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  • Writer's pictureMelvin Salas

Get Your Free Email at Hotmail: How a Simple Tagline Grew Hotmail's User Base to Millions

Updated: Jun 5

In 1996, Hotmail revolutionised email marketing with an ingenious growth hack that propelled the service to massive popularity. By adding a simple tagline, "Get your free email at Hotmail," at the end of every outgoing email, Hotmail turned its users into brand advocates, creating one of the first viral loops in digital marketing history. Within 18 months, this strategy helped Hotmail grow its user base to 12 million, eventually leading to its acquisition by Microsoft for $400 million​ (The Marketing Millennials)​​ (TNW | The heart of tech)​.

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The Power of a Viral Loop

Hotmail’s success can be attributed to the viral loop created by its tagline. Every email sent by a Hotmail user acted as an advertisement for the service. Recipients could see the endorsement from their friends, family, or colleagues, making the proposition more trustworthy and appealing. This strategy leveraged the existing user base to drive exponential growth without significant marketing expenditure​ (The Marketing Millennials)​​ (TNW | The heart of tech)​.

Implementing Hotmail's Strategy in Your Own Business

Regardless of your company’s size, you can adopt similar strategies to achieve substantial growth. Here’s how you can implement these learnings practically:

Utilise Viral Loops:

  • Identify a Shareable Element: Embed a simple yet compelling call-to-action in your product or service that encourages users to share it. For example, if you offer a digital service, include a referral link or a shareable benefit.

  • Leverage Existing Users: Encourage your users to spread the word. Offer incentives such as discounts, additional features, or exclusive access in exchange for referrals.

  • Make Sharing Easy: Ensure the sharing process is seamless. Integrate social sharing buttons or pre-filled referral messages that users can send with minimal effort.

Craft Compelling Taglines:

  • Be Clear and Concise: Your tagline should clearly communicate the value of your service. Hotmail’s tagline was effective because it was simple and direct.

  • Embed in Regular Communication: Include your tagline or call-to-action in all customer touchpoints, such as email footers, invoices, and customer support responses.

Incentivise Referrals:

  • Offer Rewards: Create a referral program that rewards both the referrer and the referee. This could be in the form of discounts, free trials, or loyalty points.

  • Track and Measure: Use software like ReferralCandy or Ambassador to track the performance of your referral program and measure its effectiveness.

Utilise Digital Tools:

  • Email Marketing Platforms: Use platforms like Mailchimp or Sendinblue to automate and personalise your email campaigns.

  • Analytics Tools: Leverage tools like Google Analytics and HubSpot to track user engagement and referral traffic.

How Riibon Can Help

At Riibon, we specialise in helping businesses implement effective marketing strategies that drive growth. Our team can assist you in creating and managing referral programs, crafting compelling marketing messages, and leveraging digital tools to maximise your reach. With our expertise, you can turn your customers into powerful advocates for your brand. Visit to learn more about how we can support your business.


Hotmail’s viral tagline strategy is a timeless example of innovative marketing that any business can emulate. By understanding and applying these principles, you can create a powerful viral loop that drives exponential growth for your company. Remember, the key is to make sharing effortless and rewarding for your users.

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