Fiskars and the Fiskateers. If you’ve been in the word of mouth industry for any period in the past, oh, I dunno, nine or ten years, then you know about this case study. It’s still talked about as “best in class” and the right way to build community, engagement and passion around even the most mundane of products (scissors). Articles and chapters in books have been penned about it. And even the social media kids still talk about it in their public speaking engagements.
But things have changed.
Before we go any further, I’d like to make a couple of things crystal clear. The first is that, to my knowledge, Brains on Fire (my former employer where I helped build the Fiskateer program) hasn’t been a vendor of Fiskars Brands for some many years now. The second is that this post is not meant to cast anyone in a bad light – especially the good folks at Fiskars. They are a company full of smart people and I don’t have the insight to why these changes were made – which could be any number of legitimate reasons.
You see, the Fiskars community – as heralded as it was – looks nothing like the community that was created some years back that led to a 600% increase in online mentions. Or the one that caused a 300% increase in sales in key markets. Or the one that brought a community together online and off to create unbreakable bonds.
The beginning of the end goes something like this: the internal champion of the program left the company to pursue other opportunities. And when that happened, things began to change. The program began to be dismantled. The structure of the program – especially the role of the lead ambassadors, devolved from four, to one, who is now more of a community manager instead of a true lead ambassador. Originally, the leads were encouraged to talk about anything that was going on in their lives. Now? It’s all about crafting and products, causing it to blend in to the noise.
The biggest blow to the program came last year, when the decision was made to move away from the dedicated online community platform to just a blog (with no comments) and a Facebook page. So gone are the threaded forums with members issuing fun challenges to one another or doing random acts of crafting. Gone are the thousands of uploaded images of beautiful crafts that capture amazing memories of the members lives. Gone is the assigning of your unique Fiskateer number or the special one-of-a-kind pair of scissors that you receive in the mail and cherish as a member.
To be honest, everything that made the program special is no more.
But if you want to find a silver lining on this rain cloud, I recently learned that a small group of Fiskateers has gone rogue and started their own private Facebook page. About 150 of them, or so I’m told. They are keeping the idea of what was originally built alive. They are talking about their Fiskateer numbers, their lives and encouraging one another in all aspects of their lives – which is the very foundation of what the movement was originally built on. It warms the heart, to be honest.
The lesson learned here is that when you’re thinking about helping bring together a community – a TRUE community and not in the Facebook sense of the word – you have to think about the life of it. Yes, how it will change, but also how it will change to fit the needs of the members instead of how you can change it to fit the needs of a brand. When you strip away the awesome, you’re left with mundane. When you pull out the things that connect people, you’re left with the status quo. And when you kill the passion, you’re left with just another blog and Facebook page.
Long live the Fiskateers.