Design

Lessons from the marketing of Thesis WordPress theme

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For bloggers, WordPress offered a level of customization and ease of use that was perhaps not available in other platforms. A key component of WordPress’ appeal was the availability of themes – truck loads of them. Most of the themes are free, run of the mill and some, plain fugly. Premium themes, which usually were a notch above the free ones in terms of slickness, support & customization then came into vogue. Priced anywhere between $15-$50, they found a market among serious bloggers, publishing companies, small businesses and so on. Among the premium themes, no theme has perhaps such a mark or gained such popularity as the Thesis Theme, designed by Chris Pearson. Chris, incidentally has designed several popular free themes including the legendary Cutline.

I bought the Thesis theme for $67, the highest I have ever paid for a WordPress theme. And there are scores like me who are shelling out the current price of $87 for the single license option and $167 for the Developer’s license. Some say that the Thesis theme is a $2 million business. And it’s spawning off an ancillary business in Thesis Skins. So, what makes this theme tick? And what makes the marketing of the theme tick?

1. Build a great product

What drove me to buy Thesis was the clean, minimalist look, with a strong focus on typography. While I liked the looks instantly, the promise of customization, the options panel and the showcase of sites were the clinchers. The other big plus was the promised SEO optimization which in these days of clutter in the blogosphere too, is very appealing. I don’t understand code and technical stuff but it made customizing one’s site, a cinch.

2. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it

A large part of the credit buzz around Thesis should go to the superbly crafted, persuasive copy to sell Thesis. A potential buyer reading the credentials of Thesis would think that this is God’s gift to mankind. The benefits of Thesis are spelt out clearly, compellingly – both in copy & video. But is it all about marketing, persuasion and hype? I think not. The solid foundation is the product of which the creators were supremely confident of and packaged it well as a ‘high-quality template system’.

3. One size does not fit all

The core benefit of all this is the level of customization possible. Some feel that Thesis looks too plain at first glance – a huge mistake. Check out this list of 110+ Thesis Customizations to see what I mean. Here are two sites built on Thesis but look so different.

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3. Back a great product – price right

With so many goodies on offer, one would have tempted to price the product at a marginal premium to competition. But Thesis set up a huge distance by pricing it way above the average premium theme. Quite like Apple which deliberately shuns the sub-$500 PC market and goes after the higher end, I think the pricing strategy worked to Thesis’ advantage.

4. Build an ecosystem

Installing and using Thesis did have it’s problems. During the initial stages I was quite frustrated with the changes one had to make to custom.css file and the codes to be added to get even the header image in place. But the support forums are fantastic – most of the issues are resolved quickly by Thesis ninjas or fellow users. Virtually any issue regarding Thesis has a solution over there.

5. Pedigree helps

The popularity and goodwill of Cutline, Neoclassical and Copyblogger (all created by Chris) helped sell the Thesis credentials. Buyers were made to feel that they were dealing with someone who knew his stuff – who’d been there, done that and got the T-shirt.

6. Evangelists matter

As part of the ecosystem, hordes of Thesis coders, developers, bloggers, geeks have all written about Thesis and help spread the word. Again, the Apple example comes to mind.

Above all, the simplicity of the ever-improving WordPress platform makes Thesis & WordPress a killer combination. It’s virtually the only theme you will ever need. Trust me, I have dabbled with several and come to the same conclusion. So, if you are a blogger who is not on WordPress – get a self-hosted WordPress account and consider Thesis.

Disclosure: I am part of the affiliate program of DIY Themes and clicking the above banner and buying a copy of Thesis will earn me a few bucks. But, hey you’ll be happy too.

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A marketing communications professional with a keen interest in all things advertising. I share creative ads and views on the ad industry here. Views are personal. See Disclaimer for more.

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