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Jackie Huba and The Passion Conversation

I’m honored to have Jackie Huba feature THE PASSION CONVERSATION on the Church of the Customer blog today. We’ve known each other for about 10 years, that’s when she published CREATING CUSTOMER EVANGELISTS. Her latest book shares customer loyalty lessons from mega pop star, Lady Gaga.

Jackie was one of the first people to the read THE PASSION CONVERSATION and was gracious enough to give us this blurb recommendation:

“Love is the missing ingredient in developing loyalty with customers. In THE PASSION CONVERSATION, the smart folks at Brains on Fire expertly explain how to develop deeper connections with customers who in turn sing your praises to everyone they know.” — Jackie Huba

On her blog today, Jackie asks me to go a little on some of the ideas from the book. One question she asked had me share a story I know from Whole Foods Market early days…

The Whole Foods Market we know today began in 1980. That’s when John Mackey and few friends opened up a health food store. At the time, the founders didn’t have dreams of building a great brand. Instead, they had dreams of selling healthy food to people. That was their passion. However, a year after the first Whole Foods Market store opened a massive flood in Austin, TX wrecked the store.

The founders thought all was lost.

During the long cleanup process something special happened. Customers came to help cleanup. It was at that point the founders of Whole Foods knew they were onto something special. When their customers took time out of their personal lives to assist in cleaning up all the mud and debris, the founders realized they had created something far more than a grocery store. They had fostered a passionate community of people.

This story has become Whole Foods Market folklore. I’m sure other successful businesses have a similar story of a specific moment in time when the founders realized they were onto to something special. If you do not know the story of why your business was founded and when it knew it truly connected with customers, then I suggest you find that story. Once you find it, you’re certain to tap into a passion conversation. *** READ MORE ***

Mack Collier features The Passion Conversation

Mack Collier and I go back years. We’ve both been blogging long before blogging become trendy. (Anyone here remember his MoBlogsMoProblems blogspot URL? How about his on-going ranking of the Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs? I certainly do.)

Mack is a long-time ambassador for encouraging businesses to foster brand ambassadors. Heck, he’s written a how-to book on designing social media strategies to tap into the power of brand ambassadors. He stays busy consulting, speaking, and has been gracious enough to feature THE PASSION CONVERSATION book on his blog today.

His post is a Q&A we did and Mack came out swinging hard with questions. One of his questions wanted to know why more brands don’t create ambassador programs. My short answer included…

Showing love to customers in order to receive love from customers is messy work. It ain’t check the box and it’s done. It’s much more than that.

You have to treat brand ambassadors as individuals and not as customer segments. You have to be willing to let go of rigid brand guardrails and allow the ambassadors to speak in their voice and say the things they want to say in the ways they want to say them. You have to be ready to respond swiftly to the wants and needs of ambassadors. You also have to find ways to measure success because whatever results you deem as success takes time to happen.

Loving customers over the long haul ain’t easy. It’s messy work. Not enough brands are willing to get that messy for something that takes time and isn’t easy to measure financially.”

You can read more of Mack’s hard-hitting questions and my volley of responses on his blog. Please join us.

Book Bites from The Passion Conversation

Denise Lee Yohn and I go back a few years. We first connected online through our blogs and then our paths crossed at a conference. We talked marketing, branding, and business books then and today, we do the same.

Denise keeps a top-notch marketing blog sharing lots of insights into designing better brands and delivering better customer experiences. Early next year Jossey Bass is publishing Denise’s first book, What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest.

Today she is sharing brand book bites from THE PASSION CONVERSATION and a podcast discussion we had about core concepts from the book.

Her post today totally nails the book’s major takeaway:

Authenticity is such an over-used word these days but it epitomizes all the points The Passion Conversation. The authors write from a genuine place of love for what they do and they encourage that quality in others: “Life is better when you embrace loving your customers and employees, and supporting their passions…Life is better when you move from the marketing business to the business of inspiring people.”

