Confessions of a Tee-shirt evangelist

Since its a friday I thought I’d go off on a slightly different tangent, the recent moves in our extremely nascent, emerging residential Gigabit market got me thinking about the power of evangelism (in the marketing rather than the spiritual sense) as a marketing tool.

If you’ve ever found yourself up against rivals or competitors who can outspend you 1000:1 or even 1,000,000:1 you need to find ways to punch far above you weight (a bit like TUANZ does) and one of the best ways of doing this is to turn your customers and supporters into real life walking evangelists.

And one of the best things to give your evangelists is a tee-shirt with a snappy slogan on it.

I learnt about this technique from Guy Kawasaki who was Apple’s chief evangelist, who wrote the original Macintosh marketing plan. Guy realised that his launch budget was less than IBM’s annual styro foam coffee cup budget so they got creative.

The original TV commercial is widely regarded as the best TVC of all time, even though it was designed to only play once (during the 1984 Superbowl) and a lot of effort when into cool tee shirts for developers.

Fast forward to the early 2000’s and it was great pleasure to be working with the team at CityLink, we launched CafeNET (early public WiFi) in 2002 with street theatre in Civic Square (plus David Isenberg) and a bright yellow tee shirt saying ‘love is in the air’.

In 2004 CityLink couldn’t afford to mount a stand at the 2nd National TUANZ Broadband Conference in Hastings but we wanted to make a point about getting ‘real’ broadband not just the rationed version that Telecom were promoting.

So we got a Tee Shirt printed that said “You need at least 10mb/s to be broadminded” on the front and “CityLink – we’re broadminded” on the back. I hitched a ride to Hastings and took 3 cartons of tee shirts (I kept 3 for myself), with about 5 confederates we started circulating in our cool tee shirts and we got our first requests.

We then started our guerrilla phase and gave anybody that made a statement we liked a tee shirt, often by yelling “that deserves a tee shirt” this went on all day.

Breakfast the second day saw about 100 tee shirts in the room with more people trying to get them. I knew we’d won when on the last day, the keynote speaker from Ericsson in Sweden took the stage in one of our shirts and started by saying ‘the guys in the tee shirts are right!”

The tee shirt got a gigabit upgrade when it was taken to NZNOG (the NZ Network Operators Group) where it became a collectors item.

I then went to the TUANZ Digital Summit in 2006 (I think?) with some tee shirts that said “I want FTMH NOW!” on the front and on the back it said “Fibre To My House” It worked pretty well as well, we got the then Minister David Cunliffe into one.

So I think it worked because here I am a decade later eagerly awaiting gigabit fibre at my house.

Next week I’ll tell you what I plan on doing with it.

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