“We aren’t in Kansas anymore, we’re in Greenville. (Part 1)

Today’s post is from @mackcollier. We were so lucky to have him attend and agree to blog from the 2010 4th Annual Brains on Fire FIRE Sesssions. What a treat to finally meet him in person. Photos from this post are via Flickr via hyku’s photostream (our super cool and very talented friend Josh Hallett). More photos to come from our very own Justin Gammon. So enjoy:

And being in Greenville on this glorious day means being at Brains on Fire’s FIRE sessions.  This is an event, actually I think it would be more appropriate to call it an experience.  I was beyond thrilled to be invited by Robbin to attend and blog the event, and to say it didn’t disappoint would be an understatement.

The day started out with the Brains on Fire serenading us to David Bowie’s Changes.  I’m not sure what surprised me more, that Robbin was air-playing a saxophone, or that we were a couple of hours into the day before I first heard the term ‘social media’.  Both were very pleasant surprises!

The schedule got started with BOF’s own Geno Church telling us a bit about some of the work BOF has done.  One thread that seemed to run through each case study (and this is a big reason why I love BOF) is finding the people that are passionate about the message you want to spread, empower them to spread that message then get out of their way.

Geno told the story of the Rage Against the Haze movement that was created to help combat teen smoking in South Carolina.  Teens that were passionate about their community and stopping teen smoking were empowered to lead the charge for this movement.  Geno admitted that giving control away to teens was a bit scary, but when the teens realized they were being empowered, they took ownership of the movement.

The results?  The state of South Carolina saw a drop in teenage smoking from 36% to 19% within 3 years of launching Rage Against the Haze.

Next up was the always-inspiring Fiskateers story.  Geno talked about how BOF worked with Fiskars to do initial research to figure out who the company’s market was.  These findings led them to realize that Fiskars market was younger than Fiskars thought, and they were more active online.  BOF found that many of Fiskars’ existing customers were active online, and they weren’t talking about the tool (Fiskars scissors) but rather what the tool allowed them to do (scrapbooking).

But what Fiskars and BOF also discovered was that there wasn’t really a positive place online that ‘regular’ scrapbookers could come together and support each other.  In fact, there were some scrapbookers that were abusive to others and identified themselves as ‘Scrap Bitches’.

So first, they worked to reframe the conversation from being about Fiskars products, to the experience that customers have by using the products. Then, they looked to create that supportive and nurturing place where scrapbookers could form a community.  Enter a blog and before you know it, we have a Fiskateers movement on our hands.

You’ve likely heard of the Fiskateers movement so I won’t spend a lot of time rehashing what Geno shared about it.  But I did note two key takeaways about the success of the movement.  First, Geno shared that Fiskars saw a 600% increase in brand mentions of ‘Fiskars’.  Still, I thought this stat was more interesting: Stores that have hosted at least one Fiskateer have enjoyed THREE FOLD increase in sales.  That tells me that Fiskars has people in place that are passionate about the products and more importantly, what the products allow them to do.  I believe Geno also made the point that when looking for lead Fiskateers for their blog, they weren’t interested in good writers as much as they were looking for customers that were passionate.  Love that.

Key takeaway from Geno’s session?  Find messages about your brand that resonate with the people you are trying to reach, then empower those people to not only help shape that message, but to spread it.  Doing so gives them ownership, which only intensifies their natural passion and enthusiasm for the message and idea that you want to spread.  Yeah, it’s kinda scary to give up control, but putting an idea in the hands of the people that want to see it succeed beats having an idea that no one cares about, right?

My head is already hurting from all this smartitude, and we are barely 90 mins into the day.  I’ll share more wholesome goodness from the #firesessions in the next post!

Another big thanks to @mackcollier and Josh Hallet (@hyku) for pushing out some awesome content from the FIRE Sessions! More fiery goodness to come soon!

  • http://www.graphics-now.com David Taylor

    “my head is already hurting from all this smartitude” Smartitude is my newest – favorite word and perfectly describes why i subscribe to the BOF blog. To get a daily dose of smartitude.

  • Pingback: MackCollier (Mack Collier)

  • http://www.lisapetrilli.com/ Lisa Petrilli


    This is such a wonderful summary of Geno’s presentation, which in and of itself was captivating.

