Inside Mozilla’s 18-month effort to market without Facebook

When it comes to data privacy, Mozilla has been vigilant in its efforts to make users of its browser Firefox feel protected. Doing so has not only been for consumers’ benefit but a strategic move to differentiate the brand, and, in turn, has changed some of the company’s marketing tactics. 

Roughly 18 months ago, Mozilla stopped advertising across all of Facebook’s businesses — from the namesake to Instagram to WhatsApp — because of the company’s data practices. That move transformed Mozilla’s marketing strategy. At the time, Mozilla had budgeted 80% of its dollars to digital marketing, but this year the company has decreased its digital spend, allocating 10% less to digital. The result: Mozilla has shifted more of its dollars to offline marketing efforts including events and content marketing.

“Facebook was one of our better-performing channels at the time that we made the decision,” said Mozilla CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, adding that the decision has not negatively impacted the brand. “That being said, we’ve been able to maintain and improve the performance of the marketing programs at Mozilla without Facebook.”

Mozilla’s marketing budget is between $20 million and $100 million, said Kaykas-Wolff, adding that “it varies depending upon the different programs we’re running.” Per Kantar, which doesn’t track spending on social channels, Mozilla spent $8.2 million in 2018. The budget is split with 50% focused on North America and 50% focused on the rest of the world.

Mozilla’s pivot away from Facebook followed the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Now, the majority of the company’s digital spending goes to Google properties — Mozilla’s Firefox competes with Google’s Chrome — as a part of its digital acquisition strategy. According to Netshare, as previously reported by Digiday, Firefox’s market share is 9.3% of global monthly on desktop; meanwhile, Google Chrome’s is 66%. Aside from Cambridge Analytica, it’s unclear why Mozilla is fine with Google’s data practices but not Facebook’s as the company did not immediately respond to a request for clarification. The rest of the digital budget goes directly to publishers.

In terms of events, Mozilla has been running an art exhibition-meets-pop-up store in cities like New York, London and Berlin meant to give attendees a physical experience of what happens to their data online. Inside the pop-up, Mozilla has a detox bar where consumers can learn how to help control the amount of data other companies have on them. Later this week, the exhibition, known as the Glass Room, will be held in the tech capital of the U.S.: San Francisco. 

When it comes to content marketing, Mozilla is focusing its resources on developing podcasts in the U.S. and abroad. In the U.S., the company has IRL, which tells stories of life online, privacy and considers the future of the internet.

The decision to focus on data privacy in marketing the Mozilla brand came from research conducted by the company four years ago into the rise of consumers who make values-based decisions on not only what they purchase but where they spend their time. The company already had what it calls its “lean data” practices. That means the company doesn’t collect data on consumers that would surprise them and doesn’t collect data “unless [we] can deliver value as an organization with that data,” said Kaykas-Wolff.  

As part of that push to collect as little data as possible on consumers, the company also employs that strategy in its marketing. Aside from moving off of Facebook, Mozilla doesn’t use practices like retargeting. “We never buy, sell or lease any of our customer data or buy any customer data outside of the data our customers submit to us,” said Kaykas-Wolff. “We don’t use programmatic spending; we’re not comfortable with the data-sharing practices.” 

Mozilla did test programmatic but found the data practices of vendors at odds with its mission in terms of consumer data. The company has considered running programmatic internally, but the cost-benefit hasn’t worked out, according to Kaykas-Wolff. 

The company has an in-house media buyer, media planner and execution teams but still collaborates with a media agency, Fetch. Overall, the marketing department has roughly 100 people. 

By focusing its marketing efforts offline and moving away from Facebook, the company is able to inform consumers about data privacy issues while also pitching its brand to consumers who may be concerned about those issues. That approach could be beneficial to the company, according to Allen Adamson, brand consultant and co-founder of Metaforce. 

“More consumers are starting to understand what a danger digital privacy is,” said Adamson. “While it’s a niche issue now, a growing segment of the market is aware of and concerned with keeping their data private. Facebook is the evil empire in that world, so saying, ‘I’m not going to advertise on Facebook’  [could help] the Firefox brand. Not choosing Facebook has become a positive badge, although it’s still a phenomenally important marketing tool.”

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