Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What are they thinking... SU vs Blog World

I generally don't use this blog as a soap box, but when I had a sweet e-mail from my friend Silvia this morning asking me what I thought about the new SU! rules, I felt the need to share. Since I hadn't received any notification from SU! about the changes, I made my way over to the demo website to see what she was talking about. Apparently, SU! has gotten their little ole feelings hurt. They have decided that if we are a demo, we can't promote anyone else's products....on our OWN PERSONAL BLOGS. As a 5 year hobby-demo (I am my own best customer, after all), I think this is a total load of you-know-what. For the past 5 years, I have consistently met their requirements for sales, using my own money. In this time of economic despair, they should re-read their own motto, and remember that being creative and getting others to be creative is what we do. They should be GRATEFUL that we hobbyists are willing to spend our own money-- no matter how we choose the use their products.

Before I get all riled about it (again) though, I thought I would let you read the thoughtful Q & A that SU! so lovingly put together for their loyal demonstrators and let you form your own opinion. Get a cup of coffee and settle in....this is good. I'd love to hear what you think.

I feel bad for SU! right now. They clearly didn't learn how to share when they were kids. Could this be the beginning of the end for them? I better sign off for now, I have lots to do today, starting with removing the SU! link from my sidebar... Afterall, I wouldn't want any other stamp companies to get jealous ;)

Re-signing the IDA
Q: How do I sign the new Independent Demonstrator Agreement (IDA)?
A: Log in to the Demonstrator Web Site and either print a copy of the agreement from the Printing Place, or go to My Business>My Profile. There is a link on the right side of the My Profile page for the new (2009) Independent Demonstrator Agreement. From that link you can read the new IDA and electronically agree to the new terms. Demonstrators who do not have Internet access can contact Demonstrator Support to make alternate arrangements.

Q: What's the deadline for signing the IDA?
A: You have until midnight on September 30, 2009, to sign and submit the new IDA.

Q: What happens if I don't sign the new IDA by the deadline?
A: If you haven't signed the new IDA by October 1, 2009, you will be unable to place any orders through OEX until you do so. If you try to place an order, you will be prompted to go through the quick, easy process of signing the new IDA.
In addition, if you haven't signed the new IDA by October 1, your customers will not be able to place any orders through your Demonstrator Business Web Site (DBWS) and you will not be included in the Demonstrator Locator or Demonstrator Finder tools on the Stampin' Up! Web Site. Make sure you sign the new IDA before October 1 so you don't lose any potential sales.

Q: How does this impact new recruits? If I or a member of my downline just joined in August, do we still need to sign a new IDA?
A: Yes. The new IDA is available online now, so any new recruits who sign up now will need to sign the new IDA. However, those who signed up before September 1 also need to sign the new IDA, and may do so electronically at any time before October 1. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause but hope you understand how important it is that every demonstrator is aware of these changes.

Q: Why do I need to re-sign the IDA?
A: While we can make minor changes to policy and the IDA without requiring demonstrators to sign the agreement again, we felt that the changes on this revision were significant enough that we would give all demonstrators the opportunity to read and accept the new terms.

Personal/Business Impact
Q: If I have a Stampin' Up! blog where I promote my Stampin' Up! business and a personal blog that I keep separate from my Stampin' Up! business, do the same guidelines apply to both blogs?
A: Yes. As a Stampin' Up! demonstrator, any presence you have in the electronic communications world (blog, web site, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) must meet the guidelines outlined in the new IDA. When you sign the new IDA, you agree to refrain from using any electronic communications to promote, market, or sell the products of any other companies (direct selling or retail) that offer similar products, including decorative stamps in any form, stamp art accessories, scrapbooking products, digital art solutions, and vinyl wall art.
Keep in mind, again, that the restriction does not completely prohibit you from using competitive products and posting images on your personal web site. You could, for example, post a project you made for your child's birthday party using non-Stampin' Up! accessories, but you would need to refrain from providing specific sales information (price, retailer, etc.) that would be considered marketing of those products.
When you post projects, whether they are on your Stampin' Up! blog or a personal blog, you are representing Stampin' Up! and your postings impact your business and Stampin' Up! as a whole.

Q: Once I sign the new IDA, what am I allowed to have on my blog?
A: The changes restrict you from providing purchasing information, referrals to catalogs or publications, links to blogs or other web sites, or other similar material meant to promote, market, or sell competitive products.
For instance, if you created a project that used a wooden block, you could show the project on your blog and mention that you used a wooden block. You could even mention that you purchased the wooden block at a craft store or big box retail store, but you should refrain from giving the name and location of the store, or any other purchasing information.
We do not want to list everything you can and cannot do in electronic media-partly because the list would be incredibly long, partly because it would need to be updated every time technology changed (and that would be almost daily!), and partly because we want you to understand and respect the intent behind these changes and use your own judgment in making these decisions. As you consider your activity in electronic media, ask yourself if what you are doing undermines your business, the businesses of other demonstrators, or the company as a whole. If the answer is yes, please refrain from doing it.

