The Next Big Thing,
A couple weeks ago as planes landed in Austin and SXSW attendees dreamed of the new iPad 2 and barbeque, a tragedy of epic proportions was unfolding on the other side of the planet. As the world flipped open their laptops, we watched videos and read the tales of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But, this powerful group of conference-goers didn’t just read about it, they used their collective, connected power to help spread the word and raise funds from afar. Over the next few days they raised awareness of an organization called Dog Bless You, which sends specially trained dogs to help with rescue efforts, they joined in a Japan night fundraising effort, and organized tons of other ways for attendees to donate, raise money, and spread word on how to help. The initial goal was to raise $10,000 during the week. That goal was quickly met and raised to $20,000 and finally $100,000. The simplicity of it all was amazing. It was nice to see this group that normally uses social networking tools to spread the word about their startup or the brands that they interact with finding ways to use the power of these tools and their connections to do something good. But it wasn’t just about Japan…
Elsewhere during the event, a man not named Tom captivated the audience with his first-person tale of his shoe company, TOMS. Blake Mycoskie explained how while on a trip to Argentina he saw a simple need. Shoes. He knew there had to be a way to build a business model where for every shoe someone buys one is given to a child. He was not a shoemaker, not a philanthropist, nor a millionaire looking for a cause to support, but a guy with a simple idea, and an idea that resonated with many.
In his keynote, Blake made a point to mention that he is not in the shoe business, but in the giving business. He just happens to give shoes. He also announced that TOMS was going to expand its business model. Blake clearly understands his purpose: to create a better tomorrow by taking compassionate action today. But he also understands that he has grown his business through a great story, one that everyone wants to share. As they wear a pair of his shoes they are showing the world that they care, and they share the story of one-for-one giving. View part of Blake’s keynote here and here.
SXSW is generally the proving ground for introducing the next “It” technology and I haven’t yet seen anything emerge as a clear winner for this year. So maybe the breakout hit of SXSW this year isn’t a new device that Oprah will start to use, but perhaps a theme. Collectively we can change the world through our actions. Our connected networks can empower us to help in times of need based on a disaster, but also every day by making a simple purchase. Giving is a social object that spreads every day. What can your brand do to give back?