I was trying to remember the very first day we posted on this site. So I took a trip down to memory land and found this post from April 23, 2005. What I am about to share wasn’t the first post. It was the second, but I love it and we live it and it’s worth repeating:
Want to know what we love about people with their Brains on Fire?
When you’re excited and inspired, fear disappears.
– Greg Cordell
Yup. That tiny little post still rings true today. When you’re fueled with passion, excitment and inspiration, FEAR disappears.
I remember when I was first approached about the idea of a Brains on Fire blog (remember it was 2005 now — don’t judge). My first reaction was “Um, why? Tell me what and why again?”
I’m glad that Geno and Spike were so passionate about pushing the idea of us thinking out loud forward. I’m glad we did it in spite of my initial fears. So many things we do that are worth doing, we do because of passion. We ask our clients to go forward and trust passion every single day. And we don’t take their courage lightly.
So. How will you push yourself with passion today? How are you going to make this day a fearless one?
Come on. Share.
I feel like I need to re-introduce myself. It’s been over eight weeks since I’ve written here! I’ve missed you, but I’ve also really enjoyed seeing more voices from the Brains on Fire tribe think out loud on the blog.
I’ve been busy with my day job and also co-authoring (along with John Moore, Geno Church and Greg Cordell) our next book. It’s called The Passion Conversation and we’re pretty jazzed about it.
Especially now that it’s almost done!
As we went about crafting this new book, we’ve learned a lot.
A whole lot.
So I thought I would take a few minutes and share a few of the lessons we learned while writing.
1. Recording conversations is an eye-opening exercise. We recorded a lot of conversations as we wrote this book. You learn a lot about the things you needlessly repeat. Um. But more than that, you listen better when you’re listening to what you recorded. Because you’re not talking. I know this seems so obvious, but you really can’t listen all that well if you’re talking. So when you are listening, just listen. I tried really hard to say as few words as possible and you’d be surprised how much insight you can gather when you do that. A great writer (can’t remember who) said this about doing interviews of any kind: Try your best to never talk. If there is a lull, just simply say to the person, “You should talk more often…”
2. If you have customers, call them often just to talk. Or not talk. Just listen. This one needs no explanation.
3. Listen to your teammates often too. Listen to their stories. Interview them about what they are doing, what they’re learning. You’ll miss a lot of good things if you don’t do this.
4. If you have a big task in front of you, just start somewhere. You can’t do anything if you don’t get started.
5. Everyone should cut off their phones and spend three days and nights in a hotel by themselves and focus on just one thing. You’ll come out the other side a better person. I promise. I had an real AHA moment when I locked myself away in North Carolina for three days. I realized that in the grand scheme of things, even big daunting tasks (like producing a book) are small. That knowledge is so freeing. We had a lot more fun with this book than the last one and I think that simple knowledge was a big part of it. I can’t wait to see what you think about the Passion Explorations. Here’s a little sneak peek…
I really have missed you all so much. Stop in and comment and let me know what you’ve been up to! Your comments are such a gift.
In February, Wharton Marketing Professor Dr. Jonah Berger joined Brains on Fire for the 2013 F.I.R.E. Session.
Along with advance copies of his new book Contagious, Jonah shared his insights on what makes things go viral. If you’ve ever wondered why some things catch on, this was the presentation to demystify the mystery. Jonah’s talk was packed with interesting tidbits, including insights on “triggers,” the things that are linked in our mind. Just like “peanut butter is a mini-advertisement for jelly” and it’s hard to think “rum” without “coke,” triggers play a role in marketing, too. (If you’ve ever found yourself tempted to Facebook Rebecca Black’s “Friday” on a Friday, thank triggers!) Another key point from the talk focused on the role emotion plays in sharing. Different emotions influence how and when we share something. Sadness inspires less sharing, while anger and outrage inspire people to share by harnessing their desire to take action in the heat of the moment. Last but not least, Jonah explored storytelling. His advice was pretty simple: sneak your message into a story. (Great example: Dumb Ways to Die.)” [Read the full F.I.R.E. Session recap here.]
Contagious has received rave reviews from bookworms and inquiring minds around The Firesphere. I had firsthand experience with the concept of “contagiousness” during a recent trip to Ohio. The book’s bright orange cover prompted at least six strangers to stop me in the airport (one even snapped a photo!) and inquire about what I was reading.
Last week Robbin sat down with Jonah last week to ask him a few questions…
Robbin Phillips: In Contagious, you talk about the six ingredients that cause things to be talked about or shared: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value and Stories (the STEPPS). Which of the STEPPS fascinates you the most? If you weren’t a professor, and you could choose to be leading expert in one of the STEPPS, which would you choose?
