Viral marketing got a new twist last week when Expression Engines launched Favemail — e-mail that allows users to place banner ads in them endorsing favorite products, services, political figures and charities.
The company's first product has been in beta testing for one month with 1,000 users and 50 partners. Favemail is free to consumers who can download a piece of software to use with their existing e-mail accounts, or open a free Web-based e-mail account.
The Faves led to much higher click-throughs during the testing, partially because of their novelty, “but there really is the factor of [a] friend recommending it, which is a lot different than just seeing the ad at a portal,” said PJ Stafford, CEO/founder of Expression Engines Inc., New York.
As an incentive to use the banners, members earn points for items purchased from one of their Fave banners. Also, some banners will offer points just for click-throughs. Members can exchange points for cash, trade them for other online currencies or donate them to a charity.
Expression Engines plans to charge merchants commission on click-throughs and sales. At www.favemail.com, customers can add Faves to their e-mail album from Favemail's library or create their own.
“We have a lot of non-revenue generating banners, like political banners and charities, and make-your-own [banners]. The reason we do this is that it fits in with user behavior,” Stafford said.
The company also plans to create a corporate product with a different name using some of the same underlying technology. Once the patents are approved, “we expect to have a stream of products in the e-mail space,” said Stafford.
Expression Engines launched last July with seed capital from Flatiron Partners and Chase Capital Partners.