[Listen to the recording of the Interview with the people who brought us the Fiskateers community.]
I've heard a lot about the Fiskateers. The Viral Garden's Mack Collier discussed them in A Lesson in How to Empower Your Community: Fiskateers as did Brand Autopsy's John Moore in Fiskars Crafting Ambassadors. Both of those posts were written in 2006. And, in March 2007, B.L. Ochman published a MarketingProfs Case study titled Fiskateers: How a Social Community Became a Veritable Sales Force [Premium Member content].I'm also quite partial to my own orange Fiskars scissors and the memories I associate with them from years of sewing.
Needless to say, I was all ears for this conversation.
The impetus for taking such an unusual approach for getting the word out about Fiskars came about approximately three years ago [i.e., 2006] when Fiskars asked itself how to engage in conversation with customers. That's when it invited Brains on Fire to Madison, WI to better understand the scrapbooking lifestyle. This coincided with the transition of the school/office/craft division from products/rational positioning to an emotion-based, enthusiast position.
Geno, whose wife is a Fiskateer, expressed surprise at how much transparency he observed from Fiskars. From the beginning, he never heard concern over negative reactions or feedback, or fear about what might happen. From the outset, Fiskars trusted its customers, preferring not to try to control them -- an unusual corporate attitude, to say the least! Fiskars was genuinely excited about learning what customers had to say. Jackie Huba, from Church of the Customer, was a part of the original Madison onboarding meeting with the original 4 Fiskateers. Her reaction: "These are true fans." Fanaticism runs deep in the corporation. Engineers, for example, consider themselves "Fiskaneers".
The movement started with the first conversation. Brains on Fire and Fiskars purposely reached out to crafting influencers and discovered a passionate community. They carefully selected the first four brand ambassadors, meeting with all of the candidates to understand what they were doing [i.e., scrapping their lives]. They looked for those who told the best stories about what they did and why, and who wanted to be brand ambassadors for scrapbooking.
[Per BL's case study, the 4 lead Fiskateers are paid for 15 hours a week of brand ambassador time, going into retail stores. NOTE: only the lead Fiskateers are paid, and they now number 5. Also, per Francois Gossieaux's Business community results can be game-changing when done properly, the program is now fully funded by Big Box craft stores.]
Fiskars invited the four lead Fiskateers to Madison to teach them about the Fiskars brand and get to know them. It provided them with tools and a forum/website to express their passion, and then got out of the way to let them get started.
Jay explained the the Fiskateers program includes a built-in barrier, adding to the specialness of the program. Not just anyone can join. You must be invited, and certified to become a member. Once invited, new Fiskateers receive a welcome kit [including numbered Fiskars scissors] and begin to experience the Fiskars magic.
From that point on, Fiskars corporate sat back and started learning from the conversation. The original goal of 200 volunteers joining in 6 months was reached in 48 hours! Now, there are over 5000 Fiskateers! And they represent an active, passionate community that feels engaged in Fiskars' success. R&D speaks with the community directly for product insight.
The Fiskateers program has been hugely successful:
+ These passionate brand advocates now number 5000+, with one in every state and in 70 countries.
+ Lead Fiskateers become involved with craft stores, walking in with their signature orange/green Fiskars scissors, and easily spreading the message. Store sales have increased significantly [sales 3x greater than non Fiskateer stores].+ Online, Fiskars has seen chatter relating to Fiskars increase 10x in the blogosphere [hired Umbria to monitor conversation]. In the first year, it saw a 300% increase; and 600% increase in the second year [not including Fiskateer site traffic]. This is a big deal, per Geno who says that 92% of word-of-mouth for scrapbooking happens off-line; it's a very social activity. To hear so much engagement online attests to the strength of the Fiskateers community. Gen X and Gen Y are driving the online conversation, bringing in new voices to the brand.
Fiskars listens carefully to what the community says. When it noticed that that community was forming its own groups to meet face-to-face, it decided last year to invite 50 Fiskateers to San Antonio, TX for a Fiskateer Roundup weekend all about crafting. This year, it decided to hold 5 little get-togethers over the next 2 months, including more in the events [i.e., 400].
What's Next? Preserving and keeping the community authentic; guarding against trying too hard to convert this kind of stuff to bottom line profit and losing the quality of it; keeping it engaging, and fun. Fiskateers are inspiring Fiskars to go in new directions and Fiskars is determined to preserve this.
Fiskateers represent a different way of doing business for Fiskars; members must remain at the center of the community, which means that Fiskars must listen carefully to the community, respond as best as it can and remain fully accountable to the community rather than to the company. Fiskateers are fans!
Others are trying hard to emulate the community concept, but it's difficult to replicate a vibrant brand community. It's a competitive advantages as long as Fiskars continues to respect it, listen carefully to it, and be accountable to it.
To better appreciate what makes a community like that of the Fiskateers so uniquely special, I suggest you read:
+ Josh Bernoff's Ad Age article titled Social Networking Needs CMO Lead [subscription required] from 4/28/2008.
+ From the Brains on Fire blog, The Life of a Brand Ambassador…+ From Virginia Miracle's Marketing Environmentalism, Fiskateers “Energizing” Sales through Social Media
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