Fiskateers Update: You can’t kill community

2005-originalFiskars 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.

22 Comments

  • January 27, 2014

    Laura Slingerland Casey

    Bravo !! I am PROUDLY Fiskateer #1943…..I served as one of the five Fiskateers of the Year 2008 and I was honored being a Nifty Fifty that met in San Antonio in 2007….and a Fiskars 360th Birthday Party in EPCOT at Walt Disney World in 2009. I loved meeting other Fiskateers, I loved going online, seeing everything everyone was doing, I loved the challenges, the swaps and the contests. We did online scrapping and weekend long online events. From Seattle, to Miami….From New Hampshire to Southern California….all across the country and many from Australia, New Zealand and other countries….We were an Orange community world wide !!! Being a Fiskateer was a sisterhood (and brotherhood !!) that brought a global crafting group together…..It was so amazing !!!! Many of us kept in touch, here and there…..and now we have found a place to “meet”…and day by day, we are finding more friends and friends are finding us….We are slowly planning some close to home Fiskateer reunions and crops. We really meant it when we said the website was our “happy place”…. we could count on having someone “know what we were going through”….. or to have someone listen. It’s GOOD to have the Facebook page going again….It’s GOOD to see so many familiar names, faces….and numbers !! Thanks, friends, for showing me that we really do, still, bleed orange.

  • January 27, 2014

    Kellystar

    If you would have told me 5 years ago of all the “gifts” that I would be given by finding (or falling into) Fiskateers– I would have said you were crazy. It’s inspiration, motivation, counseling, heart to hearts, prayers, friendship, family, and oh yes, there is lots of artful creativity too! For those of us who built and found a home there– we weren’t ready to leave. Thank you for eloquently describing our ongoing village. Viva la Fiskateers!

  • January 27, 2014

    Vicky #7622

    Wow! It’s awesome to see that others know how special the Fiskateers’ site was. That’s why our bonds will not be broken. I hold all my Fiskafriends so dearly in my heart.

  • January 27, 2014

    Angela Daniels

    I had the absolute pleasure of being a “Lead” Fiskateer from 2008-2012 and I couldn’t be more touched to see so many of my “Fiska-friends” embrace what was truly at the heart of our program from the beginning: a desire to be a part of a community of people who embraced a singular passion. Too few companies have the courage to give their fans a true, uncensored voice and I commend Fiskars for taking the original leap of faith to allow a bunch of crazy, fun crafters to take over a community and let it grow organically at a grassroots level. Seeing so many of these same Fiskateers come back together again, without officially sanctioned support or structure, is a testament to the power of allowing and encouraging true fans do what they do best- gathering to share their passions, whatever those may be.

  • January 27, 2014

    Pamela Haskin

    Well said! I am proudly Fiskateer #8040. I visited the Fiskateer site EVERY day! I participated in almost every challenge and activity. Most dear are the lifelong friends I made among the Fiskateers. I remain a loyal fan of Fiskars products, but I was very disappointed when they changed the website to exclude our normal activities there. But, thanks to a couple of tech-savvy Fiskateers, we are back together on Facebook.

  • January 27, 2014

    Carol 6158

    I had used the Fiskars’ products long before knowing about Fiskateers or their site, but gladly joined when “referred.” Thru that blog, I learned more about crafting than I had ever learned by going to a craft or scrapbook store. I made friends, created crafts, learned techniques, cropped, enjoyed and shared. I didn’t have to visit 20 blogs to find out “how to” or “if I could”, I just asked the Fiskateers and learned. Now, Fiskateers as a loving, caring blog is no more. But, the friends I made are still around. We keep in touch, we visit, we crop together. Too bad Fiskars themselves didn’t realize what a wonderful source we, the Fiskateers, were and are. Too bad they weren’t smart enough to keep the community together, but how nice that the feeling hasn’t ended.

  • January 27, 2014

    Betsy Burnett

    As the owner of that amazing t-shirt in the photo, I want to say what a huge place Fiskateers has had in my heart and my life. I became a part of Fiskateers because of my love of Fiskars products, love of crafting and the desire to be a part of a community of likeminded people. I stuck around because I admired Fiskars and their desire to nurture this community and allow it to grow and develop “unaided” without seeming to really having an agenda. They gave us a place to meet, inspired us to be creative and grow in that creativity, share our passion and allowed us speak our minds. A risk yes, but one that changed the ways companies view true word of mouth marketing. For the freedom they gave us helped us to love them more. The relationships that formed from this community developed further than “just” the online community, those relationships followed us into real life and those relationships- the heart of Fiskateers, are what still lives on.

  • January 27, 2014

    TracyM #6773

    Joining Fiskateers was a wonderful experience for me and I treasure the friendships made :)
    I’m proud to be part of the group that has “gone rogue” and echo your words LONG LIVE THE FISKATEERS!!!

  • January 28, 2014

    Jennifer Priest

    I dragged my feet until Elena Etcheverry MADE me do it. I became Fiskateer 2074 and my daughter was 2075 and my husband ….well I can’t remember his number but HE is a Fiskateer as well!

    It was so cool to be a Fiskateer- instantly part of a community of happy creative people many of whom I now called friends, with or without a website!! You made so many great points and I agree with them all!!! We could see the decline from the outside looking in. It was kind of sad.

