November 02, 2007

Coolhotmail.com - Why it could kill Gmail (And why it won't)

What is CoolHotmail?

CoolHotmail.com is a site where you can get a unique email id which truly reflects your personality. The email ids could be anything ranging from ishwar@underpaid.co.in to ishwar@ufoff.com. (Visit the site for a complete list - some of them are pretty good). It is currently launched in India and many ids are very India specific.



On the face of it, this seems like a good strategy against Gmail and Yahoo. Hotmail could have recaptured the lost email space with this piece of innovative marketing. An almost perfect understanding of the concept of "Cool" and yet not at all. Let me elaborate.


Concept of Cool

Lets first understand the concept of cool from the visual below.


In the above graph, the innovators form a niche market. They actively seek new & innovative brands/products and talk/adopt them. This section is considered very cool and also known to be opinion leaders. The early adopters catch on fast enough and also adopt the brand. The cool factor rubs off on them too. If the brand becomes mass and is adopted by the late majority and the laggards, then it is clearly uncool to possess and show off this brand.


When are you cool?

To state it simply, its when you are different. How can you be different is the next logical question. Simple answer again is when you assert your individuality through what you say, what you do or what you have / possess.

Is being different good enough?
You not only have to be different, but also belong to a relatively niche club. "I listen to rock, not boy bands" is the easiest example. An even better example would be a Harley Davidson owner - I bet he feels way cooler than the rest.

Then there are the cool guys who wouldn't touch an ipod with a 3 foot barge pole. The only reason is that the whole world has one, they like the creative mp3 players and would go against the world to defend their purchase (they defend pretty well and they are a lot cooler)

I have to add that there is a thin line between being cool and being "just different". Not everything that is different makes people want to imitate or aspire for. "Cool" is something everyone wants to be.

Fundamental Philosophies for a Cool Brand

  • The brand has to promise something different
  • Has to give scope for people to assert individuality and yet belong
  • Remain exclusive by making the brand inaccessible (like a Harley that is priced so high that by default it is inaccessible)
  • The easiest way to have a cool brand is when the category itself is so well segmented that its exclusive for everyone. Though not a perfect example, lets consider music genres. Since there are a zillion categories, its easy for everyone to be different, belong to a niche club and feel cool at the same time. This can be sustained by periodic new introductions and for a sustained period of time.
The biggest problem is everyone wants to cash in on their "cool" brand and hence make it more mass, which opens the space for a new brand to be niche, exclusive and hence cool.


So you want to Cash in on a cool brand?
  • Be accessible in all forms - available & financially viable.
  • Make it available and yet seem exclusive. Gmail has used this to good advantage by making registration seem exclusive as it is subject to an invite from an existing member. This will delay the shift in perception from cool to uncool (only delay not stop)
  • Crunch speed of adoption from innovators to laggards by enhancing awareness, word of mouth and PR. This makes everyone seem like they are getting onto something new & different. But the difference between innovators and laggards should not more than 6 months. This principle has been used by Apple on their ipod and iphone series very effectively.

Why could CoolHotmail have been the next big thing?


Its got all the ingredients of a cool brand
  • Expresses individuality and yet gives the opportunity to belong to a niche club
  • A number of segments and options for everyone on the same platform to feel they are different, even if they create a mail id at different points in time

  • In a sense its like the music genre example I stated earlier, so many options that everyone gets individuality and belongs all in the same breath

  • Of course its fundamentally different from other offerings in the market

  • Decent viral - Check it out
One addition I would like to see is the freedom to create your own domain name. For operational reasons, they could have one extension like ishwar@innovativemarketing.mi (where .mi is an extension they own). Then any extension is possible (a .com flexibility will be impossible considering the number of registered companies out there)

Why CoolHotmail will fail?

I hate to say it, but the single most important reason is they called it "Cool". Anything which is called cool can never be cool.

  • 5 GB of space seems less when other mail options have unlimited space
  • Lastly the website features are not different and certainly not great. None of the cool gmail features that we are accustomed to. Nothing to write home about.
  • Too many non targeted ads overtly intruding my space

What do you think? Can hotmail regain lost supremacy?

Update to this post!!

Alexa Rank : 1325 ranked site in India. 3 month reach has dropped by 47%. The anonymous comment left on this post doesn't smell of authenticity.

7 comments:

Javi said...

I agree, calling their product cool goes against the tenets of being cool. It's like they're blowing their own horn. But we'll see how it plays out.

This is a "cool" post.

Drew said...

"Make it available and yet seem exclusive. "

So true. Very good post.

Andy said...

At least they are trying something different, lets see how it works

Floydgal said...

Very interesting post.
Even I wish they hadnt called it 'cool' hotmail:)

daksh said...

I can recall two services which had a similar concept.

a.) Another.in - An Ahmedabad based company which has closed down recently for some reason. There you could have sirnames like Ishwar@surname.co.in
Ishwar@surname.co.in
Ishwar@ishwar.in

b.) Then off-course you've got mail.com You can get funky email ids like ishwar@doctor.com ishwar@delhi.com

Cheers
Daksh

Anonymous said...

well well...apparently coolhotmail did prove to be a big hit for ms!!

Looks like there are still many out there who like to be called 'cool' and be cool as well;)

and guess what... the id that got the largest numbers, for the record is 'xyz@iamsizzling.com'

Ishwar said...

Mr. Anonymous - I can only assume that you are with the company and are trying to defend this launch on the web.

Just added the alexa rating of the website and it doesn't reek of success.

MS spent tons of money on the campaign and it was bound to gain trials. At best the website has proved to be a fad and not a very successful one at that.