Jonah Berger: Social Currency often has the most fun examples. Hidden bars, secret menus or $100 cheesesteaks. It’s also one of the most fundamental human motives. While it’s hard to see it in ourselves, it’s easy to see in others. People care about what others think about them. We want to look smart rather than dumb, cool rather than behind the times. And we talk about things that make us look that way. Being an expert in how to look cool to others would definitely be a fun job.
RP: What do you love most about your work and why?
JB: Getting the chance to put science to things I see in the world around me. People often wonder why a certain product became popular, why a particular baby name caught on, or why certain things go viral. My job is to study that; to try and understand the inner workings of the human mind. It’s like peering into the brain with a magnifying glass. It’s an awesome job!
RP: What or who inspires you and why?
JB: Passionate people. I’m always inspired by people who love what they do, working towards something they believe in and putting their all into it.
GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO SCROLL: Hello, reader. You made it to the end of the blog post. As a reward, you now have a chance to win a copy of Contagious for your bookshelf. Leave a comment below sharing a story about the last time a brand made YOU feel really good.
On Friday we’ll announce five lucky winners selected to receive a free copy of Jonah’s book.
This time last week Brains on Fire was welcoming kindred spirits and clients from around the country to Greenville to do some thinking, talking and celebrating at the 2013 FIRE Sessions. Heather Whaling, known to many in the social sphere as @prtini, was one of the kindred spirits on our guest list. We invited her to write a recap of key learnings from FIRE Sessions for those who were unable to attend. Happy reading (and reliving!) -Amy
When Brains on Fire reached out and asked me if I’d be interested in attending FIRE Sessions as a “social media correspondent” of sorts, I jumped at the chance. It was a no-brainer really: an opportunity to leave the chilly Midwest winter behind for a couple days in Greenville, South Carolina surrounded by some of the smartest word of mouth marketers around? Yes, please!
MIX + MINGLE
I began my Greenville adventure Monday night as the BOF crew welcomed early arrivals at The Lazy Goat Restaurant. Guests were treated to Mediterranean nibbles, cocktails and an evening of pre-event mingling. It was great to finally put real faces to the many people I had only known by name or Twitter handle for so long.
RISE + SHINE
After a good night’s sleep, FIRE Sessions kicked off bright and early at Genevieve’s on Tuesday. The room was packed with “kindred spirits” from near and far. (As one BOFer explained, that’s the Brains on Fire term for people who share their commitment to community building and authentic word of mouth marketing.) After a brief welcome from Brains on Fire Chief Inspiration Officer Greg Cordell, it was time to get down to business.
After a quick breakfast and a couple cups of coffee, the learning got underway with Jackie Huba’s ode to Lady Gaga, Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics. Jackie’s talk focused on how Lady Gaga has harnessed the massive power of her most engaged fans, the 1%. By letting her values become part of the message and making herself accessible to those who relate to what she stands for, Gaga has given a voice to her fans by helping them connect and create a community of Little Monsters. In the process, she has not only created a love connection, but a love transaction between herself and her community of loud and proud advocates. As for her Twitter following (nearly 34 million strong and growing every day…), it’s topped only by Justin Bieber.
Up next Brains on Fire’s very own Word of Mouth Inspiration Officer Geno Church took the stage (in an apron, no less) to share his thoughts and insights on how building community is a lot like baking chocolate chip cookies. Two major themes throughout the presentation revolved around the idea that no two communities are exactly alike—and in order to grow something truly remarkable, marketers can’t stand on the sidelines; they have to be willing to dig in and get their hands dirty. Geno also shared several community case studies from Brains on Fire clients including DeVry’s DriVen Class, Anytime Fitness’ Fitness Rebellion and The National Center for Family Litercay’s Wonderopolis. Not only were attendees treated to some great ideas, a handful of helpers passed out warm chocolate chip cookies to drive the message home. Yum!
After a morning of feeding our minds, it was time to feed our bellies. We headed across Main Street to Devereaux’s for a true taste of the south. (Along the way, we even met Greenville’s new city mascot, Joey the Mouse.) Our table spent as much time talking about the morning’s lessons as we did eating, and judging by the energy in the room, so did everyone else.
