Is your summer camp worth telling a story about?

Being memorable isn't hard, it just takes a little creative spark

summer camp game
summer camp game

What seems like a million years ago, back when CDs were a thing, I bought a CD from a company called CD Baby. They sold CDs that were independently produced and tough to find elsewhere, and as a teenager who fancied himself a proper punk-rocker, this appealed to my "damn the man" mentality.

Then I got a confirmation email unlike any I'd ever seen.

Here's what it said:

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow. A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing. Our world-renowned packing specialist lit a local artisan candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy. We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day.

We hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. In commemoration, we have placed your picture on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


We miss you already. We’ll be right here at patiently awaiting your return.

I remember laughing, and sharing the story every time it occurred to me (which was every time I listened to the CD, and more).

This email took the internet by hold, and has been featured on huge blogs as early as 2002 (from Seth Godin) to 2012 on Tim Ferriss' Four Hour Work Week blog. And here it is today!

CD Baby founder Derek Sivers wrote that email in 1999, and has gotten 17 years of marketing traction from a simple email that he typed up in less than 10 minutes.

And it's funny, right? We all send confirmation emails. Maybe they're generic, maybe they're warm, and maybe you didn't even know you could change the welcome email that you sent out when someone buys a week of camp. Maybe something like CD Baby's welcome email would be weird for your camp's brand for whatever reason - that really isn't the point.

The point is that people share stories about noteworthy things. CD Baby's welcome email inspires people to talk about it because it is delightfully surprising, and unusual.

Reflecting back on the experience of receiving that welcome email so many years ago has me reflecting on what other little ways I've been missing out on delighting my camp families. So here are a few examples of things we might try this year:

  1. Include a picture of the director team looking at a registration coming in and going crazy with excitement in a welcome email or welcome packet.
  2. Include something silly on a "what to pack" list, like: 10 pairs socks per week 2 pairs of sturdy shoes 2-3 bathing suits X-Ray Glasses (optional, if you have them)
  3. Assigning some staff to the parking lot when people arrive to camp to celebrate wildly when each camper arrives.

"Hey, what's your name?"


"Hey, Jack! Allison is here!"

"Allison is here?!?!?!" *Jack runs over* "Yes!!!"

Or something like those. It just seems to me that thinking intentionally about each little aspect of how camp is run can't help but have big benefits long term. There might be low hanging fruit when it comes to delighting our customers all around us that we're unaware of because we'd never even considered it before. Heck, I received CD Baby's famous welcome email and only thought to do something about it because I needed to come up with an idea for a blog post!

I think I'm going to make a list of every single thing camp does, and figure out if there's a way to bake delight into it. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

People tell stories about things that are interesting.

Being interesting in ways that most people are boring seems like low hanging fruit, and it feels crazy that it didn't occur to me until today. If you do anything delightfully unusual at your camp, please share it in the comments below.