Grassroots Marketing: Lessons from Kanu Hawaii


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Tips on how to build grassroots support for a product or cause, including how to organize evangelists, use a drum beat of infotainment on social media, and making meaningful asks. Presented to the American Marketing Association Hawaii Chapter, Jan, 2014.

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  • We have members from every zipcode in Hawaii as well as Hawaii ex pats/supports as members from every state/U.S. territory. Our model is based on transparency. Every member’s profile is public including their commitments and actions.
  • Three important notes on our mission statement:
    1. Our means: a movement that uses the lessons of island living, built by members who are willing to make personal change a first step toward social change
    2. Our ends: communities around the world that are defined by their environmental sustainability, social compassion, and local economic resilience – in short, human-scale communities that have reconnected people to production, to the land, and to each other.
    3. The bottom line: people modeling island living for an increasingly island-like world
  • With very limited resources, we use a combination of old-fashioned community organizing and web 2.0 tools to replicate this experience at scale, and build a movement. We do traditional outreach through workshops with schools, churches, civic groups, companies, labor unions and more. Each workshop/presentation makes the case for how island strengths can drive a movement toward sustainability, compassion, and local resilience in Hawai‘i and elsewhere. Each session ends with a call to join this movement by declaring a personal commitment to action and “signing your name to it” by leaving your contact information along with documentation of your commitment. Upon committing, a person becomes a member of Kanu and gains access to online tools and an online community that help make other aspects of the experience scalable…
  • Everything starts with a personal commitment to change. Once online, a member can choose from dozens of commitments authored by other members. One click on the button to the left of a commitment adds you to the “count” of people who’ve made that pledge, and adds the commitment to your publicly-displayed basket of commitments (see next slides). Some commitments are relatively simple, and have gathered thousands of members. Others are more challenging and have fewer than a dozen committed. Each commitment is aligned with the purpose of building more sustainable, compassionate, and resilient communities.
  • As an organization, Kanu Hawai‘i is officially just over one year old. Our online tools/community and offline outreach were launched in earnest in February of 2008 (they were in beta with a small cadre of testers before that). Since February, nearly 6,000 members have joined. Naturally, the membership is concentrated in Hawai‘i, but members from more than 200 communities on the U.S. mainland and 12 different countries have also signed on – pledging to live ‘island style’ wherever they are. The membership is growing exponentially, with the current rate of new members approaching 700 per month.
    We operate with a staff of just 3 people and do all of our outreach, web-engineering, content development, and organizing ourselves and with the help of our members.
  • We have members from every zipcode in Hawaii as well as Hawaii ex pats/supports as members from every state/U.S. territory. Our model is based on transparency. Every member’s profile is public including their commitments and actions.
  • Grassroots Marketing: Lessons from Kanu Hawaii

    1. 1. Steps Toward Building Movement some lessons from one island movement
    2. 2. Why “movement”? 1.A movement is a cultural trend ignited by voluntary, “bottom up” action. 2.Every cause or company has passionate evangelists who can spark movement around it. 3.The democratization of messaging makes movement essential to sustaining support.
    3. 3. One Island Movement
    4. 4. About Kanu Hawaii: Mission To build social movement for a sustainable, compassionate, resilient Hawaii rooted in personal commitments to change.
    5. 5. Grassroots Organizing Online Tools & Community
    6. 6. Commit “I will…” Share Campaign
    7. 7. 2 40 3,000 26,000 90% staff volunteers offline contacts unique visitors turnout rate
    8. 8. …a global community of islanders.
    9. 9. …a global community of islanders.
    10. 10. Some Lessons
    11. 11. 1. Captive, aligned audiences build your list highest conversion rate of any mode of outreach
    12. 12. 2. Recruitment – no advertising without an ask meaningful asks, immediate follow up
    13. 13. 3. Identify the values you embody often found in how you do, not what you do
    14. 14. 4. Collect iconic stories share heroic illustrations of values in action
    15. 15. 5. Offer a “lattice of practice” help people live, serve, and advocate their values
    16. 16. 6. Maintain a drum beat of infotainment punctuated by calls to action
    17. 17. 7. Timely and responsive calls to action strive for relevance, not legitimacy Listen Ask rough consensus + responsiveness > perfect democratic process Act
    18. 18. 8. Reward evangelists with celebrity, community, capacity not with cash
    19. 19. James Koshiba