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Thursday, November 06, 2008

CMO 2.0 Conversation About The Fiskateers

The second CMO 2.0 Conversation took place on 10/9/2008. It involved Jay Gillespie, VP of Marketing, and Suzanne Fanning, Director of Corporate Communications, from Fiskars, and Geno Church, WOM Inspiration Officer, from Brains On Fire. It addressed Word-of-Mouth Marketing that Goes Beyond Tactics. Front and center throughout the conversation was the Fiskateer community.

[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.

Originally, the Fiskateer program was a communications program. Then, it was brought into the full marketing mix and has now taken on a larger part of the budget and mix.

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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12 comments:

Lolly said...

Thanks so much for sharing Christine - and glad to see that WOM is on your blogging agenda! :)

Do you happen to know where these guys are based?

C. B. Whittemore said...

Lolly, yes - I have more WOM to write about. I hope to get to it soon...

Fiskars US is based in Madison, WI. Thanks for feedback. I'm very happy you enjoyed this post; the Fiskateers concept and community is unbelievable.

Spike Jones said...

Thanks so much for the recap and the kind words about Fiskars and Brains on Fire. They are an incredible company and have been so great to work with over the past 2.5 years. I really attribute the success of the Fiskateers to the internal culture of company and the leadership there. the trust in their customers is amazing.

Keep on keepin' on!

Allan said...

Product companies are more conducive to community building because there is something tangible for people to rally around. Online websites are also products even though they are intangible. But can communities form around service companies?

C. B. Whittemore said...

Spike, Fiskars' trust in and focus on their customers is truly inspiring. I hope others catch that passion. Thanks for sharing what you have done with them.

Spike Jones said...

Allan,

Absolutely. We have had great success with Rage Against the Haze, SC's youth-lead anti-tobacco use movement, which is the basis for the Fiskars model. Also, we just launched ParkAngels.org, which the movement for the CharlestonParksConservancy.org (which we developed an identity for as well) in which the community becomes the curators of the history of the Parks in Charleston, SC among other things. Check it out!

But to answer your question, the model works for service companies and causes as well.

C. B. Whittemore said...

Allan, some might say that it's actually easier to form a community around a service than a product! Examples that come to mind are Intuit and H&R Block. And, of course, Spike's examples.

Thank you for adding to this discussion.

C. B. Whittemore said...

Spike, thanks for contributing these examples. How fascinating to realize that the Fiskars model was based on another model.

Allan said...

Thanks Spike and C.B. for following up and for the concrete examples.

C. B. Whittemore said...

Allan, you are welcome. I'm looking forward to getting back into the office so I can check out Spike's examples.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much, I've learned a lot about "marketing to women" from many of your blog posts and decided to comment here--I can tell you put a lot of work into your posts!

grego

C. B. Whittemore said...

Grego, I'm honored that you decided to comment. Thank you.

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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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