Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable,

Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements

Develop and harness a powerful, sustainable word-of-mouth movement How did the 360-year-old scissor company, Fiskars, double its profit in key markets just by realizing its customers had already formed a community of avid scrapbookers? How is Best Buy planning to dominate the musical instruments market? By understanding the Brains on Fire model of tapping movements and stepping away from the old-school marketing “campaign” mentality. Brains on Fire offers original, practical and ac

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2 thoughts on “Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, ”

  1. Review by Yanik Silver for Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements
    I’m not sure where I stumbled onto Brains on Fire blog – but I’m glad I found it. Brains on Fire has some really awesome stuff when it comes to creating movements for your customers, advocates and zealots. I’ve marked up my copy with action points to take to several of my businesses ranging from publishing to adventure travel. They’ve done a superb job of breaking down the 10 elements that go into the mix for creating movements and tight communities.

    With traditional media having less impact it may be time for marketers to stop defaulting to the yo-yo of advertising campaigns and instead really look to “ignite” a word-of-mouth movement. Some of the advice here really hits home for the conversations that are taking place around your business or brand driven from the bottom-up.

    The Brains on Fire crew of Phillips, Cordell, Church and Jones hand you 10 rules for how they’ve engineered self-sustaining and extremely passionate (and successful) movements like the Fiskateers and Rage against the Haze for anti-smoking in South Carolina. Those are the two you hear the most about in the book and both are worthy of case studies by themselves. Fiskateers took a 360-year old company that makes scissors and helped double their profits by tapping into advocates in key markets. If you read this book with an open mind you might just see some significant changes to make in your marketing and business.

    This goes nicely with Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon and True Believer by Eric Hoffer if you really want to get deep into creating zealots around your movement.

  2. Review by John Warner for Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements
    The best way to share what I found valuable in Brains on Fire is to share the notes I took that resonated with me as I thought about my company, InnoVenture LLC.

    A movement is based on the passion of customers that already exists. InnoVenture is about helping creative, tenacious people share their passion to attract the customers, capital, talent and technology they need to succeed. We need to be clearer about that.

    A question that I kept coming back to as I read the book was what do people who participate in InnoVenture call themselves. Ambassadors of Fiskars scissors call themselves Fiskateers. Those who take care of public spaces in Charleston are Park Angels. Students in an anti-smoking movement are Viralmentalists. Jim Cockman, a mentor of mine and of the Brains on Fire team, beat into my head that “words create mental images.” Naming the animals is a powerful part of creation.

    How people identify themselves is a very important question. Currently InnoVenture calls key participants “Champions” and Colleagues” in our model, Champions-Colleagues-Community, which has lots of similarities to word-of-mouth movements described in the book. But do the people who participate in InnoVenture call themselves Champions inside their organizations? Do others in their organizations call them Champions, as in “Philip is a champion of the renewable energy market”? We have avoided the word “entrepreneur” because it is so closely associated with start-ups and people in big organizations often don’t see themselves as “entrepreneurs”. Lately I have begun talking about “creatives”, as in those who are in the creative class. I’m not sure the people we work with call themselves creatives either. Is there something better along the line of Fiskateers or Park Angels we can come up with? Maybe you can suggest something.

    One of the discussions in the book that got my brain on fire was about training sessions for the leaders of the movement. Could InnoVenture organize training sessions for Champions in the organizations we work with to empower them to be successful? We took a step towards this this summer whne we began talking to our largest anchors about a “Council of Champions”. Perhaps people self-select to attend a couple of Saturdays to explore how to launch new InnoVentures inside large organizations or in independent companies to “Create the Future”. Perhaps by completing this training you become something like a “Master Champion”, and you are now empowered to help select the Champions that present at the annual InnoVenture Southeast Conference and to train other Champions in your organization. This could be very powerful, and something we definitely will put some more thought into.

    We have already begun asking ourselves how to reach out to more Champions and Colleagues in major organizations we work with, and another big idea in the book is to go where the party already is. For example, I have had an ongoing conversation with a leader at Clemson about helping individual faculty members grow their research enterprises. Rather than trying to contact individual faculty one-on-one, how do we go to where groups of faculty are already gathering, especially if they are already discussing their research.

    One curious thing is that a very powerful idea is tucked into the back of the book almost as an after thought: “Movements fight an injustice in the world.” While it is fine to appeal to peoples’ passions, I have found over my career that appealing to peoples’ frustrations and fears taps into much more powerful emotions. This is such a powerful idea, I am surprised it is not more prominent in the book. I would love to see this fleshed out more.

    I know what InnoVenture struggles against, and we need to be bolder in addressing it head on. Most of the large organizations we work with are data-driven, operationally excellent organizations. This is their greatest strength, and it is their greatest weakness. It can be very difficult for people following their informed intuition to survive in this culture. Nurturing these creative people is vital to the large organizations we work with because without them these organizations likely will become obsolete and wither away. InnoVenture struggles against the inertia of the status quo in major organizations and in our community at large which smothers new ideas before they have the chance to set their roots and grow.

    Brains on Fire is an excellent book which is a fun and quick read. I highly recommend the book and am sure it will light your brain on fire about how its lessons apply to your organization like it did mine.

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