WOW! It really is possible to keep a secret in a world where there are no secrets (only information you don't already have). I just got back from C.E.S. in Vegas and after hanging out with people like GaGa, Levar Burton, Brent Spiner, Scottie (Monty), Jeff Cutler, Chris Heuer, Brian Solis, Chris Brogan (not really), Bobbie Scoble (not really), Jeff Pulver (not really), Leo (really), Justine (i), Sarah (almost told her), Rick (sorry), Steve Rubel, Rohit (how was the Adult Film party?), David Churbuck and much much more, not a word or whisper about 00011110 (the binary equivalent of the magic number 30).
Sooooooo......after 3+ years after founding and building crayon into a social media strategic playa, today I get to announce that crayon is now the "powered crayon" (hat tip to Forrester's Augie Ray) AKA crayon has been acquired by Austin-based Powered, Inc.
Along with crayon, Powered has also acquired Portland-based StepChange, gurus extraordinaire in all things social networking and mobile apps, widgets and presence (fan pages etc) and New York-based Drillteam, demons in engaging brand loyalists and advocates in the form of offline and online seeding and activation programs.
I should probably also tell you that Powered itself is a leader in terms of creating, building and sustaining branded communities online.
You don't have to look too hard to connect the dots and see that the concept of "community" is an incredibly strong common thread that brings all four companies together - whether this lives in the form of social networking or a tupperware party.
We don't want to resort to the usual plethora of poppycock and bravado (other than solely mine of course) and we're mindful of empty promises - especially in the social media space. So for now, let's just say that the four compaines have combined to build - what we believe is - the first full service social media agency with scale.
Let me stress this is a work-in-progress and that we intend to prove ourselves and let our collective work speak for itself. We already have an arsenal of case studies, but now it's time to let 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 30.
I'll be constantly updating a list of resources that you can refer to for more information, including the social media press release and various blog entries from both inside our company (CMO Aaron Strout's post here, including answers to several FAQ's) and outside.
Update: Additional press/blog mentions:
- crayonista Greg Verdino's post
- Austin Statesman
- Web Strategy
- Agency Spy
For now, I wanted to do 3 things:
- Share with you why I sold the company I started
- Talk to you a little about my passion for what I think we can achieve
- Give thanks
I actually don't look at this as selling (or certainly selling out), but rather "buying in." Whereas most company owners, founders or execs sell and as quickly as you can say "golden handcuffs", bolt....I'm joining a company that I think can do amazing things - not only for its shareholders and clients, but for the industry at large. More on that in a jiffy.
I have to say that being an "entrepreneur" or "small business owner" is probably the hardest and most worthwhile thing I've ever done professionally. I guess I was both when I left the traditional agency world in 2002 and formed my jaffe, LLC army-of-one, but when you have partners, employees, members or professional "dependents," it's a different ballgame altogether.
To explain why I sold crayon is to explain to you why I started crayon in the first place. I've always believed that it's easy as pie to be a prognosticator or pundit. Writing books or giving speeches about dumb companies making dumb decisions is just part of perpetuating the status quo. This is probably why there's so much (justified) backlash against self-proclaimed social-media experts. I didn't want to be part of the problem; I wanted to part of the solution. I wanted to be part of a team again. I wanted to turn strategic and creative ideas into reality and in doing so, prove that the vision in my books was credible and capable of moving mountains.
I believe that we did just that in the past 3 years for clients including the likes of Panasonic, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, American Airlines, H&R Block, Colorado Technical University, Facebook, ooVoo, GyPSii and much more.
So now it's time to kick that up a few hundred notches. I call it taking one step forward in order to leap forward 100 more steps in the process.
Those of you who know me are well aware that I'm "financially challenged". I'm also no operational guy. I'm an Interruptor and I wanted to focus on doing what I love and what I do best, as opposed to the incredibly complex and demanding rigor of running a company.
...and that's exactly what's happening. I get to ramp up my evangelism big time, focus on maximum damage and destabalization within the lethargic industry, whilst simultaneously helping our clients reap incredible rewards from implementing commitment-based programs that are head and shoulders ahead of their competition.
