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One Red Paperclip Rides the Long Tail to Mainstream Success

On July 12, 2005, Kyle MacDonald started his One Red Paperclip trading blog with the dream of ultimately trading one red paperclip for a house.  Just a few weeks ago (one year and 14 trades later) he met his goal with an offer for a new house on 503 Main Street from the Town of Kipling, Saskatchewan.  Over the course of the year, he crossed paths with vegans, Alice Cooper and Corbin Bernson.  He went from starting with a link and three line description on Boing Boing, to a spot on Good Morning America a few weeks ago.  The trade that finally won him his house was an offer from Corbin to appear in his next movie – a prize which the Town of Kipling plans to auction off with their own mini American Idol style contest over labor day.  And the story has not yet peaked.  It’s like the never ending test drive that Kramer once took on Seinfeld … no one knows how far this can go, but we all secretly want to find out.  He has a vote on his site for what may come next, and it’s only a matter of time before a big brand comes in and trades him up for something bigger.      

Perhaps others have done as well, but a look at his list of press hits over the past year includes just about every big mainstream news program as well as every big blog, vlog or social news site.  This is not an effort that a select niche group of people care about somewhere along the long tail (though it may once have been).  The story of Kyle’s Red Paperclip quest has ridden the long tail to something much bigger.  Aside from creating lots of buzz for everyone involved along his journey, Kyle managed to launch what may be the most prolific modern day PR campaign ever – and an example of a different kind of power the long tail can hold as a path for the right product, trend or idea to make the leap from niche popularity to mainstream success faster than ever before.  In an ironic twist, this may be exactly the phenomenon sending Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail, rocketing towards the mainstream business best seller list …

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Rohit is the author of 9 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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