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Learn How to Catch the Social Media Cluetrain from Lego & Jake McKee

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a geek event  in Orlando known as an “unconference” with a bunch of my online friends. This was the 3rd year that Josh Hallett has organized BlogOrlando, and the second year that I have attended. It brings together an assortment of minds in the blogging community from around the country, many of whom are in the fields of PR and marketing. (For a full review about BlogOrlando, listen to this week’s episode of True Tech Life.)

So what was there to learn about scrapbooking at a geek conference? Quite a bit, actually – and I wasn’t the only attendee with a professional tie to the scrapbook industry. Alex de Carvalho (formerly of Scrapblog) was in attendance, and Geno Church of Brains on Fire (the brilliant mind behind the Fiskateers word-of-mouth marketing campaign) was one of the session leaders. (But more about that in another entry!)

So what is the cluetrain and why do I want to be on it?

The “cluetrain” in the title of this post refers to a book from 2001 called The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual that called on businesses to start using social media and the internet to communicate differently with their customers. (If you don’t mind reading on your computer, the full text of the book is available online.) Jake McKee used his opening keynote at BlogOrlando to talk about how he spent five years at LEGO getting that company “onto the cluetrain” by setting them up a social media marketing program for communicating with their customers.

McKee’s message was somewhat in the same spirit as last year’s BlogOrlando keynote by Shel Israel (author of Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers) but McKee’s message was built around just the single cohesive example of building a total social media plan for his employer, Lego, and the rewards of it and the obstacles he faced.

high-value-customers

But Legos are a kid’s toy, not a hobby – what can they teach us?

Surprisingly, Lego is in many ways a similar marketing model to scrapbooking. The targets of Lego’s social media efforts were adult hobbyists who spend far more per capita on Lego’s products than their juvenile consumers do. These are high-value consumers to the company, and reaching out to them was both important and rewarding for Lego.

This similar type of high-value consumer also exists in scrapbooking, although the difference isn’t easily defined by age like in Legos, and those consumers are often active on the internet. Scrapbook companies would be wise to follow Lego’s example if they aren’t already.

McKee also made one specific point that is extremely applicable to scrapbooking about the use of professional teams to create model displays versus supporting local hobby clubs to encourage consumer interest. He said that they found that sponsoring a display of Lego engineer-produced models at a place like a shopping mall would attract a lot of gawkers but not generate a lot of Lego sales because people were intimidated and didn’t think they could do what the professionals did.

But Lego found that donating supplies or sponsorship for a similar display by a local hobby group did result in increased sales of Lego products in the area – because people weren’t intimidated by the work of what they saw as “people like them”. They looked at the work of the hobbyists as something that they could possibly do too. Visitors to the display weren’t too scared to try building things like they were when similar models came with a label saying they had been made by Lego’s professional model builders.

This same comparison can be made with papercrafting projects and consumers and professional designers. The work of “people like them” – their friends, neighbors, etc – is much less intimidating to people even when it is the exact same work. Attaching the “professional” label attaches a level of difficulty to creating something in many people’s minds that can intimidate them right out of trying something because they think “I could never do that.”

Catch Jake’s cluetrain yourself thanks to the wonders of streaming video!

If you’d like to see Jake’s keynote (and all it’s wonderfully elaborate Lego pictures) for yourself, I’ve embedded a video taken by a conference attendee below. The keynote actually doesn’t start until about 15 minutes into the recorded video – just click forward on the progress to about 3/8 of the way across it to start there. And don’t be concerned that the start of the video doesn’t seem to have audio! All that said…the video is well worth watching!

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