Q: On my personal blog, I have links to my friends' personal blogs and web sites. Some of them sell competing product. Do I need to remove these links?
A: Yes. In evaluating the links on your web site, you will need to remove any links to blogs, web sites, or the like that promote, market, or sell competitive products.

Q: I regularly participate in online forums relating to the craft industry, and maintain a gallery of my artwork on one of these forums. With the new IDA, is this activity still allowed?
A: Yes. Participating in forums and posting your projects for your fellow crafters can be an important method of inspiration and recognition. It's important to note that the new IDA does not prohibit this kind of activity. However, there are some guidelines now associated with activity using any electronic media. Consider the web site or online community you choose to participate in. Does it actively promote or market other craft companies? Does it provide information on products or catalogs for other stamping, scrapbooking, or home decorating products or companies? If you directed your customers to the web site, would they have the opportunity to learn about and purchase similar products from other companies, and not from you? If the answer is yes, then under the new IDA guidelines, you should refrain from linking to the site in your other personal electronic communications, regardless of your personal activity on that forum or web site. We understand that this may be difficult for some, but hope you understand the impact on your customers when you direct them to a location where their attention is diverted from you and the products you have to offer. We are currently exploring ways to provide more of an open community and sharing environment to our demonstrators, and will keep you updated on any new developments.

Q: I create electronic banners, backgrounds, and other projects for my web site using digital artwork from other companies. Can I still do this?
A: Absolutely. Again, using or displaying products that compete with Stampin' Up! products is not restricted. However, promoting that artwork, such as providing links to product web sites or giving specific purchasing or download information, would be against the new IDA.

Q: I design projects for another company, web site, or publication using non-Stampin' Up! products. With the new guidelines, can I still do this?
A: That depends on what the company, web site, or publication has asked you to do. If you simply design projects that are then displayed on the web or in a publication somewhere, but you personally do not need to promote it on your blog or web site, then yes, you may still do this. Once you are required to personally promote competitive products in any manner, you will be in violation of your Stampin' Up! agreement.

Q: If I am under contract to promote other company's products on my blog, or to design for another company and promote it on my blog or other social media, how do I handle the new guidelines?
A: If you are under contract to promote competing products through your web site, blog, or other electronic media, please contact Demonstrator Support, who will refer you to the Compliance department. We understand that you need to honor commitments you've made under contract; therefore we will work with demonstrators (on a case-by-case basis) who are in this situation. This does mean that there may be some demonstrators who appear out of compliance with the new guidelines for a short time, as they work through the terms of any contracts they may have.
We will work with demonstrators on these exceptions within reason. If a demonstrator is under a contract, for example, that has no end date, that demonstrator would need to work with Compliance and determine how best to terminate the contract.

Q: I get a lot of traffic on my web site, and I receive requests to advertise other craft products. Are you saying I can't have any advertisements like this on my web site, even if I have the opportunity to gain some income from them?
A: Yes. Although you may gain potential income from providing links and/or purchasing information about certain products, at the same time you are losing potential income by driving customers to competing companies. Although it's difficult to measure in hard numbers, we believe that by keeping your visitors interested and informed about Stampin' Up! products, they are more likely to purchase those products-from you!
Keep in mind that these restrictions only apply to competing non-Stampin' Up! products. We are not restricting advertising for noncompetitive products.

Q: I use my Facebook page or Twitter account to highlight products I like from any company, not just Stampin' Up! Is this now prohibited?
A: Yes. Again, we believe that these changes may increase your sales and will protect your demonstratorship and Stampin' Up! as a whole. As we've indicated, this doesn't prohibit incidental references or visuals of products offered by other companies, and it doesn't apply to noncompetitive products.

Q: Now that Stampin' Up! has announced its Simply Adorned line of jewelry, is jewelry considered a competitive product?
A: No. Our line of jewelry is so limited that we do not consider jewelry a competitive product at this time.

Q: If a customer leaves a comment on my blog that promotes a competing product, am I now obligated to delete that comment?
A: No. However, given the intent of this policy, you may choose to do so, as any information regarding competitive products or retailers is harmful to your business.

Q: Do I have to go through my archive information on any electronic communication and delete any references that don't comply with these new guidelines?
A: No. The policy changes will be effective going forward, and it is not our intent that you would need to go through and "clean out" any information you have posted in the past. If you use or actively refer to an old post or article, however, you will want to make sure that article is compliant as it would constitute current use.