Don’t stop with reading the summation, spend a few minutes and listen to our podcast discussion. It’ll serve as a primer on what a passion conversation is and where to start finding it. *** LISTEN NOW ***

The Marketing Spot meets The Passion Conversation

Jay Ehret is The Dean of Marketing Know-How at The Marketing Spot. He’s been helping small businesses look bigger for years. Plus, he’s been sharing marketing knowledge nuggets online way before it was cool to do so.

I’m honored he chose to be a part of The Passion Conversation online book tour. Jay asked great questions. One question was about… can a business just decide to start loving its customer in order to benefit from the passion conversation. To that, I replied with this:

”In order for a business to have customers fall in love with the business, the business must first fall in love with its customers. A business can’t just turn on the love switch. That’s convenient love and not unfailing love. In the book we quote a well-known bible verse from 1 Corinthians that talks about how love is patient, kind, not boastful or proud, is always hopeful, and endures through good times and bad. This is love you can’t fake.” ** READ MORE **


photo credit: Kerry Woo

Since THE PASSION CONVERSATION has been published, we authors have been busy spreading the gospel at conferences and company get-togethers about how loving your customers can spark a long-lasting romance full of meaningful conversations.

Next week the spreading of the gospel will be shared from five bloggers I deeply respect. It’s an old-fashioned, can I say really that?, business blog book tour kicking off on Monday, Oct. 21. I hope you’ll join us. Here’s the lineup:

Jay Ehret | Mon. Oct 21

Denise Lee Yohn | Tues. Oct 22

Mack Collier | Wed. Oct. 23

Jackie Huba | Thurs. Oct. 24

Paul Williams | Fri. Oct. 25

Early on in the writing of THE PASSION CONVERSATION we stumbled upon a long-forgotten Harvard Business Review article titled, “How Word-of-Mouth Advertising Works.” It was published in 1966 and we couldn’t help but think how much further along the marketing world would be if it had heeded the article’s advice.

Ernest Dichter wrote the article. Dichter, who you ask?

ERNEST DICHTER is a name every marketer should know. He was an Austrian-born psychologist who spent a lifetime studying human motivations and applying it to marketing brands. He’s known as the father of motivational research and credited with coining the term, focus group.

Dichter’s pioneering research techniques and analysis changed the way that giants like Chrysler, Procter & Gamble, Exxon, General Mills, and DuPont sold products to consumers. His advice to the prestigious clients was essentially to humanize the brand in order to connect better with people. Psychobabble it wasn’t. It was indispensable marketing advice then, today, and tomorrow, no doubt.

Let’s revisit Ernest Dichter’s seminal (yet slept-upon) Harvard Business Review article from 1966 on Word-of-Mouth Advertising.

Steeped in his in-depth research on consumer motivations, Dichter’s article explained consumers reject advertising messages because they are “more a sales tool than information and guidance.” He goes on to explain consumers reject advertising claims because they feel “threatened” by the “cold commercialism” of advertising messages.

However, his research from the mid-1960s revealed. “When the consumer feels that the advertiser speaks to him as a friend … the consumer will relax and tend to accept the recommendation.”

Whoa! Where’d that knowledge go for the last half-century?

Imagine how much further along we’d be if more marketers in 1966 had taken note of Dichter’s smart findings on the importance of humanizing brands.

In this article, Dichter goes deep into in reviewing the psychology of word of mouth recommendations by outlining the motivations for why people talk about a product/service. He also lists the motivations for why people listen to and act on a recommendation. Keep in mind, the following marketing perspective is nearly 50 years old. Reading it now feels like we’re going back to the future of marketing.

Reasons Why People Talk

Dicther’s research revealed that a person will talk about a brand if he “gets something out of it.” Meaning, the talker receives self-satisfaction from mentioning a product or service to someone. In particular, Dicther outlines four motivations for why people talk about a brand.

1. Personal Experience
First-hand involvement with a product will spark someone to talk because “… it is talk about the product which confirms for the speaker his ownership and joy in the product, or his discovery of it.”

