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Brains on Fire


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In Brains on Fire, Robbin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church, and Spike Jones relate how their marketing agency has de-emphasized the use of campaigns and instead fosters the growth of word-of-mouth movements to build customer loyalty for a brand. They recommend that brand managers should focus on creating movements that tap into the passions of customers and inspire them. Researchers have shown a strong correlation between a company’s success and the degree to which the company is engaged with its customers. The authors believe “closeness” to customers is a signal of corporate health and profitability.


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Brains on Fire

  1. 2. BRAINS ON FIRE Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements AUTHORS: Robbin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church, and Spike Jones PUBLISHER: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2011 227 pages
  2. 3. FEATURES OF THE BOOK Business executives, especially marketing professionals, can benefit from reading Brains on Fire . The book offers insights into new and innovative methods used to build strong brand loyalty among customers.
  3. 4. THE BIG IDEA Instead of relying on marketing campaigns, businesses should foster sustainable movements in which customers and employees share their passion for the business or cause.
  4. 5. INTRODUCTION The shining days of the big, glitzy ad campaigns are fading. Marketing professionals create more and more advertising campaigns and realize fewer and fewer results.
  5. 6. FOCUSING ON PEOPLE Businesses should be focused on people, not technology. Although advanced technology can enable communication among people and enhance the ability to develop long-term, sustainable word-of-mouth movements, a business should never rely entirely on technological implementations. The advances of the Internet allow customers to interact with other people. Companies can no longer operate under the illusion that they can control their messaging and how people think about them. People do not trust companies; they trust people—those they know or those whose opinions and recommendations they seek out and believe.
  6. 7. REFRAMING THE CONVERSATION WITH CUSTOMERS To ignite the movement with these first conversations, businesses need to keep certain concepts in mind: A company does not know what it does not know : Companies do not have all the answers, but it is okay for them to seek answers. It is important for a company to listen to its customers and gain insights. Companies must spend time in the presence of its customers to hear real words from real people’s mouths.
  7. 8. REFRAMING THE CONVERSATION WITH CUSTOMERS Hiding behind a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) puts a damper on a movement. Companies should get rid of their NDAs and allow customers to talk to others about them. It builds a level of trust that otherwise cannot be achieved if the NDA is present at the beginning of a conversation—a conversation that is supposed to be based on honesty, transparency, and openness. Just listening plants the first seed that can grow into a movement.
  8. 9. REFRAMING THE CONVERSATION WITH CUSTOMERS The movement must be predicated on passion: Movements are formed by people who connect to each other through shared interests. Passion must exist internally as well as externally: The employees of companies must be just as passionate about their products and services as customers are. To find the passion conversation, companies must talk to customers. Traditional market research has its role, but a company cannot really know its customer solely through paper reports or online surveys.
  9. 10. INSPIRING LEADERSHIP To find those special people who will become leaders of a word-of-mouth movement, businesses seek those people who can provide an inspirational tone and context for the community. Building the community around only a brand is doomed for failure. However, when the movement is built around the passion of people, its leaders can repeatedly re-energize the conversation and attract others to the movement who have a similar passion.
  10. 11. CREATING A BARRIER OF ENTRY A barrier of entry to a movement creates an air of exclusivity and instills ownership and empowerment in its members . The problem with a lot of large communities—whether they are online or off-line is that the bigger they are the more chance a member has of getting lost in the mix. If a new member has to make a connection with an existing member to join the movement, then his or her membership already starts with an established relationship—a connection to the passion of the group.
  11. 12. EMPOWERING PEOPLE WITH KNOWLEDGE Passionate fans of a business want to know everything about the company and its industry. Knowledge is power, and people love to let other people in on the “ inside scoop .” Companies are often reluctant to expose weaknesses, but customers already know that companies are not perfect. For business leaders, one challenge is to admit mistakes to the public and apologize, showing the human face of the organization.
  12. 13. SHARING OWNERSHIP Shared ownership must be integrated into the foundation of the movement from its beginning . Even creating a barrier of entry encourages shared ownership because later on those people who have been given entry will be inviting others who are just as passionate and willing to share the company’s success. Companies must also become fans of their fans. Companies that value their fans also praise, support, and admire them. Sending love to fans generates more love from the fans to the company. It is cyclical, which means it is sustainable.
  13. 14. DISCOVERING POWERFUL IDENTITIES Identity cannot be invented; a company needs to examine the original stories of how and why it was formed and re-ignite the original passions that drove the founders. When a company finds the spirit that makes it what it is, and lets its identity reflect the spirit transparently, the company becomes unique, different from competitors, and separates itself from all the marketing noise in the industry.
  14. 15. EXISTING BOTH ONLINE AND OFF-LINE Many companies are overly focused on the tactics of social media and word-of-mouth marketing that they jump in too soon and quickly get mired in the technical details. Technology companies are pushing online solutions so hard that many businesses are implementing online efforts without a plan, just to be connected and have an online presence. Businesses need to engage people first. After the company determines how its customers, employees, and advocates communicate and connect with each other, then determining which tools and tactics to use is a simple matter. The company does not need to guess which media or method to employ.
  15. 16. MAKING ADVOCATES FEEL LIKE ROCK STARS Making customers, employees, and advocates “ feel like rock stars ” is a factor that complements the barrier of entry to a movement. When a person applies to become part of a movement and is accepted, it is an acknowledgement from the company showing the person that he or she is a kindred spirit and is trusted with the company’s success.
  16. 17. GETTING RESULTS A movement is not a movement unless the company moves towards its goals in a significant way. At the beginning of the process, a company must define its goals and ask itself what success should look like. Success is not always measured in sales, but they are an important factor. Movements garner a variety of results, like firing off a spark in a company’s employees, energizing the sales force, having fans stifle PR nightmares before the company even has time to react, getting help from fans to co-create new products and services, and similar advantages.
  17. 18. GETTING RESULTS Movements fight injustices in the world. For some movements, it is easy to detect the injustice it fights; for others, the injustice lies deep behind the members’ passions, but it is there. Companies need to determine what injustices are being fought with their products and services. After that has been determined, a company needs to cling to the injustices as guiding lights that show the company its purpose. Movements move toward a goal that transcends putting money in the company coffers. Movements change lives on several levels, and there is no reason why companies cannot change their customers’ lives for the better.
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