On the way into Vegas, I had a chat with my friend, Sean Finnegan, who heads up all of Starcom Mediavest's Digital Media. We debated whether business needed a dedicated social media department or the industry needed a dedicated social media agency. The counterargument was that social media was too important to be siloed or specialized into a vertical capability. I was itching to tell Sean the news, which quite clearly emphatically communicates where I sit on this debate.
Put succinctly, what percentage of traditional agencies TODAY truly gets (and delivers against) digital, let alone social? I rest my case. How on earth can we expect traditional agencies to master both digital AND social at the same time? On a different level, I'd argue that the same could be said about digital and P.R. agencies when it comes to social. And I did in this Adweek article and as you can see in the comments, the truth hurts.
Bottom line: social is both a horizontal and vertical imperative and I intend to do my part to help Powered become one of (if not the) leading social media agency that can deliver broad-based and profoundly transformational social media solutions to brands that need them.
With my third book, "Flip the Funnel" coming out in about a month's time, I expect to invest a good chunk of my time promoting and talking about the book; dividing my time between writing, speaking and conference events on the one hand and working closely with the group's clients on the other. I'm giddy with excitement about the rise of customer experience and how "retention can become the new acquisition" (more on that soon) and will be devoting much headspace to the central themes of the book.
I also intend to rededicate myself to blogging...yes, blogging. To hell with Posterous and Twitter. I'm all about the renaissance of blogging. I also plan to revive Jaffe Juice - the New Marketing Podcast, starting with a live podcast on Tuesday morning at 9am EST with all the new members of the Powered family talking about the momentous event. If you'd like to listen in and participate with questions, comments or challenges, here's the link. And last but not least, I'm going to continue building out Jaffe Juice TV (check it out why don't you and subscribe on iTunes or via YouTube)
Whereas Drillteam and StepChange will continue to operate as independent entities, crayon is very quickly rolling up into a bundled Powered package. That said, crayon's strategic solution of consulting, planning and advisory services will continue to be offered (only now with more oomph, diversity and scale).
And so finally to thanks. I wanted to start off by thanking my family for putting up with me working 7 days a week for the past 7 years and spending so much time on the road.
I want to thank my family of crayonistas: Greg, Jane, Amadeo, Kate and Gary for putting up with me until the end. In particular, I have to single out Greg Verdino, who is my right hand and without him, I would be lost.
I want to thank all of our clients. Your belief, support and most importantly, friendship, is invaluable beyond words. One of my most incredible memories from crayon will be the EQUAL partnership and bonds formed with our clients. I simply despise how so many agencies have a superiority complex and feel their clients "don't get it"; they do. Big time. I totally expect these relationships to continue; with genuine personal and professional respect as a mandatory.
Finally, I want to thank all the ex-crayonistas who played their part at some point in building this company, but for whatever reason moved on. As you can see there are a lot of them and I think this emphasizes how difficult it is to run a business that is so strongly reliant on talent and properly invest and manage the cultural, interpersonal and yes, even political dynamics that are part of the job. Every single person here is a star and many have gone on to achieve fantastic things since leaving (which is something that I'm pretty proud of). Your color from the big box will always remain "retired": Gary C, Francis, Shel, Neville, CC, Aaron, Michael, Chris, Steve, Scott, Melissa, Seni, Deb, Earl, Adam S, Adam B and Gary K (and if I left anyone out, I apologize and will you add you in ASAP.)
So I guess that's it for now. I'll be spending the next day or two trying to respond as much as possible to comments on this blog, Facebook, text messaging, e-mail, cell and yes, of course Twitter (there's a Twitter press conference today at 2pm EST, hashtag #powered). I hope you can join tomorrow's (Tuesday) podcast recording at 9am EST. I hope to see many of you and continue this conversation in person at some point....sooner rather than later. Perhaps at SXSW or next week's MarketingSherpa e-mail conference in Miami.
These are exciting times and the tide is going to rise like no end to float all boats that embrace change, and sink those that resist it (because of all those holes)