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The Little Campaign That Increased Sales 300%
January 28th, 2009

Mark FarmerBy Mark Farmer, ACA

Posted January 28th, 2009

An interesting phenomenon sometimes occurs when you let a campaign do its own thing: spectacular success.

In Boston for the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) symposium in November, I got a peek at a study produced by the society in cooperation with Deloitte and Beeline Labs, the 2008 Tribalization of Business Study. It looks at how organizations are using online communities, and how some of those communities are translating into big profits.

One case study sticks from the pack: Fiskars. They’re a company based in Finland that makes craft & garden tools, school products and home & office supplies. The U.S.-based craft arm of the company started an online community to promote their products, and called it “Fiskateers.” They began with four members called “ambassadors,” whose goal was to get people interacting with Fiskars through social media and social networking, get them talking about Fiskars products and grow the community.

The campaign succeeded beyond all expectations:

  • One goal was to recruit 200 ambassadors in six months. Fiskars achieved that in 24 hours and reached 20 times that number within eighteen months. The number is now over 5400.
  • Another goal was to increase “chatter” (online conversations mentioning the company by name) by ten per cent. It increased by 600 per cent in 20 weeks.
  • The final goal was to increase store sales in specific areas by ten per cent. They increased 300 per cent in the first year.

This object lesson is contrasted with “Elevenmoms,” a Wal-Mart campaign that recruited eleven moms to create and share money-saving tips via video clips, with the ten best winning $6,000 in groceries. Although successful, it hasn’t become the phenomenon Fiskateers is (put it this way: Wal-Mart’s profit hasn’t tripled lately).

Beyond viral

So what were the differences? One of the biggest was the attitude the mother ship took toward their campaign. Both campaigns had well-defined business objectives, and extensive organization and planning behind them, but Fiskars did something Wal-Mart didn’t: they tapped into people’s natural enthusiasm for a product to create a self-sustaining movement, not a campaign with limited scope that needs constant control and inputs from head office.

Directing people to a marketing goal is work and consumes company resources. Tapping into people’s energy and enthusiasm for a brand doesn’t require those same inputs, and it recognizes that outrageous success doesn’t come through conventional means.

In fact, the campaign wasn’t purely an online one: the Fiskateers made store visits and attended trade shows. And they weren’t doing it for free: they were paid a modest sum for their part-time work. But the bulk of their interaction – and their farthest reach – was achieved online through blogs, chats, message boards, a photo gallery, an events calendar and more.

Exclusive (but hands-off)

Another way the two campaigns differed is that the Fiskateers community wasn’t wide-open: you needed a personal invitation from one of the original ambassadors to join. This runs counter to the traditional wisdom of community-building, but also added an exclusivity and cachet to it that can’t be achieved by throwing the doors wide-open.

But the most telling lesson of all comes via a quote from Spike Jones of Brains on Fire, the creative team behind the campaign:

“And the key part of the movement was to find those passionate people, give them the online and offline tools and opportunities to talk to one another (and also reach out to potential kindred spirits) and then get out of the way.”

– Mark Farmer
– Communications Specialist

Mark’s skillset and experience bridge the gap between the communications and web worlds. He is the founder and ‘chief webhead’ at webness.biz, and has worked in the fields of corporate communications, web design and social media since 1995. Mark is responsible for the ACA’s web presence and bringing the world of Web 2.0 to its membership.

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