I’m off to drink from the fire hose of inspiration, innovation and ingenuity—otherwise known as TED. When I return, I promise to distill and share the highlights from my favorite speakers who are changing the world and inviting us to do the same. But as I pack my bags and ready myself to be relatively unplugged for the week, I can’t help but note that TED is a fascinating OPEN brand case study.
While TED was founded in 1984 by Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks as a relatively exclusive, one-off, Silicon Valley insiders-only conference in Monterey, it has blossomed into an inclusive, ongoing, global phenomenon. Now, there are many readers who will take issue with my “inclusive” reference given its hefty price tag for the privilege of attending an in-person event. But that’s the brilliant part of their strategy. TED has moved from being a closed brand to a much more OPEN one by digitizing the experience and democratizing its content—making it freely accessible to the world while SIMULTANEOUSLY crafting its in-person experience to be more premium, more exclusive, and therefore, more coveted. Can you think of another brand that has been able to elevate its equity on a global scale, engage a wide variety of audiences, charge more AND give away all of its content for free?
Consider that for the last six years, TED Talks, featuring the likes of Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcom Gladwell, and many Nobel Prize winners, have been made available on the TED site, YouTube and iTunes. In addition, there are apps for nearly any device, making TED available—FREE—to anyone willing to download and stream. And if that’s not enough of a gift to the world, with the help of generous and committed volunteers, hundreds of TED Talks have been translated in over 40 languages.
I’ve been to nearly 200 industry events and conferences over my 25 years in design and marketing services, and I can say that no one puts together an event experience like TED—from pre-mailings that include the latest books from a wide range of thought leaders to an online community that enables connectivity between its participants with a data-driven match-up. TED has also created high-demand, low-supply off-site tours, adventures and one-of-a-kind experiences for those that want to extend their stay before or after the event. TED makes sure that no one is ever hungry with healthy snacks and custom espresso drinks and that there are places to meet, cool and comfy furniture for private conversations or open areas for spontaneous debates. And, of course, the TED bag of goodies is indeed a bag of goodies. No schlock, no junk mail, no plastic widgets that you throw away or leave in your hotel room. Everything is high quality, well considered and something you definitely want to keep or share with a friend. That’s what OPEN brands do.
They orchestrate experiences that connect people around a shared passion. They give generously. They create content that people want and are inspired to share with others. They take chances. They reach for greatness.
TED’s an OPEN brand I admire. Will you be taking advantage of the free TED content?