TED’s tag line is “Ideas worth spreading,” and it has been doing just that since founded by Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks in 1984. An annual conference event since 1990, Wurman left following the 2002 conference, and the owner/curator now is Chris Anderson, whose Sapling foundation acquired TED in 2001; he hosted his first TED in 2003. TEDTalks debuted online in 2006.
TED.com has become the ‘Who’s Who’ of technology, entertainment, and design. TEDTalks are available free on TED’s website, and on iTunes, YouTube, and most recently a free iPhone app. The archive now exceeds 600 talks viewed more than 230 million times worldwide since launch in 2006.
"TEDsters" pay an annual $6000 membership fee, invite only, to attend the conferences, access networking resources, member mailings and DVD’s of the Ted Talks.
Speakers range from the famous: “James Cameron: Before Avatar ... a curious boy,” “Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity,” “Steve Jobs: How to live before you die,” and “Bill Gates on energy: Innovating to zero!” to the virtually unknown: 12 year old child prodigy, “Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids,” and 75 year old ceramics designer, “Eva Zeisel on the playful search for beauty.”
TED has achieved what few manage to do – it has become an uber-brand – not defined by any particular personality or specific product. The marketing strategy is broad enough to net anyone interested in ideas and entrepreneurship. The business model - let those who can pay for those who can’t, to partake.
Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, might call it a “Lovemark.” “Lovemarks transcend brands. They deliver beyond your expectations of great performance. Like great brands, they sit on top of high levels of respect…Take a brand away and people will find a replacement. Take a Lovemark away and people will protest its absence."
Examples include: Apple, Moleskine, Vin Diesel, Guinness, Google, iPod, Coca-Cola, IKEA, and John Denver.
The coveted TED Prize of $100,000 was given this year to Chef, Jamie Oliver and his anti-obesity project geared towards America’s at-risk youth.
As Arianna Huffington, an uber-brand herself, commented: “TED is brimming with innovators, people less interested in figuring out how to prop up the collapsed economy of the last century than in creating an economy for the 21st century.""
Put simply, TED.com is a brand worth watching, and its product line – ideas, worth buying.