    I wanted to share that what really stood out to me when Geno was talking about passion was…

    * That he specifically said they were looking for it *instead* of influence, because influence can be made but passion can’t

    * How he shared that even though some of the students leading the Rage Against the Haze Movement had the passion, they were scared about being so public in their role. It was interesting to hear him say that not only was the company scared to turn over the keys to the enthusiasts, but the role of enthusiast is new to many people and they’re not always sure how to play that role. Helping those students get to the point where they felt comfortable with their own empowerment was a lot of hard work and a huge accomplishment for BOF, and might be for other companies as well.

    It was also helpful to have a real-world example of the importance of taking the “conversation” to where your audience/customers are – as Geno shared that rather than create Rage Against the Haze events they had to go to where “their (high schoolers) party was” – which was Friday night football games.

    Finally, I loved Geno’s comment about how with movements you’re not creating a “fan community” you’re creating a “BFF community.” That, alone, spoke volumes to me!

    Can’t wait to read your next post… :)


  • http://www.mackcollier.com Mack Collier

    Hi Lisa! I loved Geno’s point about influence versus passion as well because that is SO dead-on. So many companies are trying to create ‘outreach’ programs that target ‘influential’ bloggers/social media types, when the REAL people they need to be focusing on are the people that have a passion for the message they want to spread. I have 20,000 followers on Twitter, but if I have no enthusiasm for spreading a particular message to those 20,000 followers, it’s not going to happen.

    But if you take someone with just 500 followers that has a passion and desire to spread your message, they will not only spread that message, but they will take ownership of making sure that the message spreads. They will be the people that will CARRY that message to you, they won’t just spread it. Think about how many times you have evangelized SOB Con after attending the event this year. Hell think about how both of us are evangelizing the FIRE Sessions to others. It’s not that we are saying ‘Yeah, that was a cool event!’ (spreading the message), it’s that we are telling others ‘Yeah that was a cool event, here’s what made it so cool…’ (carrying the message).

    That’s what companies should be looking for, the people that have the passion to carry a message, not just spread it. If you can find the people that have the passion to carry your message, then you win.

  • http://www.thetrainingfactor.com/blog Jonathan Saar

    I really have no comment except that I wish I was there. I follow what the Brains on Fire team does and I have a great deal of respect for the success stories. Their path is one I try to emulate..passion first and the bottom line will come. Events should not be a brief taste in one’s mouth that is quickly replaced by the next meal. If there is enough energy and taste from the event then it will be something you talk about well after the conclusion. Have fun you guys! :)

  • http://brainsonfire.com Robbin

    Mack + LIsa, those really are some smart comments. (smiling) I love the conversation. Jonathan, next year you’ll come — right?

  • http://www.mackcollier.com Mack Collier

    Robbin, why don’t we get you and Lisa to join Jonathan, Geno and I at the #optsum in Dallas in a few weeks? We can continue this conversation there ;)

  • http://brainsonfire.com Robbin

    Count me in. Let’s have some fun in Texas!

  • http://www.fiskateers.com Angela Daniels, Lead Fiskateer

    Great summary of what looks like another fabulous FIRE sessions with the inspirational BOF crew. If we Lead Fiskateers weren’t busy spreading the Fiskars love at a big crafting convention in Chicago last week, you can bet we would have been there in an orange cheering section. It would have been worth the price of admission just to see Robbin rocking out on the sax and hearing our Shannon sing (?!!?).

    Fiskateer #009

    P.S. It was a a lucky bonus for Geno that he found passionate Lead Fiskateers who can ALSO write a witty blog post or two, if I do say so myself ;)

  • http://www.brainsonfire.com/blog/ Geno

    Ang… we’re very lucky to have you guys. You guys are so busy and everywhere… and I’m pretty jealous of your recent wave of engagement on your blog postings. 11, 22, 49, 87 comments in the past week. Damn!

  • Pingback: Internet Marketing: Agency vs. In House via @AlterImaging

  • Pingback: Brains On Fire Blog » Blog Archive » Alone together.

  • Pingback: Alone together. | 香港新媒體協會