Network Effects: Advice for TJ’s and Any Organization

You know the routine. Get up. Walk and feed the dog. Make tea. Check email. And there is a note that David Armano is following me on Twitter. Being the half brain for names that I am, I say, “hm, I know that name” and click in to follow back. Then I click into some of the links in his tweets and find my  way to his blog and this great post. Logic+Emotion: The Best Little Ad Trader Joe’s Never Made

First, the embedded YouTube video – a customers video of “if I made an ad for Trader Joe’s” is amazing. (Dear readers outside of some parts of the US, Trader Joe’s – or TJ’s as we know it – is a very successful grocer that plays by its own rules. Intentionally quirky? ) I’m embedding the video because first, it is a fabulous piece of work by the creator, and second, David’s point about the video carry weight for any organization – even my colleagues and clients in international development.  Over 257,000 views of this video in just three weeks. 

Here’s the video:

Here are some snippets from David – click in to read his specific advice:

There are close to 100 comments on the video and over 33,000 views of the video. Track all mentions and embeds of the video and listen to how people are responding to it…

The video is mostly complimentary but shows Trader Joe’s warts and all… Remember, a brand isn’t what you say it is—it’s what they say it is. What can Trader Joe’s Learn if anything?

Use the video as fodder to figure out how your orginzation will respond to these types of inevitable situations…

Engage your customers in the comments…. Then go back to listening—lather, rinse and repeat.

I heart Trader Joe’s. And this video. It’s catchy as hell and one of the best advertisements they never made.

I am getting ready to co-facilitate a short online workshop on social media for communications managers of a large international network of research centers. I am going to link to the TJ’s video and David’s blog. This idea of listening may not seem as relevant to a research center whose most numerous constituents are poor people who are very much NOT online. But a smaller, strategic constituency is more and more online: funders and policy makers. And future brilliant researchers they want to attract. And influentials they want in their court as they undergo their own evolution forward in a changing world. These centers  can listen, tell their own story, ask their constituents to tell their stories. It’s not the same as TJ’s, but the potential of the network effect is the same. And it matters.

We know not every non profit is going to make a clever video. But one of their constituents just might share something that gets to the heart of the matter, especially if they inspire the kind of love Carl feels for TJs, even with his criticisms. After all, we take advice better from our friends we know love us. They tell us if we have brocolli in their teeth!

Two more things. Read more of David’s blog. He gets the visual thing, the network thing and the friend thing. And I remembered now, how I know of David. Of course – through my network – via Beth Kanter. Small world, eh? That old network effect. It is real. Powerful. Ignore it at your own risk.


P.S. Also check out David’s visual graphic on Twitter.

9 thoughts on “Network Effects: Advice for TJ’s and Any Organization”

  1. I have a friend who works at TJs and this video was shared with everyone and generally very well received. One of the messages said they are becoming like Apple – a core surrounded by a very enthusiastic band of individuals who love them warts and all.

    Your points are excellent – and there have been many examples of this sort of stuff over the past few decades.

    btw – TJs has some very non-standard practices with employees that are mostly excellent. A remarkable company.

  2. Nancy:

    Small world! I discovered David’s work a few years back through his flickr stream which includes incredible visual thinking. You’d relate.

    Not sure if you read it, but David wrote an article in Businessweek and also as a white paper on his blog on the Listen, Learn, Adapt process. I remixed the ideas for nonprofits, including some stories from nonprofits.

    The post and slides are here:

    Also, been teaching a listening workshop – here’s the curriculum

    These might be helpful for your upcoming work – and I’d love to see how you tackle this approach.

  3. Steve, I’m a TJs fan too. I have heard both pros and cons from employees, but that is not unusual.

    Beth, I have been following and pointing to your stuff as we develop our workshop. I was interested in your reflections on the F2F workshop you did and how much of this needs to be done online with or instead of F2F. I’ll report back what we learn. Some of the people in our workshop will be at a related F2F just after our online 2 week workshop with some hands on experimentation time.

  4. Nancy,

    Where can I follow your online workshop. For the next reiteration, I’m going to run it as a 4-6 session phone/online workshop. So, people are doing the exercises in between in their .orgs, and then coming together to reflect on a weekly or bi-weekly conference call. The online part would be done on the WeAreMedia wiki.

    The first one will be on the strategy development – 4-6 sessions. Then will do something with the tactical – maybe two sessions. One session intro, exercise, session to debrief.

    Would love to see your design – have to cut back the content though.

  5. First, Beth, we are using a LOT of the WEAREMEDIA work you have done. It is really a fabulous resource.

    Second, there will be blogging about the workshop on the ICT-KM blog of the CGIAR.

    Our workshop is really an introduction in the context of strategic communications work in international agricultural research stations. Pretty specific! It will be fun!

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