“Airdrops combine the best of paid referral programs with stock options. Potential users get paid for joining or using the network and have the potential upside if the network increases in value.”
Brayton Williams to CoinDesk
Why Do Projects Airdrop Their Tokens For Free?
Airdrops raise awareness, even Paypal (pre blockchain) discovered the awareness effect, and goodwill giving away $20 to sign up and verify your account back in the early 2000s. Paypal is now a household word and $50 billion company.
This awareness has a tendency to increase the token value as well as create a network effect. IE: A network effect (also called network externality or demand-side economies of scale) is the positive effect described in economics and business that an additional user of a good or service has on the value of that product to others.