Wharton Marketing Professor Dr. Jonah Berger was ready to roll after lunch. Along with advance copies of his new book Contagious, Jonah shared his insights on what makes things go viral. If you’ve ever wondered why some things catch on, this was the presentation to demystify the mystery. Jonah’s talk was packed with interesting tidbits, including insights on “triggers,” the things that are linked in our mind. Just like “peanut butter is a mini-advertisement for jelly” and it’s hard to think “rum” without “coke,” triggers play a role in marketing, too. (If you’ve ever found yourself tempted to Facebook Rebecca Black’s “Friday” on a Friday, thank triggers!) Another key point from the talk focused on the role emotion plays in sharing. Different emotions influence how and when we share something. Sadness inspires less sharing, while anger and outrage inspire people to share by harnessing their desire to take action in the heat of the moment. Last but not least, Jonah explored storytelling. His advice was pretty simple: sneak your message into a story. (Great example: Dumb Ways to Die.)
Unfortunately, I had to hop a flight back to Columbus after Jonah’s presentation, so I wasn’t able to stick around for what was undoubtedly a great brainstorm for Love146’s Rob Morris, but I returned to Columbus (and cooler temperatures) energized and full of great ideas to share with my own team.
If you’re feeling extra inspired to share some of the lessons learned at the 2013 FIRE Sessions, here are my Top 10 Tweetable Takeaways. Just click “CLICK TO TWEET” to share them on Twitter.
Want to spread content? Focus on the message, not the messenger. – @j1berger CLICK TO TWEET
It’s easy to measure a “like.” Much harder to measure love for your company. But, it’s the love that’s really important. CLICK TO TWEET
If you’re going to walk with them, you have to talk with them. — @genochurch on the importance of getting to know customers CLICK TO TWEET
Give fans a name. There’s a difference between fans and Little Monsters. — @jackiehuba on lessons from Lady Gaga CLICK TO TWEET
A comment is a gift. Respect it with a response. CLICK TO TWEET
Like chocolate chip cookies, community comes in all shapes & sizes. Beautiful, no matter what it looks like. CLICK TO TWEET
“If it’s built to show, it’s built to grow” — @j1berger on the importance of observability CLICK TO TWEET
Your top 1% want to talk about you, but YOU need to give them something worth sharing. CLICK TO TWEET
It’s more important to have 1 million die-hard fans than 54 million likes. – Tony Carter, @LadyGaga’s manager CLICK TO TWEET
Companies that lead with their values outperform the market. CLICK TO TWEET
Whoa. The 2013 FIRE Sessions were more like the Firehose Sessions. We brought together a collection of kindred spirits, clients, and super smart speakers for a jam-packed day of learning and connecting.
What are the FIRE Sessions? Think marketing grad school complete with everyone doing keg stands of knowledge. (Seriously, keg stands of knowledge.)
Here’s what went down. We had Jackie Huba share her obsession for Lady Gaga’s marketing strategies to turn followers into fans. Our own Geno Church schooled us on how cookie cutter customer communities don’t cut it. Wharton Professor Jonah Berger gave a class on crafting contagious content. Rob Morris, co-founder and president of LOVE146, closed out the day by sharing his “in the trenches” advice for authentically and passionately sustaining a movement.
There was so much smart thinking for us all to digest. Expect a complete recap of the 2013 FIRE Sessions on this blog next week. Until then, here are 15 embers still glowing in my mental fireplace from yesterday’s FIRE Sessions …
#2 | Use Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle to forge emotional connections with customers by leading with the WHY behind what your business does.
#3 | To forge deep connections with your die hard brand fans (the 1%), give them a name and a shared symbol – ex. Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters & claw.
# 5 | Community is a way, not a place. Community rallies people around a cause/idea. Community is defined by customers who give a damn.
#6 | A brand community isn’t for every customer. It’s for the fervent ones, the freaky ones, the weird ones. The 1%ers.
#8 | Social Currency … are messages that make people feel smart, cool, and special spark word of mouth. ex: Please Don’t Tell in NYC
#9 | Triggers… design products/messages to be triggered by the environment in order to become talkable. ex: FRIDAY by Rebecca Black
#10 | Emotions… focus marketing messages on feelings more than function. ex: Google’s Parisian Love commercial
#11 | Public… products/messages/ideas that are easily viewed out in the open get talked about. ex: Movember
#12 | Practical Value… products/messages/ideas that are highly useful get discussed. ex: saving money coupons/tips get talked about
#13 | Stories… to spark word of mouth, wrap products/messages/ideas around a broader narrative. ex: Jared’s Subway story
#14 | Movements take Audacious people, Thorough thinking, Personal engagement, Tenacity, People Perspective, Collective Shout
#15 | Great marketing inspires passion from customers, donors, employees, and people. The prerequisite for passion is thoughtfulness from every angle.
FIRE Sessions attendee Michael Jantz (from 800-CEO-READ) sketch-noted the first two sessions of the day. Michael admits to being new to sketch-noting but his newness is chock-full of awesomeness. These are great Michael. Thanks for sharing and adding your voice to the FIRE.