    I am glad to hear there is now a Facebook Group – I’d love to be a part of it and keep this Fiskathing alive :)

  • January 28, 2014

    Cheryl Waters

    Early on when the fiskateers found their way to their new connection on Facebook I shared with them how proud I was of all the Fiskafriends and how they have kept the spirit of creativity and friendship strong and moving forward! When changes were made I had no doubt that the hearts of these incredible crafters and this community would change but continue to survive! They are a loving force to be reckoned with and you can’t keep a good crafter down. Last year as I began a battle with breast cancer I received a most precious bouquet of handcrafted unique pink (breast cancer color) flowers. Each paper flower (some that looked so real) was handcrafted and signed from Fiskateers all over the world. These loving, caring and creative scissor and paper loving people are here to stay and I’m glad. I love and am so touched by them. Lead Founding Fiskateer #002

  • January 28, 2014

    Spike Jones

    It’s so great to see you all here. Thank you so much for your comments and thoughts.

  • January 28, 2014

    Geno

    great post Spike… I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit and wasn’t sure how to frame this up, I’m glad you did and in a very positive way.

    I think it’s hard for brands to get their heads around community today. Back in 2006 Fiskars ignited and supported the Fiskateers, and for the most part got out of the way. A humble why; enabling crafters to share their passion and educated each other created an authentic, caring community. Empowering relationships between community member to community member, and community member to the brand. This humbleness, reaching out to the brands customers in hopes of helping them be the crafter they wanted to be, built trust and word of mouth for Fiskars. Today brands sort, with likes, and shares, and spreadsheets of data. It’s far more tempting to circle the why of a community back to a brand centric-metric. I’m not trying to kid myself a community has to have some define goals and values, but you have to build it for the people first and help them reach what they want to be. Trust over Control.

    A wise person once said you can’t take back a burp. Same for a real advocate driven community. The Fiskateers was built with the members also in the front seat. No one can ever take away that feeling of connectedness, and family, that made the Fiskateers so special.

    Fiskateers, its kicks up a ton emotions inside me to read your comments, your relationships with each other and the good will you’ve shown through the years is so so special.

    I love you guys!

  • January 28, 2014

    Kelly #6558

    You were so right. The heart of Fiskateers wouldn’t die. The love of crafting may have united us but the heartache we felt when one of us had a deep loss, the encouragement we always gave and got from each other when we shared a project and the joy we all felt when one of us achieved a goal or became a mom, grandmother, uncle or wife kept beating strong. A strong loving heart doesn’t stop beating just because the body changes it’s mind or goes on a new journey. I will always be grateful to Fiskars for creating Fiskateers and giving me so many beautiful memories and more. I too can move on because I have a strong heart in the Fiskafriends.

  • January 28, 2014

    Samantha T.

    You forgot the loyalty to the color orange! So sad to see not a single Fiskars employee in orange at this year’s CHA or recent events. It was an amazing community and such a different, refreshing way to go about business.

  • February 3, 2014

    Tanya #5407

    I was thrilled to see this article posted. Since joining the new gathering of Fiskateers, I am starting to feel the excitement that I first felt joining this extraordinary group of crafters. I have so many wonderful memories with this group and met and formed real friendships with these people.

    Long live the Orange!

  • February 4, 2014

    ratgirl

    I’m sad to see the official Fiskateer group fade away, but you can’t break up all those Fiska-friendships or dissolve the memories of all the support we enjoyed at the hands of Fiskars and the Lead Fiskateers. I loved our virtual crops, the swaps among members, the games and the advice passed around. I am grateful for all the joy Fiskars brought to us, and I understand that even great things must come to an end.

    But sometimes those great things don’t end, they metamorphose. I’m very excited to be one of the Fiskafriends holding on to each other and the numbers we’ve proudly worn, jotted on the backs of ATC’s, and signed at the end of birthday cards as if they were part of our own signature. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget my number: 1135. At least, I hope I don’t.

    Thanks, everyone. Thanks, Fiskars.

  • February 7, 2014

    Marianne #6701 in AZ

    When I became a Fiskateer, I saw the difference in this on-line crafting community from the others I had participated in immediately. I had been a Fiskateer only a short time when I was taking a trip from my home state of AZ to visit my niece in NY. I put a message on the board about my upcoming trip, and in no time Lead Kelly Jo replied that she would arrange a day to meet up with me. When she did, she had three other Fiskateers with her. We were all instant friends because of our common love of the color orange! It is a day I will never forget and it was just my adventure with Fiskateers I would meet. But, I didn’t have to meet anyone to have more friends who are so close and caring. We all shared the love of creating and crafting, but in the end it was about each other and the friendships we had made. I am thankful for all of the opportunities that came with being a Fiskateer. Who ever thought so much orange in one place was all it took to make the day fun?

  • November 26, 2014

    Don Pelham

    A lot of these commenters are getting Christmas cards. :)
    I keep hoping somebody has the wherewithal to host a new Fiskateer forum. If it happens I hope I am contacted. I’m # 3379.

  • […] This all sounds great, right? Well, today, the Friskateers don’t exist because their goals were a checkbox for the brand. Fiskars said, “We did community. Done.” And they shut down the Friskateer website, forum, and blog. Their community goals didn’t evolve with the brand, and the community had served its purpose. Even though Fiskars had built a community to last and one that people gathered to long after Fiskars killed it. […]

  • […] Spike Jones, who was part of the original team, blogged about the effort’s demise in 2014: […]

  • […] Spike Jones, who was part of the original team, blogged about the effort’s demise in 2014: […]

  • […] Spike Jones, who was part of the original team, blogged about the effort’s demise in 2014: […]

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