AOL touts free positioning with debut of OpenRide interface

AOL launched AOL OpenRide as part of its strategy to move from a dial-up ISP to a provider of free products and services.

AOL launched AOL OpenRide as part of its strategy to move from a dial-up ISP to a provider of free products and services.

Organization:  AOL
Campaign:  AOL OpenRide
PR team:  In-house
Other marketing:  Online promotions, including sponsored search links and paid online media
Launch:  October 4
Budget:  Undisclosed

Objective: OpenRide provides a dynamic interface, where users can access e-mail, instant messenger chats, Web pages, and use a digital media center. The company hopes that adoption will be robust, owing to the product not requiring a credit card or payment. "Because OpenRide is free and available to everyone on the Web and takes minutes to download, it is very easy to try," said Anne Bentley, AOL VP of corporate communications.

Idea: This is the first new software product for AOL since it announced it would be forgoing marketing paid subscriptions. After working with beta testers on the product, AOL reached out to various media to keep them in the loop. "We usually take our product on the road and demonstrate it by giving briefings under embargo," Bentley said. "We've been working with media, analysts, and bloggers since the software went into beta testing in late July. Now that[it's] readily available, we will look beyond business and technology reporters to reach consumers via TV and radio outlets."

Tools: The company depended on media relations and both online advertising and search on non-AOL sites. But it also reached out to the consumer audience. It also placed a prominent link on AOL.com to the OpenRide landing page. "Consumer input played an invaluable role throughout the research and development process for OpenRide," added Bentley.

Measurement: AOL will gauge user adoption and will monitor usage trends and user engagement. "We're very happy with the [media] results; hopefully it will drive use," Bentley said.

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