Widgets are small applications that provide online functionality and content, and are distributed through a potentially vast number of websites.
A website or webpage owner integrates the widget from a third party website or webpage by placing a small snippet of code.
The code brings active content from the third party website (links, advertisements, images) without the need for the website or webpage owner to update the content.
Widgets are uploaded onto all kinds of sites, including profile pages, forums and blogs.
Other companies, such as Netvibes, Snipperoo and YourMinis also offer widget galleries.
Apple and Microsoft have desktop tools in the form of constantly updating stock tickers, news feeds and airline schedules.
According to Google, “gadgets” are one its fastest-growing products.
But they don’t stop there.
Microsoft’s Vista comes with 11 standard “gadgets, as well as the option to create more and upload them to Windows Live.
Current users of widget marketing include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and ESPN.
Flickr (a photo-sharing site) lets its members create a “badge” that they can post on their blogs and personal home pages to let friends know when they’ve uploaded new snapshots.
Fox Interactive Media (comprising all of Fox’s sites as well as MySpace, RottenTomatoes.com and AskMen.com) launched its own platform, called SpringWidgets.
What are the benefits of widgets?
2) They don’t require advance coding skills to create.
3) They are extremely easy to use.
4) They are pulled by the consumer, not pushed by the marketer.
5) They are a completely new marketing tool and a great addition to the current marketing mix. 6) They are low cost to distribute.
7) They have a much longer lifespan than traditional online ads.
A great example of widget marketing is Purina’s weather widget.
It lets pet owners know what the weather is outside when you wan to take the dog for a walk.
In the first two months, it was downloaded more than 15,000 times.
It means, that the Purina brand is now constantly in front of 15,000 pet owners, which gives maximum exposure for minimum costs.
The key success element of Purina’s widget is the fact that it is an extension of its brand while giving useful, up-to-date information.
It is hard to tell if widget technology providers such as well-funded Clearspring and Freewebs will be able to become profitable.
Widgets do have some disadvantages.
The state-of-the art interactive ones use a lot of computer resources, resulting in slow downloading.
People might download so many widgets, that their webpage becomes cluttered and therefore the marketing message of an individual widget is lost.
As a business model, it isn’t clear yet how profitable it will be as a promotion and branding tool. Advertisers are not yet comfortable with widgets, since tracking and analyzing its traffic is hard and their influence on consumer behavior not yet known.
It’s exciting to see how it will develop.
For those of you who want to learn more about widget marketing, it’s worth while to attend WidgetCon 2007 taking place on 7/11 in NYC.
Let's widget away!