Behind the Scenes of Scary Washing Machine – iJumpTV 59

July 9th, 2009

Last Friday I caught up with my old mate Zac, who works at Tango Communications, and had a chat with him about the Scary Washing Machine saga.

This piece of brilliant storytelling caught the whole nation’s attention, and shows the value of stories – a washing machine that could’ve gone for $20 ended up at over $5000, and is still creating value for charities and a business (appliance retail chain 100%).

Here’s Zac, explaining how it happened:

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Questions for the road ahead: How well will the community translate? How will 100% build a community from a standing start? Stay tuned, on the 100% blog.

Key messages for you as a marketer: take chances. Think of the upside as well as the potential downside. Improvise.

(Related: We interviewed Tango’s founder Boyd Wason way back in 2007)

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What is a community, and why do I need one?

June 23rd, 2008

Community is one of the buzzwords of the early 21st century.
It’s one of the possible C’s that Generation C stands for. It’s the subject of conferences , books and blogs . But do you understand why community is so important to your business?

Dave Bassett of BrandNew reckons our traditional communities are fading away or fragmenting into pieces, and this leaves a sizeable gap for brands.

But how do brands fill that gap? And why should they?

What is a community, and what isn’t it? This is a question we’ve been exploring both at iJump and in our work with A Bigger Voice . Here’s my current thinking on community, as it relates to marketing.

3 levels of community

1. Marketing leverage

For a business the first and most obvious role of communities is marketing. Ten years ago Geoffrey A Moore defined a "market" in Crossing the Chasm :

  • a set of actual or potential customers
  • for a given set of products or services
  • who have a common set of needs or wants, and
  • who reference each other when making a buying decision

People intuitively understand every part of this definition except the last. Unfortunately, getting the last part – the notion that part of what defines a high-tech market is the tendency of its members to reference each other when making buying decisions – is absolutely key to successful high-tech marketing.

Moore’s writing about high-tech, but in 2008 most markets are saturated, and Crossing the Chasm applies to most new products. Essentially, he’s saying the cost of reaching every potential customer directly would be prohibitive, which is why you target a community who will spread the word about your product among themselves.

It makes perfect economic sense to exploit the natural sharing behaviour of a community to drive positive word of mouth. But that’s only scratching the surface.

2. Loyal fans

Everyone hopes for the kind of loyalty enjoyed by Harley Davidson or Apple. What started off as simple word of mouth becomes passionate loyalty, which translates into less marketing expenditure, and more predictability around purchasing patterns.

How do brands get here? Through courage, consistency and fanatical attention to detail. Both the examples I’ve used employ high design standards, both in terms of products that are easy to use (although I can’t say I’ve ridden a Harley) but also products that communicate a certain, ineffable attitude.

This kind of brand loyalty is a great place to be. But it’s not the best place communities can take you.

3. Co-creation

The world of business is only just discovering how communities can transform everything, finally enabled by the internet.

The divisions between consumer and producer, expert and novice, amateur and professional, are blurring. Business owners and marketers can either feel threatened by this, or become a platform to help your customers do what they want to do.

When you are genuinely working with your customers, ideas like market research and new product development change. Instead of campaigns and surveys, you have an ongoing conversation (a topic which came up at the recent Interactive Marketing Summit ) which in turn saves costs and reduces risk. Now that’s a language any business person can understand!

For more on this topic of co-creation, see my piece in Idealog about a year ago.

Is a Community an Audience?

In marketing, PR and communications we’re trained to think in terms of audiences. It’s the church paradigm I use in presentations. The old model was pulpit up the front, where the preacher delivers the word to the waiting, silent audience.

Solomon’s Porch in Minnesota is different. They meet in an old Methodist church building, but they’ve ripped the pews out and replaced them with a circle of couches. Architecture sends a message, and they wanted to send a message that encouraged conversation. Power is not in the hands of one man up the front, but in the community of listeners and talkers.

If a church – one of the most tradition-prone institutions around – can make such a radical change, do you think businesses can start thinking this way, too?

Audiences buy things. Communities make things happen.

That’s where my definition sits as of today. Let’s see how that definition develops as you, the iJump community, pull apart this post in the comments!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Symic

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Jump In #20: Geekzone founder Mauricio Freitas

May 4th, 2008

Mauricio Freitas, founder of meet Mauricio Freitas, founder of, and also a speaker at the upcoming Interactive Marketing Summit in Auckland, May 26th.

Hear about Geekzone grew from an idea to a community to a thriving business and advertising platform.

Mauricio also gives us a hint about what he’ll be sharing at the Interactive Marketing Summit – a case study of how companies can harness the power of community to provide credible, grassroots marketing.

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October 15th, 2007

I love my job. (All of them!) Today I heard about Electrocity, the online game that Lowe Rivet created for Genesis Energy. All local New Zealand stuff, right, but guess where I heard them? On Across the Sound, a US-based podcast hosted by South African Joseph Jaffe.

I dumped my plans for my regular online marketing column in Marketing magazine, and instead picked up the phone and talked with Richard Gordon, Genesis Energy’s public affairs manager.

He’s a cool guy. He gets what the internet is all about – not just the technology, but the freedom that people have. He admitted that Genesis hadn’t really gone into blogging or podcasting, but this game was their first foray into the online space.

Electrocity is a lot of fun. It’s a game along the lines of SimCity, but much simpler and shorter to play (thankfully! It’s addictive too!). Originally designed for school children, the game has picked up traction overseas among the gaming community.

A few very cool things about the whole campaign:

  • the idea arose out of a long-term business relationship. Lowe Rivet’s ECD Tom Markham, who originally had the idea for the game, has worked with Genesis for a long time, and really understood their business issues.
  • Genesis took the curator approach, choosing to engage with people rather than “cramming corporate information down people’s throats”
  • The game is fun! Global giant Chevron has launched a similar game called Energyville, which Tom says hasn’t been as popular among gamers. “They didn’t focus on gameplay,” says Tom. “They were too focused on politics and being politically correct.”
  • Richard Gordon says there are phone calls from multinationals who are interested in buying or licensing the game. Smart move! Being curious about issues of intellectual property, I asked Tom who owns the game, Lowe Rivet, Tom himself or Genesis. Luckily for Genesis, they own it. Which could be great if it turns into a licensing deal. Hmmm… portfolio: electricity generation and game licensing. Sounds like a good business plan to me! :)

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