking the talk is much easier then walking the walk.

Beyond the obvious steps -- recycling chief among them, going green means buying a host of so called eco-friendly products. Since the best way these days to create change is to vote with your dollar, I find myself very limited. The problem with most eco-friendly products is they are for the most part, more expensive to produce. Those extra costs are then passed along to the final consumer. Take organic and locally grown produce, for example. You get a product that has fewer pesticides and chemicals, and one with a substantially reduced carbon footprint. The problem is, you can find yourself paying much more per pound then the chemical ridden counterpart from Chile. It becomes a catch-22 -- buy organic and local, feel good, and be dirt poor, or, continue buying the cheap stuff, feel guilty, but have a few dollars left over at the end of the month.

That said, I recently took a small step towards going green, one that everyone can, and should take. I bought reusable shopping bags. Wegman's, my local grocery store, makes these bags readily available at every checkout aisle. You can purchase a bag for $.99 if you have a shoppers club card, $1.29 without. By purchasing a few of these bags, not only do you cut down on the massive amount of non-degradeable, animal killing, oil guzzling plastic bag waste in the world, but you drastically reduce unloading trips between the car and your home. My girlfriend and I went from using a dozen or so plastic bags every week to 4 reusable ones. Thats a major reduction. What once took 2 or 3 trips out to the car can easily be finished in one. So if the environment doesn't concern you (it should) at least buy the bags to lessen the risk of some freak repetitive stress injury from unloading all those plastic bags. Your arms (and insurance company) will thank me.


Techno Junkie

To those who know me, calling myself a techno junkie isn't exactly breaking news. As a college senior I can already lay claim to my early adopter status, and I'm fully aware of my dependency on those things that contain circuitry and wires. (I have an HD-DVD player that's a year and a half old, and already obsolete -- curse you Blu-Ray!). So when I decided to travel to Lafayette, LA for an alternative spring break trip, it's surprising that I never once considered the tech use ramifications. Now that the trip is less then a week away, I find myself in quite the dilemma -- which tech stays, and which goes?

I came across this post over at Lifehacker that talks about trying to travel to foreign countries (Thailand) with tech. It doesn't sound encouraging, and while Lafayette isn't close to Thailand, I'd face a lot of similar issues -- security chief among them. As much as I'd like to have my laptop with me for checking e-mail, playing games, and watching movies, I think it's gotta stay home. It's times like these I wish I had an ipod touch/iphone -- maybe when I'm not so poor.

Moving down the list, my ipod comes with, if only because a 30 hour van ride with 8 people I don't know well would be excruciating without some melodic distraction (and no, sing-a-longs don't count). A GPS and my cell phone also make the cut. If I could afford the $130 price tag, I'd get myself a Nintendo DS as well.

So the trip isn't a complete tech-less experience. It's more like an internet-less experience, in itself a scary thought. It's one I haven't experienced since the early internet days, back when dial-up was the norm, and I was only allowed a half hour of internet time a day. It's going to be an interesting experience. It'll be good to get some time off and take a break from my tech addict ways.


Why Bandit?

Top ten reasons why Bandit wine is better then regular wine:
1. Because it tastes good!
2. 33% more wine (1 liter vs. 750 ml)
3. Lower shipping weight = less fuel emissions
4. 96% wine, 4% packaging -- why waste $$ on packaging?
5. NO corked wine
6. Wine to go-go
7. 1 truckload of empty Bandit cartons = 26 truckloads of empty glass
8. Made largely of renewable resources
9. You can toss it in your cooler
10. You can crush it on your forehead when you're done!

I am such a marketing sucker. I was cruising the local wine store, looking for something affordable to buy, and this Bandit 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon called out to me. Perhaps it was the light purple exterior. Or more likely, it was the unique juice box style packaging that spoke to me. Or was it the increased volume of wine for the paltry price of $6.99. Whatever it was, after consulting one of the wine store employees, ("Have you tried this? Is it good?"), I purchased it and brought it home for consumption in the near future.

The wine itself is OK. The flavor profile keeps itself entrenched within the mediocrity of most wines under $10. It's drinkable, but I certainly would not want drink it the same way I would a $20 bottle of Greg Norman Shiraz. Like I said, I bought the wine for its unique packaging, and that's about the only place it stands out.

One of the pressing issues in the wine industry today is the potentially large carbon footprint that the production and distribution of wine leaves on the planet. Between the dwindling supply of real cork, to the weight of a full glass bottle of wine, import and shipping practices, and the processes used in growing and cultivating the grapes, wine is not exactly an eco-friendly drink.

But Bandit's packaging idea, akin to a single serving boxed wine, is much more environmentally friendly. Yes, the packaging might upset wine purists. It's not elegant, or aesthetically pleasing like a glass bottle of red wine can be, but it serves the purpose of delivering fresh, quality wine in an environmentally friendly manner. I think this could be the future of the wine industry, even if it is the distant future, and I applaud the makers of Bandit wine for their ingenuity and courage to be creative in an industry that likes to maintain the status quo.