Q: At an event, can I market or promote a product or service that is directly related to my Stampin' Up! business?
A: No. As the new IDA notes, whether the event is organized by Stampin' Up! or a demonstrator, an exclusive selling environment is an important part of the process. When you sign the new IDA, you agree to refrain from promoting, marketing, or selling any product or service that is not directly offered by Stampin' Up! at any Stampin' Up! event, even if that product or service is directly related to your or other demonstrators' Stampin' Up! business.

Q: What prompted Stampin' Up! to make these changes?
A: Before the wide-spread use of the Internet as a marketing, selling, and communications tool, guidelines concerning competitive products were fairly straightforward. Our main means of sharing Stampin' Up! was in workshops or similar face-to-face events. In a workshop or other event, it doesn't make sense to promote products available from local retailers or even direct-sellers, as it would negatively impact the workshop total, the hostess benefits, your commission, etc.
As time has gone on, and more demonstrators are using the convenience of online tools to market and promote their businesses, it has become necessary to bring our policies regarding the online promotion of competitive products in harmony with our face-to-face events policies.
In addition, as we developed My Digital Studio, the need for more defined guidelines became even more evident as we realized the many ways this new product could be used to build your business.
These are a few of the things that led us to examine the Independent Demonstrator Agreement and the restrictions we provide on representation of competing companies and marketing, promoting, and selling competing products.

Q: How do these changes benefit me or protect my business?
A: When you sign up to become a Stampin' Up! demonstrator, regardless of your purpose in doing so, you sign up to begin your own business. Stampin' Up!'s goal is to provide you with tools, services, and products to help you be successful at whatever level of business you choose to engage in. But whether you consider your business a hobby or a full-time occupation, the same basic business principles apply.
Imagine for a moment that you own a fast-food restaurant that specializes in a specific kind of burger. You plaster your walls with photos of happy customers and provide specials on your food to encourage more customers to come by. You wouldn't suddenly put an ad for McDonald's on your wall, right? Nor would you freely tell your customers that they could get a cheaper burger just down the road.
Promoting products that compete with Stampin' Up!'s products is not only fundamentally a bad business practice, it also costs you sales, commissions, or other opportunities. Whether in person or in your electronic media resources, the concept is the same. It is in your best interest, as well as the company's, to not allow competitive businesses to utilize the drawing power of Stampin' Up! to build revenue or find customers. We put our resources into promoting the business for you, and we're sure you'll agree that it doesn't make sense for Stampin' Up! to allow other companies to benefit from our efforts.
That said, we don't want you to stop creating. We need you! We need you to keep creating, coming up with new ideas and suggestions, and sharing your enthusiasm. We need to work together to protect what Stampin' Up! stands for and what we offer.

Q: These new policies seem harsh; why would Stampin' Up! make changes of this kind?
A: We have invested substantial resources-financial, creative, personnel, etc.-in providing products, services, and tools to help you build your demonstratorship. While these changes may seem restrictive, we feel strongly that they will protect our investments and your business over the long term.
However, please note that the guidelines are designed to restrict marketing, promoting, and selling of competitive products only. The incidental mention of non-Stampin' Up! products is allowed.


Jamiecrafts said...

well i dont have time right now to read the whole thing but i will be back and just reading what you have worte i totally agree with what YOU are saying. SU doesnt "own" anyone's blog...

Katie Skiff said...

oh no!! I am not a SU demo, however I am thinking of tons of people who this is going to harshly affect! I do somewhat understand their points, but this is too bad for them. Some of it is just can't link the name of where you bought the wooden block? What do they think you say at workshops when you use something you bought somewhere else...oh I can't tell you where I bought these, but they are used for this technique! DUH!!
Good luck!!

Kelly Ellis (kraftykelly) said...

Here is the email I just sent to SU head office... as you can tell.. I'm NOT impressed.

Good Morning,

I just heard about SUs new policy for demonstrators in that they are not allowed to discuss any other product but SU on their personal blogs/websites. I think you need to rethink this. As a paper crafter I love SU products on their own but I also love that I can use your high quality products with other companies’ products to make unbelievably unique and beautiful creations. I love to see what new things that all your VERY gifted demonstrators do with your products and how using products from other companies can make something special even more amazing.

In my opinion, by drawing this “line in the sand” it will be the company that loses out. SU is VERY mainstream in the crafting world but other companies take up more territory each day. If paper crafters are going to have to choose between SU and all the rest you may be surprised at the result.

Although I will continue to purchase SU products I find myself distressed and a little “turned off” right now by such a “protectionist” attitude. I thought that SU was a family company that encouraged women to be creative, independent and supportive of each other…


Mina said...

I must say Im shocked at how they think they can control people personal blogs and choices...this is a very blinkered attitude and Im not suprised your angry
Mina xxx

Chrissy's Creations said...

