I fell in love with Plaid today. Not the pattern, the Agency and its road show Plaid Nation. Plaid is a small shop hailing from the mega-communications metropolis of Danbury, Connecticut. They do some cool work creating online communities and social media programs for organizations and brands that include Boehringer Ingelheim, Iron Horse Bikes, Segway, Sony Music, Virgin Records and — how lovely — the Westport Country Playhouse.
I fell in love because everything about Plaid lives and breathes the best qualities of social media. They’re open, real, honest, charming, relaxed, human. And frankly I just like the design of their web site. It’s fun and funky.
The way I got onto them, though, wasn’t through the web site or their work. I’d been hearing for awhile about something called Plaid Nation on different blogs and podcasts. I knew it was some kind of road show or tour, with a team that went across country meeting with anyone doing interesting, innovative things — people, companies, NGO’s, even other creative agencies. But I didn’t know much more than that. Today I finally got around to visiting the Plaid Nation 2009 web site and getting behind the story.
The first Plaid Nation tour happened in 2007. It began as an idea for Plaid to generate awareness and PR. A group of company staffers made over a van in plaid and drove across country to visit — unannounced — brands they liked or would like to get to know. Since then the tour has become, according to Plaid’s Darryl Ohrt in Ad Age, “a produced ‘show’ that profiles some of the world’s greatest, most interesting and innovated business thinkers.”
Indeed it does. Go over to Plaid Nation where you’ll find interviews featuring:
- Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media, talking about his recently completed tumultuous first year at the corporate giant.
- Steve Pacheco, Director of Advertising for Federal Express. Federal Express’s late-delivery rate is tiny. But when you consider that Fedex delivers millions of packages on any given day, even a fraction of a percentage of late arrivals can amount to a significant number of complaints on Twitter. In contrast, no one on Twitter is going to post that his Fedex package arrived on time this morning. That’s just one reason that Fedex has begun to engage in social media.
- An inspiring visit to the Make it Right project, an organization started by Brad Pitt to help rebuild New Orleans’ post-Katrina neighborhoods with economically and environmentally sustainable housing.
- A talk with the people running the The Q Hotel – the first green hotel in Kansas City and one of only 11 hotels in North Amercia that has been certified green.
And that’s just a small selection. All in all this year’s Plaid Nation July tour spent time with inspirational movers and shakers in Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Branson Missouri, Jackson Mississippi and New Orleans. And the tour members shared their experiences through a vibrant combination of videos, blogs, tweets and Facebook posts.
What strikes me most about the Plaid Nation tour is its generosity. Of course Plaid launched the tour to promote their business. But they realize they have the most to gain by giving. Everyone who visits Plaid Nation profits from the ideas and inspiration they discover there, while Plaid profits from the exposure, sharing the way think and work, and letting potential clients get to know the people who make Plaid what it is. And of course the people and projects they visit gain through the exposure as well.
Apparently it works. Plaid says the tour has been a major driver of new business since its inception.
So pay a visit to Plaid Nation.
And to Plaid Nation I’d just like to ask, can we hope to see you in Germany some day?