Trying to hold back the tide

crowdsurfersbook-31Another extract from Martin Thomas’s new book

American Jose Avila is both untidy and highly creative.  Finding his house full of used FedEx cartons and being a bit short of cash, he came up with the radical idea of turning them into furniture.  He started creating designs for his friends and as word spread, he decided to market his alternative form of recycling on  They are not the most beautiful designs in the world – there is only so much you can do with a FedEx carton – but they are certainly original.

How did FedEx respond to this fantastic PR opportunity, that could only boster their environmental credentials?  Were the company’s PR people smart enough to spot a great publicity opportunity and sufficiently influential to convince the higher authorities within FedEx of the merits of Avila’s project?

Of course not.  The FedEx lawyers were unleashed and told to shut -down his site, claiming a breach of its copyrights and trademarks. Fortunately for lovers of the underdog, Avila was well connected and able to enlist the help of some lawyer friends at Stanford Law School to help him in his fight.

The results were all too predictable for those of us who have witnessed other corporate attempts to silence the little guys; Avila became the hero and FedEx was villified in the media.  It also missed a great opportunity to harness the creativity and enthsiasm of one of its consumer, at no financial cost to their business.

FedEx failed to crowd surf.

mtphotodoc1Martin Thomas has spent 23 years running marketing communications agencies in PR, advertising, sponsorship, entertainment marketing and new media.  The blog of the book is