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Case study: Contagious marketing from Autodesk

Autodesk is the world's fourth largest PC software manufacturer, with a specialism in solutions for the management and sharing of digital assets, particularly in the construction, manufacturing, infrastructure and media industries.

It created a file compression solution called DWF, with the aim of helping users (such as architects) transfer drawings, concepts, etc. created in the DWG format to communicate with developers via email. Prior to this, plans and drawings had to be sent in paper format, with developers required to make manual amends. DWF facilitated on-screen amends and enabled quicker turnaround, saving time and money for both parties.

However, Autodesk recognised that sales of DWF would depend on its usefulness and relevance amongst a broad user-base, not just its own clients (typically architects). Specifically, if an insufficient number of users (e.g. developers) had downloaded the free 'reader', enabling them to access files transferred in this format, actual opportunities for using the product would be limited. Consequently, demand to purchase licenses (costing £150) would also be limited.