One of the most audacious marketing moves in recent times comes from MicroFrontier, a small company little-known in the Macintosh market. In the past their programs have been marketed by other companies, and that was true of Color It, their image editing and color paint program, which until recently lived in the Timeworks stable. Timeworks no longer markets Color It, though, and to create an installed base and a market presence, MicroFrontier has been offering a special deal on Color It.
Special deals generally mean a discount, or maybe a t-shirt, but MicroFrontier has gone all the way to free. Well, not quite free, since they charge $8.37 for order processing, shipping, and handling, but $8.37 is a low enough number that I expect they're barely recouping the cost of the floppies and the paper for the manual and box, if even that. The deal lasts until 31-Dec-93 or until MicroFrontier gives away a million copies. I suspect that the date will arrive first, but hey, you never know. Starting in 1994, the price reverts back to $149.95, which isn't all that bad given that Adobe Photoshop, the acknowledged leader in the field, lists for $895 and can be found for $550.
I hesitated to write about the offer until I had a chance to call myself, and it seemed legitimate, although there's no telling until I receive my copy of Color It. As the nice - but extremely harried - woman who took my order said, that won't be for four to six weeks. For $8.37 I can wait.
I asked a contact at MicroFrontier why they were doing this, since it seemed like a desperate move. He admitted up front that the company wants to establish a massive base of users who will want to purchase upgrades in the future. That's a good idea, and one which Borland has put to good use on a number of occasions in the PC world. The only hitch is that MicroFrontier is giving away Color It 2.3, the latest version. They'll have to come out with a significant upgrade quickly to keep the cash flow high - I remember when Borland used similar guerilla marketing tactics with Quattro Pro, they came out with major upgrades every six months.
My contact also said that this move puts MicroFrontier on the Macintosh map. Before, MicroFrontier had difficulties getting much cooperation from online services and the like, since few people knew of the company, but with all the furor stirred up by the offer, other companies are paying more attention. You need a high profile to succeed in the mass market, and this deal should raise MicroFrontier's profile.
Finally, I suspect MicroFrontier has a number of co-marketing agreements that should help them keep going until they have paying customers again. The propaganda advertising the offer mentions deals with La Cie, HSC's Kai's Power Tools Gradient Designer, Lizard Tech's Planet Color image compression software, Digital Vision's Computer Eyes/RT SCSI video frame grabber, a four-color separation program called Phototone Lite, and Expert Software's Expert Draw. The money is in the marketing, and if everyone wins, no one complains.
I've never used Color It, so I can't comment on how well it performs, but a graphic designer friend (Jon.Hersh, who provided the PageMaker tip above) who has used it finds Color It somewhat easier to use than Photoshop, but adds that although Color It uses most, if not all, Photoshop filters (such as Aldus Gallery Effects and Kai's Power Tools), it may not sport quite the same level of power. That assumes, of course, that everyone needs that level of power, which simply isn't true. Just as many people find using PageMaker akin to cutting fingernails with pruning shears, Photoshop can be overkill. More the issue in the past, some feel, is that Color It has always been a low-brow Photoshop wanna-be in terms of marketing. Since it's cheaper, and has a cute name, it hasn't been taken as seriously in the design community (regardless of power), and the end result is that there aren't any books on Color It, and it's harder to find others using it who can provide tips on how to achieve certain effects, and so on. Perhaps that will change with MicroFrontier increasing the user base so significantly.
The offer is supposedly valid only in the U.S., but one person reported on the nets that he had no trouble ordering from Canada, so I suppose it's worth a try. They take MasterCard and Visa - no idea about other cards.
MicroFrontier -- 800/949-5555
P.O. Box 71190
Des Moines, IA 50325