Wix’s Negative Advertising Campaign Falls Flat with WordPress Developers and Professionals

Wix has launched a negative advertising campaign targeting WordPress, following a bizarre marketing stunt where the company shipped out Bose headphones to influential WordPress community members. Recipients were puzzled, because it appeared the company was wasting its marketing budget on people who were not likely to be swayed by the campaign. Wix seems oblivious to the negative responses to its headphones marketing ploy.

Subsequent advertisements in this new “You Deserve Better” campaign are markedly more negative than the launch video sent to recipients of the headphones, packed with tasteless and tired motifs.

Wix representative Maya Gril said the campaign is part of the company’s “initiative to connect with an audience that doesn’t think or know that Wix applies to their needs.”

When asked what message they are intending to send with the videos, Gril likened using WordPress to being stuck in a bad relationship.

“The campaign shows in a clever way that WordPress users don’t need to be stuck in a bad relationship with their platform and they should consider the alternative which allows them to focus on their actual work,” Gril said. “Each video in the campaign revolves around user pain points, which also highlight Wix’s strengths.”

Morten Rand-Hendriksen, who received a pair of the headphones, characterized the campaign as “nuclear troll-marketing.” Instead of emphasizing any new, innovative features of the Wix platform, the ads come across as short, petulant narratives with no clear objective.

“I guess they’re trying to provoke us into responding?” WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg tweeted in response to discussion on the campaign. “I agree it comes off as creepy and misleading to impersonate ‘WordPress’ this way.

“I can’t tell if trying to get a cease and desist letter is part of their strategy to try and drum up press. Unethical, tacky behavior from an unethical, tacky company. Good reminder: I really appreciate the integrity, principles, and ethics of WordPress ecosystem companies.”

Wix’s new video ads seem more geared at professional developers with references that are likely outside of regular users’ experience with the software. The company may have failed to attract professionals in the past, which might explain why it opted to send thousands of dollars worth of headphones to influential WordPress users who fall within that demographic.

In 2019, Wix began shifting its marketing budget away from TV advertisements and added products that targeted agencies, developers, and designers. The company spent $55 million in marketing in the first quarter of 2019, according to reports shared with Digiday. Wix became more active on LinkedIn and Twitter in pursuit of professionals who would bring more customers to its platform.

“We want to make it clear that we have everything a professional needs,” Maya Gril said. “Our product is mature and constantly evolving. We’re broadening our target audience and we want all new, existing and prospective users to know that Wix is the ultimate web creation platform to help them create, manage and grow online.”

Unfortunately, Wix is lacking one very important feature for catering to “professional needs” – data portability. When asked for his thoughts on the campaign, Mullenweg added that Wix is the only CMS in the world that doesn’t allow export – even Facebook does. The Wix support center states: Your Wix site and all of its content is hosted exclusively on Wix’s servers, and cannot be exported elsewhere.

Having content that is locked in and cannot be easily exported to other platforms or hosts does not appeal to professionals. No amount of extravagant spending on marketing stunts will convince developers to bring their customers to a proprietary CMS that also locks in your content.

This is why their marketing doesn’t appeal to the group of people who received the headphones. Many of them build WordPress as long-time contributors or run WordPress product businesses.

Wix fundamentally misunderstands why people use WordPress and what makes them stay. It’s for reasons not found in their overly simplified list of differentiators played out in the new video ads. The desperate marketing tactics, which are geared more towards developers and power users, serve only to reinforce the platform’s underdog status and lack of market awareness.

36 responses to “Wix’s Negative Advertising Campaign Falls Flat with WordPress Developers and Professionals”

  1. They missed so many marks. It goes to show, you can’t just hire a generic ad agency, you need to hire someone who understand the ecosystem.

    They even sent headphones to people who haven’t been using WordPress for a decade. https://twitter.com/swyx/status/1378268509910622211

    Negative campaigns RARELY work and those that do, target END CONSUMER not professionals. On top of that, they usually focus on ONE negative aspect, not a slew of topic. Nobody cares or has time for that.

    A Good example is Dollar Shave Club. The famous video really talked about one thing, that Gillette razors are expensive and Dollar Shave Club will send you a razor for $1. That is it. Problem and solution. They haven’t really mentioned Gillette directly, they just said “And do you like spending $20/month on brand name razors? $19 go to Roger Federer!”.

