Evaluating TEDx as a brand strategy

A big part of my day job is to help organizations with their brand positioning and strategy (I also write about brand strategy quite a bit over here).

So when I read the article in the New York Times this past Sunday about TEDx, the relatively new (and incredibly popular) offshoot of the legendary TED conference, I thought it might be a good opportunity to take a closer look. The issue?

Clearly TEDx has been a smart community-building strategy, but will it ultimately prove to be a smart brand strategy as well?

Let me take a few steps back. If you are not familiar with TED (seriously? have you been camping in Siberia?) you can learn more here.

The main TED conference is a place where smart people (with big $$ and a personal invite) go once a year to hear other smart people give short talks showcasing how smart they are. The rest of us poor, unconnected folks wait patiently for the nice TED people to release the TED talks one by one, teasing us like a painfully-slowly dripping faucet teases a man dying of thirst.

And that’s the way it worked. Until last year when, in June, TED announced a new program called TEDx that would allow anyone to organize their own TED conference anywhere in the world.

The New York Times article tells the story of what has happened with the TEDx program in a little over a year:

…there were 278 events last year in places as near as New Jersey and Florida, and as far as Estonia and China. There was TEDxKibera, held in one of Africa’s largest shantytowns in Nairobi, Kenya. And there was TEDxNASA, which had space-themed lectures.

Already this year there have been 531 TEDx events. Another nearly 750 are to take place this year and beyond.

Wow. Now that is community-driven innovation on a grand scale. From one event per year with a small number of people attending at a very high cost to almost two TED events per day, held around the world, and almost every event is free. All that in a little over a year.

I’d call that a smashing strategic success. A soon-to-be-classic community engagement story.

But if we look at the decision to create TEDx from a traditional brand or intellectual property point of view, would it also be viewed as a good strategy?

[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]

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