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How the Internet Works — a guide for marketers

OK, I obviously can’t draw. But I am home with a sick kid today, and we are drawing pictures. Here are mine.




What just happened here?

Here are the basic things any marketer, company, or anyone thinking of posting a PDF coupon or rebate needs to know.

  1. People really like to share things on the Internet.
  2. When you share or save a copy of a PDF, it is identical to every other copy of that PDF. There is no way to distinguish between a PDF someone printed directly from your website, a PDF someone saved to their computer and printed 50 copies of later, or a PDF they emailed to their friends to print.
  3. There’s this thing called geometric progression. If I share a copy of your PDF with two people, then they each share it with two people, then their friends each share it with two people, then… pretty soon you have a whole lot of PDFs floating around.
  4. If you put something up on the Internet that can be saved and copied, and all those copies are identical, someone will inevitably save and copy it to a place that is not controlled by you. Other people will inevitably find it there. Then they will share it with their friends. (See step one, rinse, and repeat.)

So basically: Once you release a coupon or a rebate form in PDF (or jpg, or any other copyable) format, you cede all control over how that coupon or rebate is distributed. People will share it. People will copy it. People will save it for others to share and print and copy. Whether they should do this is irrelevant: What’s important is that they will. Know that going in, and accept the consequences.

This information is freely given. It can save you a lot of money and grief. If you want to hire me as a high-priced corporate consultant, I’ll give you this same sketch and charge you for it, if you like 🙂


Tuesday 24th of January 2012

I love it. You are too funny. I don't think many companies have a clue what goes on out here! Maybe your lesson should be passed around to millions! I used to resort to drawing pictures to our health insurance company years ago, and it really worked well, because they never seemed to be able to read the letters!


Monday 23rd of January 2012

Hey Rachel, you left off one option. There are people who will copy the PDF and when the company pulls it (rebate, q, whatever), they will turn around and sell it on ebay. There were a bunch of people selling the Brita rebate on ebay for .99 plus shipping. Great lesson to the corp types out there! Thanks for trying to educate the sellers.


Monday 23rd of January 2012

Um...yep! Thats about how it goes! The sad part is they never see it coming!


Monday 23rd of January 2012

This is awesome, Rachel. Thanks for the laughs.


Monday 23rd of January 2012

Hope you are feeling better otherwise drawings on your site all the time. LOL