As the folks at Mozilla have realized, avid customers can literally create online marketing departments – staffed by thousands. In 2004, in a very prescient move, Mozilla set up a community called, aptly, SpreadFirefox (or “sfx”, which incidentally in TV language means “special effects”). On their blogsite, they explain why:

As a small, non-profit organization, the Mozilla Foundation has very limited resources at its disposal to market Firefox [browser software] to the world. SpreadFirefox was created to fill this void, and was founded on the same principles of community involvement that drive the development and testing of Firefox. We believe there is nothing that a large community of enthusiastic volunteers can’t accomplish, and this site exists to unite the community into one cohesive marketing force that even competitors with unlimited resources can’t compete with. For more information, see our original announcement.

What that translated into was a community-based site, also open-source and created by volunteers, on which users can engage in forum discussions (over 6,400 threads), set up blogs (16,000 and counting), participate in viral reward programs, contribute development notes and bug reports, post pictures and other art, download handbooks and technical specifications and even buy the t-shirt.

How has this worked out? Firefox has gone from just under 0% of the browser market to almost 14% in two years (you can see a historical graph here) all without spending hardly anything on marketing (figures unavailable by press time – an email to the Mozilla press department went unreturned). The best part? Their “online marketing department” is self-perpetually filling the pipe with new ideas to SpreadFirefox.