Pay to search? Some folks think Bill Gates hinting that Microsoft may reward people who use its search engine appears desperate and won’t work. Others have tried that with little success, the argument goes. (Haven’t they heard, it’s Web 2.0 — where ideas that failed once get a mulligan if you add Ajax and a mashup to them?) However, I can think of several markets that have been transformed by the introduction of incentives: insurance, autos, credit cards, travel, Sports Illustrated subscriptions. When I was a child, we had an elderly relative who regularly changed banks whenever the two banks across the street from one-another offered waffle irons or toasters as new account incentives — even though she lived in a retirement facility and she didn’t have a kitchen.
Is American Express desperate when every month or so, they come out with a new card offering some new twist of an incentive? (Perhaps they are.) Is, heck, I could do this all day. I can’t think of many products or services that don’t have incentives built in to the marketing method. (Isn’t offering something free in exchange for displaying ads a form of incentive: the incentive being the free content or service.)
Incentives work. It has to be the correct incentive offered in the correct context and the reward must have a clearly perceived value to the user. But incentives work. That said, I doubt they’ll get me to switch from Google to Microsoft. Or, who knows, maybe I’ll create my own using Alexa.