    A Negative campaign needs to be clever, fun, short and targeted well. If you are working with WordPress for a decade, you hardly switch because you got headphones. In fact, you probably won’t switch even for a Bentley if WordPress is your main career focus.

    • Well maybe if they send me the Bentley then I’d give wix a whirl for a week or two ;)

  2. Dear Wix, I can’t talk for others, but I can tell you about my experiences as a WordPress user. I installed my WP Website in February 2005; since then, every update worked without problems. And every Plugin and Theme updated fine and hassle-free.

    • Benjamin, that’s amazing, and awesome to hear.
      But can we agree that not having one single issue with ANY of the almost 100 releases of WP upgrade in 14 years is not the common experience?

      I think we’re all in agreement that the Wix campaign is awful for a myriad of reasons, but lets not pretend that they don’t hit a few valid points (though badly).

    • Wix rocks over WP in every aspect. I developed my website zillionpals.com on WP first but I was not happy with the overall offering. I switched to Wix and since then I have not looked back. Thanks Wix for all your support. Wix does not need to do negative marketing of WP. Please Wix think about it.

  3. Not the best argument to say Wix (or website builders in general) is not appealing to professionals. If that’s true, you are seeing the market is shifting toward website builder, otherwise they would have been dead since the beginning.

    Now Wix may not be the best website builder out there, but it certainly helps thousands of businesses worldwide to setup their business website. My website is built on Webflow, but I started with Wix and is still offering Wix web design service to clients in need.

    WordPress is open source and it gets a lot of attention regarding to robust CMS and cheap hosting. However, it doesn’t mean business owners love WordPress. The site gets clunky when those who are not tech savvy started to play with it to achieve what they want with plugins instead of pure codes.

    Looking on the perspective of business owners, who are the main drivers of the economy, exporting the code or to own the code would be the last thing they talk about. If it’s so good, why do they need to export the code and go anywhere?

    Professionals can build crazy things on WordPress, but is it something that the market needs? Not anymore. As designers, we want to boost our workflow, design and build faster, so we can make more money.

  4. Can I ask Sarah… outside of the WordPress (or OSS CMS bubble), where did you get your quants that ‘data portability’ is a key driver in the market, for users and professionals?

    ” No amount of extravagant spending on marketing stunts will convince developers to bring their customers to a proprietary CMS that also locks in your content.”

    Well, that’s not even close to true.

    • It’s definitely true for me. Sending clients to a platform that will trap them in if they have too much content to move manually? Absolutely not. Content belongs to users, not to Wix. Not having export options is just plain unethical.

      Even if somehow this is not a concern to professionals outside the WordPress space (scary), it’s WordPress professionals that Wix is trying to target.

    • Can we all please stop with the “hateful content” stuff and reserve that make for truly hateful content?

      If everything is hateful content then nothing is. There’s nothing “hateful” here, just sophomoric and amateurish.

  5. A better example of a “bad relationship” is when your partner refuses to let you leave…unless you part with your prized possessions (content). I see endless permutations of a simple comedic sketch: “Locked (trapped) in my castle (house).” Once you sign-up…you’re TRAPPED! Locked-in from the inside…of your own house (castle)… I can hear it in my head now: “Let me out!!!”

    WP-4-Life!

    • If you’re happy with your product, why would you want to leave? Great thing about Wix is that changes are easily made by either the business owner or the designer. WordPress has such a huge learning curve that is not intuitive at all, most people are afraid to even try to work with it. That leaves them having to go back to the designer and pay for the changes needed. Wix for especially the small business owner is a no brainer. However, businesses of any size will fare better with Wix. FYI, I have websites with both Wix and WordPress.

  6. Excellent observations. As a domain reseller my experience with Wix has been abysmal at best. Wix did everything in its power to prevent me from finding the DNS settings necessary for them to host one of my customer sites. Make no mistake: they want your domain so they have complete power over your website and email.
    Very disconcerting.

  7. Wix have very well achieved their goal. You have already got 2 articles on wptavern and also an enormous social media reach through the campaign.

    Goal achieved.

    Question: Which of the whole WP “experts” sent back their headphones? Definitely not a single one.

    Everyone is next to himself after all.

  8. Lord knows I have been critical of recent WordPress decisions, specifically around Gutenberg. But as someone who has just done a migration of a site from WP to Wix and who had to come up with several creative workarounds for what they call their hot new accessibility features, Wix can save the “bad relationship” crap because their supposed solution is about 5 times worse than Gutenberg on its worst day.

