Dropcam's Massive Marketing Effort

By John Honovich, Published Jun 30, 2014, 12:00am EDT

The hidden key to Dropcam's success has been its incredible marketing.

Being from Silicon Valley, the attention and focus has been on the technology. While that was solid, it was not revolutionary nor even significantly better than what incumbent video surveillance manufacturers have done.

However, the marketing blew away anything anyone from the surveillance side has even tried.

In this note, we break down the key elements of their marketing.

Founder Myth vs Professional Management

The public face of Dropcam has been the two stereotypically geeky founders:

Indeed, the company has never had a real management webpage, just an about us section with only those two listed.

However, that hides the fact that Dropcam quietly built up a large and experienced professional marketing organization, led by Elizabeth Bastiaanse Hamren [link no longer available] who, among other accomplishments, previously ran marketing at Plantronics, was a manager at Microsoft and went to Harvard and Princeton. Dropcam had more than a dozen other accomplished marketing people on their team.

Dropcam had received nearly $50 million in funding and we estimate that tens of millions of that went to marketing. 

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Professional PR Campaign

Dropcam has been featured regularly in the who's who of mainstream publications, tech blogs and even TV shows.

This would never happen unless they paid for one of the top, most connected PR firms. Dropcam did, as a client of San Francisco-based SparkPR [link no longer available] who represents a who's who of tech companies. The advantage of such agencies is that they know and have access to a vast number of big media outlets that regular companies have little shot of ever reaching.

And top PR firms are expensive, with a million dollars a year being common. And with all the mainstream coverage Dropcam got, it was money well spent.

Re-Targeting / Online Advertising Campaign

Dropcam has been one of the most aggressive online advertisers we have ever seen, especially using retargeting (if you don't know retargeting, read here). Dropcam partnered with Quantcast for this.

The number of ads Dropcam displayed per person are astronomical. For instance, we routinely each received 50+ impressions per week from Dropcam. We have heard similar experiences from other industry people.

While retargeting is one of the lower cost forms of online marketing, doing it at the rate and likely the breadth Dropcam did costs quite a lot - hundreds of thousands per year easily, maybe more than a million dollars.

National TV Commercial

Dropcam has a national TV commercial running, with over 1,200 national airings. Here it is:

Filming and running national TV commercials are obviously also expensive but these are all key components in building brand recognition and convincing the public that one's product is the definitive one of its category.

ISC West Booth 2014

On the other side, Dropcam has spent marketing to security integrators / traditional industry at ISC West 2014, even though they have no program or structure to partner with the industry.

That was a ~$100,000 fishing expedition, further showing what Dropcam was able and willing to spend on building their brand.

Sponsoring Contests

One of the weirder, but probably effective marketing campaigns Dropcam did was sponsoring contests with an array of consumer blogs and brands, such as:

Minimally, Dropcam gave away units for each but it seems likely that they paid each of these sites to run these promotions as well.

(Likely) Paid Reviews

Many of the 'reviews' we saw were so glowingly positive that they were likely paid for by Dropcam. Only one we found explicitly said it with the Orwellian disclosure [link no longer available]:

"This post brought to you by Dropcam. All opinions are 100% mine."

While the FCC frowns on non-disclosed paid posts, these things are common on the consumer side, with companies rarely getting caught (ADT being punished is a notable exception).

Brand Ambassadors

Dropcam has also been hiring 'brand ambassadors' for various cities, such as this one in Houston [link no longer available]:

[link no longer available]

The Big Impact

Together, these actions combined to build a very significant brand in a short period of time.

It should be a lesson to surveillance industry people, especially when dealing in the consumer space, that a Silicon Valley multi-million marketing blitzkrieg can undermine decades of traditional efforts.

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