If you're in any way involved with The Age of Conversation or happen to read blogs by other AOC contributors, you may already be aware of the many ways in which the authors have made this book their own and have taken the initiative to market the book and extend the brand in a variety of creative (and meaningful) ways.
One of the latest -- and frankly most ingenious -- author-initiated marketing efforts is the Age of Conversation mascot tour. Steve Woodruff purchased a Curious George plush toy, packed him up and sent him on a world tour. Between now and August 2008, George will visit all of the 100+ AOC authors, hitting just about every state in the nation and making stops in Canada, England, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Oman, India and Australia. That's a lot of travel (and a lot of frequent flyer miles) for a stuffed animal.
Why is this so ingenious? It guarantees that people will be talking about The Age of Conversation for all of the coming year. Every time another author receives the toy, he or she will no doubt take photos, blog about it and keep the conversation going. In an age where books come and go faster than publishers can print them, this approach rides the long tail and prevents the "flash-then-fizzle" pattern that characterizes most launches. This is an approach that could benefit just about any new product.
Where AOC started as a cool experiment in self-publishing and crowdsourcing, it has evolved into a killer case study in the power of community, participation and citizen marketing. Check out the Flickr photo group, Matt Dickman's author map, a custom AOC Google search, the viral video featuring Canadian marketing blogger Sean Howard in the buff, and -- if you really want to be amazed -- the fuss that co-author Arun Rajagopal has made in his home country of Oman. And those are just some of the amazing things that individual AOC authors have done to help promote the book. Imagine if you could create a bond with your stakeholders (whether they are employees, sales people, business partners or customers) that is so profound that they would take it upon themselves to market your products in new, creative ways. You can -- you just need to find a way to make them feel vested in your success. You need to make them want to help you tell your story -- and give them the latitude to do so as they see fit...
But getting back to the "mascot tour" itself -- I took delivery of Curious George last week, when organizational effectiveness expert Steve Roesler hand delivered the little monkey to crayon's New York office. Next week, I will hand George over to CK -- but only after getting him good and drunk during a night out in NYC.
Until then, he'll be safe and sound on Long Island, where my daughter will care for him and read him passages from (what else?) The Age of Conversation.