​Mozilla Firefox: Open source, community, and ethical marketing

The Chief Marketing Officer of Mozilla explains how to nurture community participation and put users first. Powerful lessons for every marketer to learn and understand.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

Version one of the venerable Firefox browser was released in 2004. Today, 41 versions later, Firefox is the third most popular browser and its developer, Mozilla, employs 1,000 people.

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As an organization based on the principles of open source, Mozilla relies on a strong community of volunteers. Almost 11,000 "Mozillians" in 87 countries participate in various Mozilla activities.

Community participation at Mozilla creates a dynamic that values transparency, drives the relationship with users, and produces a clear sense of mission.

To learn more, I invited Mozilla's Chief Marketing Officer, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, to appear as a guest on CXOTalk. The conversation is important to anyone interested in open source, principled marketing, and the power of community participation in product development.

You can watch the entire video below and read a complete transcript on the CXOTalk site.

Here is an abridged transcript, edited for length and clarity:

How important is transparency to Mozilla?

Absolutely everything that we do is completely transparent. We always have our product roadmap out publicly and everybody knows exactly how we are progressing.

Tell us about community at Mozilla?

Firefox exists today because thousands of contributors can introduce code, make changes, open bugs, and help fix those bugs. The community developing the product has stayed with us and continued to grow over time. When participation is rooted deeply in the way that you develop your products, the likelihood of maintaining product-market fit is much higher.

Firefox has maintained its product-market fit because we've continued to push it forward with our community, with our participants. We design for participation first. Continuing involvement with community leads us to product-market fit.

Participation creates a competitive advantage because it provides diversity of insight.

How can an organization develop and nurture community?

We're aligned with a mission that is important and attractive to people outside of our organization. They join because they believe that the mission that we're operating against is meaningful.
Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMO, Mozilla (image from cxotalk.com)
Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMO, Mozilla (image from cxotalk.com)

Design your product or your service to involve the community in a way that's not superficial. Designing for participation at the product level is the key stepping stone to developing healthy communities over time.

Designing for participation, transparently allowing full access to what we're working on, and making sure that the participation isn't just somebody saying, "I think this is important or I've done this for you." But actually making sure it shows up on the market.

You nurture by asking for and facilitating actual participation. It is constantly asking for, and bringing in, participation. It cannot be just a high-level statement that asks for feedback.

This is one step past listening: it is listening but having action take place as a result.

Innovation and the open source community

The open source community is rooted in meritocracy. Anyone who has the capability can participate and submit an idea. The best idea should win and be pushed out publicly. That's innovation.

Find a group of people that can participate, find the best idea, and bring that idea to market. As you scale, you [must] maintain a level field so ideas from anywhere can bubble up very quickly and be brought to market as fast as possible.

Trust and data in marketing

At Mozilla, we put the user first. We make sure there is an explicit understanding about the information we get from the user. And when we do get that user data, we use it to actually improve their experience.

Marketers [usually] collect as much data as possible and figure out how to use it over time. The inverse is a methodology we are experimenting with right now, that we call "lean data." It's the idea that you only collect as much information as you're going to use, only keep it for as long as you use it, and only if it benefits the end user.

You have to make a personal decision, I would call it an ethical decision, in how you collect data over time as a business.

If you do the best on behalf of your users, you will ultimately benefit the relationship that you have with them. Developing trust with your users, with your customers, should be more important than anything that you do as an organization.

It's unbelievably important for any organization to develop trust with its users, with its constituencies, with its communities, and maintain that trust.

You have to judge your activities under that lens. Is what you're doing contributing to trust and the maintenance of trust in the relationships that you have or is it not? It shouldn't be a grey area.

If you don't have trust, you will not be successful long-term as an organization, as a business, or as a product.

CXOTalk brings together leaders shaping the future of business and technology to share their insight, experience, and wisdom. Learn more at cxotalk.com.

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