Sramana Mitra: What year did that chapter end for you?
Jamie Tedford: Around 2002. I got to work with an ad agency called Arnold Worldwide. I worked with a lot of really big brands. The brand that really got me excited was Volkswagen. I learned a lot of about traditional advertising at that time. I spent six years there. I had progressed in my career there. I was a little bit of an outlier in a very traditional agency that still loved to buy expensive television spots. I was always much more interested in the Internet, and ultimately, I found myself gravitating towards a burgeoning market that was then called word-of-mouth marketing.
There’s an industry now that’s forming around how to make that systematic and how to measure its impact. That really excites me. I was one of the founding board members of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association in late 2000. We were creating an industry that built the foundation of what is now the social media industry. Then, it was capturing how physical word of mouth happens. For me, that was pretty quickly followed by an obsession with how word-of-mouth happens and advocacies, specifically, happen online. Social networks piqued my interest. This is the technology required to make word-of-mouth real online.
Sramana Mitra: What year did you start this one?
Jamie Tedford: I started at Arnold Worldwide in 2001. In 2006 I got involved, as a volunteer, with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. It was too good and too exciting to try and not to find a business in this area.
Sramana Mitra: It sounds like 2006 is when you started Brand Networks.
Jamie Tedford: That’s right.
Sramana Mitra: When you decided that you were going to go off on your own and try to start something in what was bubbling up as social media, what was the hypothesis of what you were going to do with that?
Jamie Tedford: The hypothesis was that social networks were burgeoning. At that time, Myspace was trending. What we saw were brands starting to network with people through friending. It was those connections and that network that really interested me. The idea was, “How do we help brands build stronger networks of their best customers and how do we give them the tools?” When you go to Volkswagen, you’re a part of a club. How do we use the Internet to create these clubs or networks around brands? That was the foundation of Brand Networks.
Sramana Mitra: Did you have an anchor customer that you started with?
Jamie Tedford: We did. One of the customers that I worked on at Arnold who had really got interested in word-of-mouth marketing was Cool Hand Restaurant, which is a regional chain of mid to up class dining facility. When they had this idea, it wasn’t big enough for Arnold to take on. I realized that that idea could be done in the company that I created. They were my first customers, soon followed by a good friend of mine who had worked with me at Student Advantage. He had a really interesting role at Monster.com, which at that time, was the high-flying job board that hadn’t quite figured out social networking. Of course, we all know that that has evolved. They were very interested in my perspective on how to tackle social media and be relevant to social media.
Those were our first two clients that began paying the bills. I was able to move those clients into a commercial relationship within the first six months. Those six months were crucial to determine if this is something that could work. I gave up a great job and a nice salary. I had left Arnold as an SVP for a small bit of severance.