Fireworks and Bonfires. A true story.

Great analogy from the Feeding the Puppy blog: fireworks attract people, but bonfires are needed to sustain peoples’ interest.


To illustrate that this is far more than a simple metaphor, I will now transcribe to you a recent conversation I had with “Mr Adman”, who has been running marketing campaigns for many years:

Mr Adman: “We need to do some Word of Mouth. We need a 360 Social Media Plan, with a clear ROI. I want to be us to be in all the latest Social Media sites like Facespace and Twitty ASAP!”

Me: “Err… OK, how about we do this:

We put on an awesome and magical firework display to attract people, hopefully even make it cool enough for people to call up their friends and say ‘get down to the harbour, there’s an unbelievable firework display going on!’. We could even put up some cool posters to tell people it’s happening.

At the same time, we build a great big bonfire to keep people warm. We ask if there’s any refreshments people would like, and if  so we can sell them some tasty snacks and drinks while they are there. (You can even call that ROI if you want.)

Of course we let people take part in building the bonfire. We’ll chat to people about what interests them. If it makes sense, we’ll bring up how our product might be useful to them, maybe even show them how it works. Then – since people don’t need chaperoning – we’ll make sure people have enough wood etc to keep the fire going themselves. We’ll encourage someone to take charge – it doesn’t have to be us. Maybe we’ll even leave a guitar or something so they can make their own entertainment.

Then we move on to another site to build another fire for another group of people. But we’ll check back regularly to make sure the original fire is still burning and ask if there is anything we can do to help.”

Mr Adman: “What about getting on Twitty and FaceSpace?”

Me: “If we do this well and make people happy, they will want to reciprocate and do nice things on our behalf, maybe even buy some of our products. If we exceed their expectations, then they will talk about us in their normal daily conversations (offline, nine times out of ten). But don’t worry, sometimes they will also talk about us on social media sites, so I guess you could call this a social media marketing plan. If you have to.”

Mr Adman: “Great! Absolutely, totally got it! One small problem is that we don’t have quite enough budget available, so my suggestion is that we just focus on the fireworks and skip the bonfires this time…”

Me: “….sigh….”

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5 thoughts on “Fireworks and Bonfires. A true story.

  1. “We’ll do that next time…”

    The familiar old tale, isn’t it? They like the idea of being ‘social’, but then it turns out the fear of doing something, it not reaping instant returns and teh blame landing squarely at their feet frightens people.

    But fortune favours the brave, of course.

    Keep an eye out on Feeding The Puppy this week, consolidating some more bonfire & fireworks thoughts…

    Top post, btw 🙂

  2. Asi says:

    Ace. such a spot on analogy i’m so going to nick it from you!

    to keep with this we should always remember that while fireworks are spectacular and expensive, bonfires have been put together by individuals and groups of people for ages so people essentially don’t need brands to make bonfire for them – that, my friend, is one of the key challenges of ‘social’.

    with that in mind your (branded) bonfire should have a real purpose and value for people otherwise why would i come to your bonfire when i can set up my own???

    you should go on an internal road-show with this 😉

    looking forward to thursday

  3. dagood says:

    I agree, it is a great analogy!

    John has some great thoughts on his excellent Feeding The Puppy blog:

    I agree, it is really important to recognize that bonfires are already being built, and there are some great ones around. Nobody wants a corporate bonfire after all.

  4. […] already posted some comments here and there but thought it’d be good to write a proper […]

  5. […] is where Social Media is at its best. Here you build a community , a metaphorical bonfire, to which you can get close and serve better than anyone else; some people have defined this as […]

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