2. Self-Confirmation
Dichter details eight types of self-confirmation people seek through talking about products and services, including: “gaining attention,” “showing connoisseurship,”having inside information,” and “spreading the gospel [by] converting the listener to use the product.”

3. Being Nice
Here the prevailing attitude is the need and intent to help, to share with the other person enthusiasm in, and benefits of, things enjoyed. Products serve mainly as instruments which help to express sentiments of neighborliness, care, friendship, and love.”

4. Influenced by Advertising
Since it is difficult for consumers to avoid exposure to advertising, many people have turned to accepting it for its independent attraction and entertainment value. Thus entertainment value and originality of ads have become topics of talk.”

Reasons Why People Listen

In Dichter’s study, he analyzed nearly 500 instances of purchases made resulting from word of mouth conversations. His analysis found that people determine whether to listen or ignore brand-related word of mouth conversations based upon if (a) “the person who recommends is interested in him and his well-being” and (b) “that the speaker’s experience with and knowledge about the product are convincing.”

Dichter dug deeper to identify speaker types who have the greatest influence in making a word of mouth recommendation click with the listener. The most influential of these speakers are:

1. Industry Experts
Under this header are those persons who, on the basis of their training and/or work, appear to be closer to the product and more knowing about it than the average consumer.”

2. Celebrities
Included are movie, theater, TV, and radio personalities whose ‘authority’ is attributed to prominence in show business.”

3. Knowledgeable Passionate Fans
The connoisseur may know as much or more about the product and its background than the expert, but he does not make his living in connection with it; he merely enjoys it and his know-how about it.”

4. Closest Ties
What is meant here is the influence of mother, father, big brother or sister, husband wife, boyfriend or girlfriend which expresses itself not necessarily by means of verbal communication, but by the speaker’s actions.”

Reasons Why People Act on Word of Mouth Recommendations

Dichter writes about the critical factor of having an “A-ha” experience for people to act on a word of mouth recommendation. His analysis explains how mass advertising fails to effectively produce “A-ha” word of mouth experiences.

Instead, Dichter reasons that a “… recommender is often much more capable of establishing … a dialogue of conviction … [leading to an] A-ha experience” than is traditional advertising.

According to Ernest Dichter, four factors make word of mouth marketing more effective than traditional advertising. These four factors are:

1. Authentic Passion
The real meaning of a product and of its effect to the user is revealed not only through the choice of the speaker’s words, but also through the discharge of emotions in inflection, face, and body expressions, and gestures.”

2. Genuine Compassion
That the speaker is genuinely concerned with the listener’s well-being or has his advantage at heart becomes eminently believable in cases in which the recommendation is geared to, and takes into account, the individual needs or special circumstances of the listener.”

3. Actual Proof
Tangible evidence” that a product works, as seen in real life, “…serves to strengthen the impact … of a recommendation in cases in which personal intention or product relationship are not sufficiently convincing in themselves.”

4. Semblance of Secrecy
When the speaker displays a “reluctance to divulge the source or brand name of a product” it can serve as sign to the listener that the product is so uniquely desirable the speaker doesn’t the want masses to know about this secret brand. “This refers to the well-known psychological phenomenon that the harder it is to get a desired object, the more desirable it becomes.”

It’s amazing this article is nearly 50 years old. So much of Dichter’s word of mouth marketing analysis rings true today. As mentioned earlier, imagine how much further along we’d be if more marketers in 1966 had taken note of Dichter’s smart findings on the importance of humanizing brands to spark word of mouth marketing conversations.

SOURCE: Dichter, Ernest (1966), “How Word-of-Mouth Advertising Works,” Harvard Business Review, 44 (November/December), 147–66.


In THE PASSION CONVERSATION book we boldly proclaim:

If you think you are in the marketing business, think again. You’re in the people business, and the just-published THE PASSION CONVERSATION book will teach you how to get people to fall passionately and madly in love with your organization or cause.

Yes, we mash-up the latest in wonky academic research. But the practical, real-world stories we share shows how any business can spark long-lasting word of mouth. You’ll learn how loving your customers results in not just building a thriving community, but also driving meaningful conversations, ultimately impacting the financial success of a business.

