Wix is taking direct aim at WordPress in a new cryptic marketing campaign that began over the weekend with shipments of Bose noise-canceling headphones landing in the mailboxes of prominent WordPress users. At the end of December, 2020, Wix sent out the following Twitter DM to a group of people it deemed “influencers from the tech industry,” soliciting their addresses in order to deliver a box:
In the last few months, my team and I have been working on a new innovative concept. We have packed this concept into a free, no strings attached box that we’d love to share with you as one of our selected influencers from the Tech industry.
I know the information I have provided you is basic, but the reason is that I do not want to ruin your experience (and let’s be honest, what’s more fun than being surprised on the holidays?)
Recipients were instructed to scan a QR code to view a one-minute video where a man acts as a personified “WordPress” making bizarre claims:
“Apparently, Wix is coming out with a campaign trashing me. I just want you to know that it’s totally fake news, completely bogus. They’re just spreading lies because they’re jealous of our relationship.”
The message of the video is not clear and it ends with a few snide jabs referencing “exhausted memory” and WordPress’ market share.
The most common reaction to the surprise headphones was confusion. Many recipients had no idea what Wix was trying to communicate with the gift.
A few people perceived the video to be cheeky and humorous. WordPress contributor Aaron Campbell found it off-putting.
“The video takes some odd snipes at WordPress, but the whole overall feel is a bit shady/dirty. Not a great look for Wix in my opinion,” Campbell said after receiving the headphones in the mail. “I think I’d be fine with it if it weren’t signed as ‘From WP’ and ‘Yours, WP.’ By the time I got to watching the video I already had that bad taste in my mouth.”
Some speculated that it may be the first act in a strange marketing saga of Wix targeting WordPress. Others were inadvertently convinced the headphones were actually from WordPress, since the advertisement uses WordPress’ trademark in the video. This may be a violation of the WordPress Foundation’s trademark policy, but this has not yet been confirmed. Wix was not printed anywhere in the message, except on the shipping label.
This isn’t the first time WordPress and Wix have been at odds. In 2016, Matt Mullenweg called out Wix for copying GPL code from the WordPress mobile app and distributing it in its proprietary app. This rendered the entire app in violation of the GPL. Instead of complying with the GPL, Wix responded by removing the GPL-licensed code and forking the original MIT-licensed library that the WordPress mobile app code was built upon. The fork was relicensed under an absurd modification of the MIT that prohibits the code’s redistribution under any copyleft license.
In October 2020, Wix passed Drupal as 4th most popular CMS, according to W3Techs. Since that time, Squarespace has grown to overtake Wix, pushing the CMS back into 5th place with 2.4% of the market. It’s only natural that Wix would want to target WordPress, the market leader at 40.9%. However, the strategy of misrepresenting WordPress, while sending headphones to influential users and contributors, was perplexing and unsavory. Wix has not yet responded to my request for comment on its new marketing campaign.