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Chapter 2: The First Campaign

By Brent Schulkin April 4, 2012

In which the Carrotmob idea is developed and tested for the first time.

Once I had come up with the seed of the Carrotmob idea in spring 2003, it took five years to really develop. At first the idea was half-baked. Just an vague impression of something that needed to exist. Later that year I was on a road trip and I came up with the name. Then every six months or so I would be in the shower and suddenly think of some twist: “Hey this Facebook thing was just invented…I wonder if that would be a good way to get people together…hmmm.” In 2005 I sketched the logo. Meanwhile, I worked in Lake Tahoe, worked at Google, and directed a documentary film. I would say that the idea developed gradually, much like Steven Johnson’s description:

In late 2006 I had been working for The Go Game for about a year, and as much fun as that job was, I decided to get serious about Carrotmob. My main hesitations were two things:

  • I knew nothing about business, so it seemed likely that my intuition about this was probably wrong.
  • The Carrotmob idea was so simple and obvious that I assumed someone must have tried it before. Obviously there must be some flaw to the idea or else it already would have taken off.

So I started by collecting lots of books so I could learn. I read about foreign topics like corporate reputation, cause marketing, the market for socially responsible products, and also brushed up on the history of boycotts, and the history of how corporations and activists have interacted in the past, and so on.

Throughout all of 2007 I worked a grueling schedule for The Go Game, but just about every week I would set aside a plane flight to write. Nights and weekends I would write 20 page explorations of how it might work, why it would work, and then I would scrap everything and rewrite. I went to lots of patient friends for their feedback. I started building an advisory board of people with insights into certain worlds. Plenty of people thought it was ridiculous, fanciful, weird, doomed to failure, etc. But others saw the same thing I saw. I honed it.

At the end of 2007, The Go Game generously allowed me to switch to part-time so I would have time to put together the first campaign. In February 2008 I hit the streets to go talk to businesses. After getting everything lined up, I sent out an email, asking people to come. There was also a Facebook event and some flyers, but really it was just a simple email. Turns out this is something that people want to do:

Many thanks to everyone who made that first event possible: My parents, 1865, Anjali J, Blue Turtle Seduction, Eleanor M, Eli G, Finn K, Heidi B, Heidi Q, Joe K, Jonathan M, Karen W, Lauren C, Lisa G, Sgt. Marta M, Matt E, Matt T, Mei L, Melissa L, Mike J, Nina, Noor D, Ryan P, Seth W, Sydney W, Terry F, and Tyler M. And others, I’m sure. I edited the video, uploaded it, saw a huge response, and knew I had a new career path in front of me.

Next chapter…



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