  9. Imagine if they had spend the $55 million on developing the platform that developers would actually want, with data portability, and shipped that instead of headphones.

  10. Wix’s aim isn’t to win over WordPress professionals, it’s to provoke a defensive response from them.

    Plugin conflicts and updates are pain points for a cohort of users. Poking fun at that is fair game.

    Automattic has a concierge team that actively tries to prevent the adoption of other open-source CMS’s. Maybe Wix should have just privately offered to migrate prominent users away from WordPress for free, like Automattic does to others.

  11. I dipped my toe into wp 12 years ago. It felt like drinking out of a firehose. So I created business sites on several platforms including wix & bigcommerce… and promptly came back to the world of wp. Not only is your data stuck, the code is often bloated so mobile download suffers; templates are tedious to customize (to the extent that you can). I know a bit of code and it is painful staying within their editors (which can be slowwww to load). Products have limited assortment options before an upgrade is necessary and they nickel and dime the customer for all kinds of widgets to make the site truly usable. Advertised monthly cost vs the reality of actual monthly costs (which was always substantially more) made customers unhappy with me! Sure, clients could navigate the dashboard and make minor edits but owners don’t want to do tedious work like that. They want a person who will maintain a site. Most owners didn’t seem to care which CMS system I recommended, so I buckled down to learn wp and have not looked back in 12 years. Is WP perfect? Of course not. There’s politics, some bloat, a little in-fighting… but what family doesn’t have a tad of drama. I’ll take WordPress any day.

  12. I don’t think Wix is the right answer but I am certain that Gutenberg is the wrong answer. Gutenberg is literally the sole reason why I am willing to give any other CMS a try. There is a massive opportunity for competitors to sweep the dev space if they have a semi-promising platform that actually functions correctly.

    • But you can use a WordPress plugin to disable Gutenberg and go with a Page Builder plugin like DIVI, Brizy, or one of the other 20 plus page builder plugins that do exist…

  13. How did they get the mailing addresses of all those people that got headphones? I hope they didn’t send to their home addresses. That is just creepy.

    • They sent out emails and Twitter DMs in December, asking for a shipping address for a no-strings-attached package. I imagine most people just provided their home mailing address.

  14. These ads appeal to people who are annoyed by WordPress and looking for something even simpler. Personally, I hate Wix AND WordPress. Both suck, just in different ways. But whining about stupid marketing stunts just makes you seem petty. Instead of a big rant about how unfair the whole thing is, you should have just posted a LOL meme and called it a day.

  15. I use WordPress to set up my own sites and also those of my clients.

    A few years ago, I had a photographer friend visit and schedule me to visit his apartment to help him set up his Wix site. It was so unintuitive and user-unfriendly. On the other hand, it doesn’t require the updates for the plug-ins and the themes that WordPress does.

    Wix – pros
    Doesn’t require updates

    Wix – cons
    can migrate content with great difficulty

    WordPress – pros
    professional-looking website, lots of helpful tutorials

    WordPress – cons
    updates on plug-ins, themes – annoying! the gutenburg blocks – why? I installed Classic Editor to fix that issue.

    I’m actually glad I learned basic html to set up landing pages and am going to be setting up simple, fast-loading landing pages using straight html. No plug-in or theme updates! Compliant. Fast-loading. Responsive.

    WordPress is pretty good. HTML is a lot better. : ) LOL!

  16. Why would you rent a website from Wix (or any hosted website builder) if you can own your website with the self-hosted WordPress or ClassicPress? You should own your business website, it’s an asset.

  17. Wix simply wanted a reaction and, instead of letting this campaign pass by, all of these WP “experts” fell for it by posting about it on their blogs and social media accounts. Mission accomplished.

  18. Wix – pros
    Doesn’t require updates

    So, bugs never get fixed, new features never get added, & security exploits never get patched?

    A web application site builder that doesn’t require updates, doesn’t instill much confidence in me. As a coder myself for nearly 20years 9 of those in WordPress, you can’t tell me that Wix is so perfectly coded that it never requires any updates to fix bugs or add new features. Even if that goes on in the background, they’re still updates, except the user is never told about them? that doesn’t give me any boost in trust either..

  19. Not sure how these influencers let a company from another country get their address and identity information. No one sent me anything because i dont share this kind of information online

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