I read it word for word .... Wow, that's one BIG steaming pile of >>> You know what!!! How dare they assume they have a right to tell you what you can and cannot do on your own personal web site!!!!! Personally, I wouldn't even think twice about dropping them like a flaming sack of ... poop!!!!! Watch out SU here comes reality. Greed is never a good thing, enjoy your power trip while you can.

Sorry you all are going through that. It's a shame. Makes me giggle at the audacity of it all. Are they 3 or what, because the me me me, mine mine mine, do it MY way, are you my friend of their friend, throwing a fit doesn't work in adult life!!! Shame shame shame on SU!!

Here's to finding a company where creativity, empowering women and fair play are the goals.
Hugs, Christine

StampinCathy said...

WOW! I really feel sorry for the demos out there. I think there will be alot of demos leaving SU! I wonder if they thought of that. I really like SU products, but to be so harsh on other companies and products is just shocking.

wendy said...

Wow, that's going to push business and demonstrators away. Thanks for sharing the news!

Lynne in NI said...

Wow, that's totally shocking! Not surprised you're annoyed, I would be too! Lets face it SU stamps are great quality, but they are far from being cheap and there are loads of stamp companies out there who make just as good stamps for less money!
If they were being picky about blogs, why not encourage demos to have a SU only blog, as well as one for their other stash. Let's face it, I would very much doubt there's many (or indeed ANY) stampers out there who ONLY have SU products.
Any way that's my rant over too!

Jen said...

You know, I was actually contemplating on whether or not to keep my "hobby demonstratorship" going. I enjoy SU products, but there are other images and products from other companies that I also enjoy and use! I had not gone on the SU site in the last few days, so I will go take a look now, however, this has helped me make my decision...which you probably know what it is. I am totally surprised that each demo did not at least get an email on this new least I don't have an email! Thanks for sharing, and it is a shame they are handling this issue in this manner!

Darsana said...

This is the same scenario as an employer making an employee sign an agreement or clause telling them what they can and can not do in thier off hours away from the property/office. SU should only be able to control the demonstrators blogs, not thier personal blogs, preferences, or other aspects of thier individual lives. I'm afraid that SU is going to lose some fantastic demonstrators who will be put out by this policy and I say too bad to SU. I was a demonstrator at one point and I considered starting again, but this particular subject does not sit well with me and I think that I will not be joining SU at any time. As a matter of fact it is pushing me towards the products of other compeitors as we speak. If SU wants to tell me I don't have options, than I'm afraid they don't have my money!

~*Joni said...

Nikki, now really. What's wrong with blogging something like this?:

Here is a project I made with a box from a craft store. The DP is from a craft store too. I used staples from a craft store along with SU MONO ADHESIVE. <---Stanmpin' Up is THE BEST!!! The brads are from a craft store. And the ribbon was a RAK from a person whom I can't tell you about because her blog contains info about the evil outside craft world. But isn't this finished box from a craft store adorable?!?!?! I can't give you a tutorial because it's from a magazine that I got at a craft store. Thank you for coming by!!!

Rufus said...

I read it word for word and couldn't believe what I was reading! Have they all gone mad?? While I do own some SU products, they are certainly not the only things in my stash! To be told that you as an INDEPENDENT demo can't talk about anything not SU on your personal blog???? I can't help but think that they will lose lots of demo's and once word gets out even more customers! I'll be thinking VERY carefully about who gets my hard earned money from now on. What do they think, we're all so stupid that if you don't mention any other company name but SU we won't figure out that there are other company's???? Drop kick them into next week!

Judith said...

O.M.G who do they think they are!
Independent demonstrators work there own business and surly it is up to them what they do to promote it. It is up to them how successful they are at it.
I also feel that it is good to show crafters how well SU products would work with there existing stash.
Is there not such a thing as freedom of expression ie the way you express yourself through you crafting and then freedom of speech ie being able to talk about it.
I know that if I went to work tomorrow (Marks and Spencer) and they told me I can no longer wear clothes from any other shop as it would be bad for business if people saw me in a NEXT top.I would tell them to kiss my butt.
Control freaks!

It has made me think very differently about about the company that I once held it high regard.

Nicole said...

I was a 5 year demo too, not anymore. Hobbyist, same as you. After getting the Close to my Heart catalog from MELIS (Sheetload DT BLOG) I am considering giving them my business. IF you didn't see that post to get your catalog, Nikki, then pop on over there. I do usually like red rubber when I stamp, but at this point, they may even be a good enough source for the cardstock and ink colors (GO LOOK!) so I don't have to even give SUP my business for cardstock and ink, so there! NAH NEE NAH NEE BOO BOO, LOL!