Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I Guess That Answers It

Back in July, I posted twice about a promotion by MacUpdate. I first obliquely noted their curious incentive structure at the beginning of the promotion, questioning the basic idea. Towards the end of their promotion, I was considerably more direct and more critical.

To summarize, their promotion had a system of "unlocks," where additional -- and higher quality -- applications would be "unlocked" with sufficient sales and added to the promotion. This is, in short, a classically bad idea, because there must be early sales to add the extra applications and attract more customers, but, as a customer, you're better off waiting to make sure the extras are unlocked. Thus, the promotion either needs to be sufficiently attractive without the extra applications, or you need a bunch of (let's be positive) optimists to buy under the assumption that the best applications would in fact be reached.

The approach seemed like a bad idea to me at the start of the promotion, and the way the promotion played out only strengthened that. MacUpdate didn't actually reach their goals. They changed the targets and extended the promotion, so that all the applications were in fact provided. They really had to -- just imagine how poorly it would have reflected on both MacUpdate and the "premium" applications had they failed to unlock everything!

So, MacUpdate has another promotion. They've again got 10 applications, with 7 available at first and 3 more to be unlocked with sufficient sales. The target numbers for the unlocks are much more modest, which seems prudent. However, instead of having the most valuable application being unlocked last, they've gone and reversed it! That's right, the $300 Xmind Pro application is unlocked at 1000 sales, while the final unlock at 5000 sales gives the $45 PulpMotion application. Does this make sense? No, of course not. Really, what should we conclude from the structure? That PulpMotion is the crown jewel of the promotion? Isn't that tantamount to saying that Xmind is overpriced by an order of magnitude? (N.B., I have not used either Xmind or PulpMotion.)

It is obviously an attempt to ensure success, but I think that MacUpdate has drawn entirely the wrong conclusion. Wouldn't a simpler approach just have been to offer all ten applications from the beginning? If nothing else, it would have avoided the absurdly contrived bonus structure that they've produced.

My key point in the posts from July was put in the form of a question: is this really a good idea in the long run? I think MacUpdate has, unintentionally, provided a clear answer: no.

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