To help spread the word about the book, I’ve outlined eight ways you can help.

1. Read the Manifesto.

ChangeThis has published a manifesto from THE PASSION CONVERSATION. Manifesto is the wrong name. It’s more a (hu)manifesto since we urge you to get meaningfully involved in the lives of your customers in order to profit from the passion conversation. Read this (hu)manifesto to better understand the Brains on Fire perspective on word of mouth marketing.

2. Buy it.

You’ve got your favorite bookseller. Buy it from them. If you don’t have a favorite bookseller, you’ll have a hard time finding a better deal than 800ceoread is offering. (Plus, 800ceoread is offering a very limited edition Double Shot of Love box set of the first Brains on Fire book and our second one.)

3. Read it.

A business book is less a book and more a collection of ideas. As an avid business book reader, I hope to find at least five killer ideas inside the pages that are worthy of inspiring action. I’m certain you’ll find at least five killer ideas within the pages of THE PASSION CONVERSATION to spark thinking and acting.

4. Review it.

No matter if you loved it or loathed it, we hope you review it on your blog, on Amazon, on whatever wherever… dig?

5. Hashtag it.

#ThePassionConversation. We’d be honored to see you share something from the book online using the #ThePassionConversation hashtag.

6. Buy Bulk Copies. Get a Keynote Presentation.

No need to be selfish. Buy a few copies and share with your team at work. If your business has the means and the gumption to buy 200+ copies (and cover travel costs), one of the authors will deliver an amazing keynote talk. If interested, act swift because this deal will not last long. We only have a limited number of speaking dates available. (Client work always comes first.) So really… be super swift if you are interested and contact Mary Susan Henderson today at 864.676.9663.

7. Attend the Webinar on Sep. 19.

On Thursday, Sep. 19th at 2:00PM (central) I’ll be giving a webinar on THE PASSION CONVERSATION. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) is hosting the free event. All ya gotta do is REGISTER online. Very simple. Very easy.

8. Join our ShinDig on Oct. 8.

We’re doing an online video book release hootenanny on Oct. 8 at 6:00pm eastern. Shindig is hosting this super cool video chat for us. We’ll be sharing concepts and stories from THE PASSION CONVERSATION in a live setting where you can join us through your video cam. It’s a really way for us to have a more personal and visual connection. Please join us by registering.

The following post is inspired from the book I co-authored, THE PASSION CONVERSATION. The book shares how to better understand, spark and sustain word of mouth marketing conversations. This post shares an idea detailed in the book.

Earlier I shared the idea of reframing your marketing perspective to be in the people business rather than be in whatever business you think you’re in. Let me be more direct:

If you do not love people,
get out of the marketing business.

Yep. I said it, you read it. Get out of marketing if you don’t love people.

This seemingly non-businessy concept of loving people to create a more successful and talkable business is woven throughout the pages of THE PASSION CONVERSATION.

We’re not saying you have be the kind of charismatic people person who makes friends with total strangers in elevators, but you do have to believe in and see the good in others. You have to believe this wonderful Earth of ours is full of amazing, beautiful people you’d love to know better. You should feel honored to spend time with your customers, not see them as a bother. You should feel driven to get to know them as people, not demographics or target markets.

At our marketing agency, Brains on Fire, we deal with marketing problems every day. Which means, we deal with people problems every day. Or perhaps a better way to say it is: We deal with people opportunities every day. Our clients look to us to help them solve their people opportunities.

In THE PASSION CONVERSATION book, we share four love stories of clients we’ve had the pleasure to help achieve greater success. Every solution these courageous companies brought to life to impact their business was driven by the belief that it’s about people connecting with people that makes a difference.

Anytime Fitness came to us with their problem:
 Not enough people are exercising at their gyms. We helped them create a community that led to a movement that inspired life-changing results for not only gym members but also the company culture at Anytime Fitness.

DeVry University used our help to connect with its people (in their case, students) on 90 campuses and in over 70,000 homes. We helped them design a platform to connect students with students that, in many ways, redefines what “social media” means.

