Swagapalooza: Can Bloggers Make or Break New Marketing Plans?

Last night I dropped in at “Swagapalooza“, a live marketing experiment put on by startup firm Launch Hear. The idea: Pack a fun venue with bloggers, and invite entrepreneurs to take 5 minutes each to sell their idea to the room. Free product samples (and quite a lot of free beer) were given out to those in attendance amid the expectation that glowing reviews would result.

Although few of the ideas had any real cred in terms of sustainability, the overall idea was brilliant. Marketing, if that word still applies, is changing. The good word of an influential online maven can go a long way for a little cash, especially for risky, new products. But the pitch has to be believable and compelling. As Tom Foremski noted, most of the pitches went off more like comedy sketches than seriously rehearsed presentations. That’s something that cost some of the presenters and, perhaps ironically, helped others.

Guy Kawasaki gave a hilarious, if slightly rambling, Top Ten Tips for Tech Entrepreneurs to kick things off. Perhaps his most prescient advice: Don’t listen the the bozos, aka the naysayers who appear to be successful and knowledgeable but may only drag you down. And on top of all else, get inspired by something you care about. Just because shrimp farming happens to be hot right now does not mean it’s a great place for you to start your business – unless of course, you really, really love shrimp.

At the end of the day, the bloggers in attendance had a great time and everyone had the opportunity to meet and discuss matters with the various company founders who were more than willing to share their stories with eager writers. For example, the WhiteyBoard, a peel-and-stick whiteboard concept was quick to point out the product’s long-lasting durability, despite its being made of rather unsustainable vinyl. Bloggers (this one being no exception) are notoriously easy to entice with free beer, but can be very fickle about products and pitches. Whiteyboard was the brunt of a cavalcade of jokes which appeared on the hilarious live twitter back channel and took some time to recover from.

Equmen men’s underwear was perhaps the most well funded presentation (at $100 a shirt, I’d expect as much) and brought the audience to its knees with a slightly over-the-top presentation – captured on video here by Renee Blodget. I asked founder Michael Flint what his thoughts were on sustainability and he replied that the confidence that comes with looking and feeling good brings happiness, productivity, and a better life. Um, yeah, we can call that a stretch, but I liked his enthusiasm.

My personal faves? The Helmet Lock. Granted, I’m a sucker for anything bike related, but the product’s simplicity and $10 price tag lead me to believe it’s going to be an easy sell, especially for folks who are new to cycling and looking for something to make getting rolling on two wheels an easier prospect. Black garlic was the surprise of the evening: a fermented garlic that tastes like licorice, and Joby’s excellent GorillaPod tripods were a well appreciated addition to the night’s give-a-ways.

My sustainability eye was relaxed because I had low expectations about the social and ecological goals of the night’s entrepreneurs, but the genius of the idea has planted a seed. What if Triple Pundit and allies could take this new marketing concept and apply it to start-up companies with a real, sustainability minded goal? We’ve got some ideas kicking around and would love to hear from you if you think it’s something you or your company might be interested in. Get in touch.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

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