Fiskars Brands has earned a reputation for making sturdy, sharp scissors. To earn more mindshare among the arts and crafts hobbyists who are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest cutting tools, however, the company had to listen to customers-and then remold its image.
"Crafting is a very warm and fuzzy hobby, but in our preliminary research, people didn't have those warm and fuzzy feelings about us," says Suzanne Fanning, Fiskars director of communications. "They saw us as very utilitarian, but that's not what our brand was after. What a brand needs to survive today is both the rational element of quality, and the emotional element-the passionate evangelism."
Fiskars wanted to stimulate more spontaneous discussion of its products among the significant and diverse online and offline communities of crafting enthusiasts. "We didn't want to invent the conversations; we just wanted to facilitate them," Fanning says.
To that end, the company created a new community site, Fiskateers.com, to have a direct channel of communication with its customers and play a more active role in the online conversations they were already having. The site also helped in the company's quest to find four enthusiasts of both the crafting arts and Fiskars to act as brand ambassadors and facilitate discussion about the company. The selected customers are paid contractors, charged with keeping the Fiskateers site interesting, informative, and engaging in online discussions about crafting, as well as holding instructional seminars in their local territories. They're expected to spend 20 hours a week on Fiskateer activity.
Staying true to the goal of keeping its community project rooted in the natural interests of its target audience, the faces of the four influencers dominate the homepage. Fiskars did not clone the existing social sites, however. One key departure is that the Fiskateers community operates on an invitation-only model. Those wishing to join must first introduce themselves to one of the lead ambassadors, who welcomes the applicant to the site with a "secret" link to complete the application process. The reason for this approach, Fanning says, is to create a sense of belonging, being personally welcomed, and feeling like part of the "in" crowd.
Today the program, launched in 2006, has 4,000 members, and Fiskars mentions on crafting sites are up 600 percent. Stores that have hosted events and seminars held by the Fiskateers ambassadors show three times greater sales growth in Fiskars products.
Fiskars is currently rotating in a new set of lead ambassadors for new two-year contracts, and Fanning says the results show everywhere from product quality to the bottom line. "[Members] love doing surveys, we are getting really great product feedback, and they have become advocates," she says. "This has taken off like none of us could believe."