The National Center for Family Literacy sought our guidance because not enough people understand that literacy goes way beyond reading and writing. Together, we created a place where teachers & students and parents & children can learn together to improve their future.

And, Foundations Recovery Network turned to us to help eliminate the stigma people associate with addiction.

Those are very evident and wonderful people opportunities. However, none of these organizations would have found success if they didn’t have love for people by reframing their business as being in the people business.

So, if you are ready to be in the people business—if you are ready to spark meaningful passionate conversations and find your advocates—you must LOVE PEOPLE.

People are amazing…

They form tribes.
They create communities and spark social change.
They make great discoveries.
They struggle.
They fall in love.
They are social and emotional.
They love to help others.
They want to be a part of something bigger than their own lives.
They want to change the world.

As marketers, we’d be crazy not to tap into those strong desires. Connecting people through shared passions can lead to great things. That people connection theme is explored deeply in THE PASSION CONVERSATION.

The following post is inspired from the book I co-authored, THE PASSION CONVERSATION. The book shares how to better understand, spark and sustain word of mouth marketing conversations. This post shares an idea detailed in the book.

In THE PASSION CONVERSATION we try our best to help you unlearn your current marketing mindset by convincing you it’s more exciting to be in the people business rather than whatever business you think you’re in.

During my days as a marketing manager at Starbucks it was drilled into our psyche to not think of Starbucks as being in the coffee business. At every turn, senior Starbucks executives would remind us that Starbucks isn’t in the coffee business serving people but rather… Starbucks is in the people business serving coffee. Big difference.

We explore this people-first mindset in THE PASSION CONVERSATION by reframing how all marketing problems are actually people problems in disguise.

Companies face all sorts of marketing problems. If a business would reframe those issues as people problems, perspective and focus would change dramatically.

Think about it.

A company suffers from sluggish sales growth because not enough people are buying. A business experiences low retention rates because not enough people are buying repeatedly. A brand reeling from poorly conceived products and programs doesn’t have enough people interested.

An organization dealing with low engagement hasn’t been able to make its cause relatable to enough people. A business hurting from unsatisfactory customer service must confront the problem of too many unhappy people.

If every marketing problem is a people problem, then every marketing solution must be people-based. The reasons are obvious:

  • People buy products and use services.
  • People make an unknown brand known.
  • People work together to turn causes into crusades.
  • People form communities to talk and share.
  • People fuel the engine of business.
  • People have the mouths word of mouth refers to.
  • Marketers wanting to spark and sustain conversations with customers must not lose sight that:

    No Passion. No Conversation.

    The following post is inspired from the book I co-authored, THE PASSION CONVERSATION. The book shares how to better understand, spark and sustain word of mouth marketing conversations. This post shares an idea detailed in the book.

    Making word of mouth happen is a
    problem of know-how, not knowledge.

    The knowledge of what gets customers talking exists. However, the know-how to apply that knowledge is missing.

    A knowing-doing gap exists about how to make word of mouth happen with both marketing academics and marketing practitioners. Marketing academics know, but they do not do. Marketing practitioners do, but do not necessarily know.

    Lots of great academic research exists to explain the science behind word of mouth marketing. We now have available a large amount of research on why people share. This base of knowledge is super smart. However, it isn’t readily accessible or easily understandable to marketers.

    Marketers today are confusing hindsight with foresight and leaving out the insight as they develop word of mouth activities.

    Businesses are too fixated on mimicking best practices from other companies to become their company’s next practice. In other words, they’ve fallen victim to check-the-box marketing. Must get on Pinterest. CHECK. Must use Facebook to engage with customers. CHECK. Must tweet fast and furious. CHECK.

    Marketers are putting the WHAT before the WHY as they execute the HOW. They want to spark word of mouth with all their check-the-box marketing activities, but these conversations are not happening because of the missing ingredient — PASSION.

    In THE PASSION CONVERSATION we share how to apply the science behind word of mouth marketing using the artistic strokes from a marketer’s strategic brushes.