This week I spoke to Chris Beard, Mozilla's vice president of products. Among other things we discussed how Firefox 2.0 is going to be marketed. I was going to save this for the full write-up of my interview with Chris Beard, but reading Chris Messina's post today about IE7 made me want to address it now. Chris Messina, an ex-Flock architect, wrote:

"So here we are now, on the precipice looking out on the mere beginnings of Web 2.0. With Internet Explorer caught up and inching ahead, there is a critical question for Firefox advocates: do we stay the course and continue promoting Firefox as a product competing with Internet Explorer? Or, do we focus on the wider, more gradual fight to spread and improve open source principles and practices — in effect, to “win the hearts and minds” of those who employ us by day but leave us hacking at night, struggling to make a decent living at it should we choose to pursue it as our primary occupation? Personally, I prefer to chase the latter… for, after all, what really comes next, well, shall be determined by our combined intentions being realized."

Note that the 'competing' line was linked to Read/WriteWeb's review of Firefox 2.0, in which we positioned FF2 as a product that may take market share from Microsoft's IE. I really enjoyed this post from Chris Messina, although I'm surprised he brought up the web 2.0 meme (does he really want to go there again? I know I don't). His core point though is that Firefox should promote itself as an Open Source super hero in Web 2.0 City, fighting off its evil nemesis Dr Proprietary (I'm paraphrasing). This sounds great, but it doesn't seem fully rooted in the real world.

Chris Beard: Firefox will advertise on TV and partner with others

Allow me to quote from Chris Beard, Mozilla VP of Products, when I asked him how Firefox will be marketed to the masses (and in particular to that 85-90% of the market that doesn't have Firefox installed yet):

"We're continually adding to our toolkit. At the core we're still community driven and word-of-mouth and organic and viral growth. In the last year we ran a competition called Firefox Flicks, to solicit video-based commercials for Firefox. And we talked all along about how we would incorporate these into our marketing campaign and program. So we're working on that right now - and we're working on a concept which would allow us to put some of these Firefox Flicks onto television. And do that in a viral way as well."
(emphasis mine)

As well as TV advertising, Chris Beard also talked about putting banner ads on some sites - to help extend the reach of their marketing program to new audiences. He didn't mention specific websites they'd target, but I assume he's talking about mainstream websites and not geek sites. He also said there will also be "a lot more partners". Currently they're working with Google and Yahoo in terms of distribution and marketing (i.e. the Big 3 minus Microsoft), plus they've done deals with the likes of Nike - he cited the World Cup campaign they did with Nike and Google.

As Chris Beard noted in our talk, Firefox is pragmatic in a marketing sense - they don't have the marketing budget of Microsoft. But at the same time they need to reach a mass market if they want to improve their market share.

The Message: Practicality and Usability more important than Open Source

Back to Chris Messina's point about the open source nature of Firefox being emphasized. I certainly agree that it's an angle to push - but I suspect it'll only work for the very small (but influential) geek market, along with perhaps enterprises over time. It definitely won't work though for mainstream consumers - i.e. the 85% of people who currently don't have Firefox installed. For those people the message has to be practical - why is Firefox a better, more usable, safer web browser for everyday people? Or even why is it a cooler browser?

I think Firefox will push those messages, via the mainstream marketing tools and techniques that Chris Beard referenced - television, advertising on mainstream websites, partnerships with big companies with lots of reach (Google and Yahoo), and partnering with mass market brands like Nike.

While Firefox can (and should) continue to fight for open source on the mean streets of Web 2.0, out in the real world it'll need to don its Clark Kent guise and do business with mainstream people and media. Saving the world is all well and good, but first things first.