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Finding Brand Love

It’s Valentine’s week and at Brains on Fire we’ve been talking about LOVE. As in… what it means for someone to fall in love with a brand or a cause.

Brands desperately want people to fall in love with them in hopes they become customers for life.

Simplistically speaking, life-long customers are more profitable than short-term customers. And, life-long customers are certain to spread more word of mouth to their friends and friends of friends about the goodness of business than short-term customers.

However, brands may be approaching finding love from the wrong end of the love chain.

Finding brand love isn’t about finding customers to love you. It’s about becoming a brand worthy of being loved by customers.

That line is worth repeating…

Finding brand love isn’t about finding customers to love you. It’s about becoming a brand worthy of being loved by customers.

So… what is your business doing to become worthy of receiving love from customers?

FIRE Sessions 2013: the day after


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 …

#1 | CMOs are too preoccupied with new customers and new products. They’re forgetting about the power of current customers.

#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.

#4 | Building a customer community is a lot like baking homemade chocolate cookies. There is no cookie cutter process. It’s messy work.

# 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.

Jonah_500#7 | The STEPPS-by-step process for crafting contagious content includes: Social currency, Triggers, Emotions, Public, Practical Value, Stories.

#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.

UPDATE | Jan 31

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.



NOTE: cross-posted on the Brains on Fire blog


What happens when your life, both personal and professional, becomes too routine?

That’s the question I’ve been facing for many months and I addressed it late last year when I decided to join Brains on Fire after eight-years of self-employment. It wasn’t an easy decision.

The easy decision would have been to stay the course and coast as I have been doing. Life was good. Business was good. But something was missing.

The difficult decision was to change my ways and purposely place myself in a new city with a new role at a different company.

I chose the difficult path and I’m not looking back.

During the upending of my life, I found serenity by following six guiding words:

Each word combo has special meaning that is helping me to smooth out the ups and downs involved with the upending of my life. To gain the most from this transition, I believe I must…

LET GO of the mindset that I am in total control of my life and of the circumstances that surround my life. I’m now focusing on freeing myself of this need to feel as though I am in control. I’m trying to take life and all of its variables minute-by-minute and not trying to control my life minutia-by-minutia.

HAVE FAITH that wherever I am supposed to be, I’ll get there. I might not get there today or tomorrow. But, I will get there someday. Patience and trust are my allies as I fight back my controlling tendencies.

SAY YES to the opportunities that present themselves to me. The controlling perfectionist in me finds it easy to say NO. It’s how I feign control by deliberating walking past open doors. Now is the time for me to explore life by walking through open doors.

These six guiding words have personal and professional meaning to me. Perhaps they can have meaning to guide your business.

Could your business benefit from LETTING GO, HAVING FAITH, and SAYING YES?

Is your business really in control of its future? Do you spend too much time managing the minutia of your daily business activities? Do you micro-manage employees in an attempt to control everything they do, when they do it, and how they do it? Do you lack complete confidence in the ability of your business to succeed no matter the economic climate? Are you afraid to say “yes” to new methods and new ideas?

Is it time for you and your business to LET GO, HAVE FAITH, and SAY YES in order to grow?

NOTE: cross-posted on the Brains on Fire blog

Watts Wacker on Tomorrow

No one is less ready for tomorrow than the person who hold the most rigid beliefs
about what tomorrow will contain.
” — Watts Wacker

Alan Greenspan on Greed

It is not that humans have become any more greedy than in generations past. It is that the avenues to express greed have grown so enormously.” — Alan Greenspan

Harvey MacKay on Earning Respect

Believe me, any time a boss will roll up his or her sleeves and actually do some grunt work, word will reach every corner of the shop.” — Harvey McKay

Michael Bloomberg on Business Basics

The basics of commerce don’t change: You’ve got to have something that people need,
something that they can’t get elsewhere. And the more they can’t get it elsewhere,
the more they need it.
” — Michael Bloomberg

Mark Cuban on Business Success

Always ask yourself how someone could preempt your product or service. How can they put you out of business? Is it price? Is it service? Is it ease of use? No product is perfect and if there are good competitors in your market, they will figure out how to abuse you.” — Mark Cuban

Ken Blanchard on Employee Productivity

People who feel good about themselves produce good results.” — Ken Blanchard

Starbucks has purchased Teavana, a 300-unit retail tea brand based in Atlanta, GA for $620 million dollars. My tribal knowledge about Starbucks tells me this acquisition is not a blue ocean sales growth move but rather, a protective competitive move and a surefire growth story to tell Wall Street.

In announcing this acquisition, Howard Schultz, Starbucks ceo and chairman, said, “We will do for tea what we did for coffee.”


Let’s take a ride on the wayback machine and go back in time to 1999, that’s when Starbucks purchased the TAZO tea brand. At that time, I’m certain Howard Schultz said something like this, “We will do for tea what we did for coffee.”

According to reports, TAZO has become a $1.4B business for Starbucks. That’s a nice size business. However, Starbucks never fully capitalized on the TAZO tea opportunity. If Starbucks was able to do for tea what it did for coffee, then the TAZO brand should be bringing in revenue far greater than $1.4B.

TAZO has never been able to gain a noticeable presence inside Starbucks retail locations. Yes, its product can be found on the shelves at Starbucks but TAZO has never been able to become a major item on the beverage menu. (The real money at Starbucks comes from drink sales, not merchandise sales.)

When Starbucks purchased TAZO, there was much discussion about opening up a TAZO branded retail store. It’s taken the company 13 years to open a TAZO retail store.

If Starbucks was able to do for tea what it did for coffee, then TAZO should have become Teavana. Instead, Starbucks is buying Teavana.

From my perspective as a dusty former Starbucks marketer, the acquisition of Teavana is a competitive move designed to protect Starbucks market share in the tea category.

Teavana has 300 retail locations, mainly in shopping malls. A good percentage of these mall locations probably compete with a Starbucks nearby. That is bound to cause some competitive hiccups if Starbucks locations start selling Teavana products.

Another competitive hiccup is Starbucks now has two tea brands in its portfolio. Both TAZO and Teavana are upscale tea brands competing for the same customer. One of these brands will need to be repositioned as a downscale tea brand in order to create a competitive difference.

(Starbucks has experience here with Seattle’s Best Coffee. Since acquiring it in 2003, Starbucks has clearly positioned Seattle’s Best Coffee as a downscale option compared to the Starbucks coffee brand.)

I can’t imagine Starbucks being able to do for tea what it did for coffee with the acquisition on Teavana. If Starbucks couldn’t do it with TAZO, why should we believe they can do it with Teavana.

Starbucks clearly has cornered the upscale retail tea market. I’m not sure how much revenue it will bring the company. However, I am sure Starbucks will continue to use this acquisition as a growth story for the analysts working on Wall Street.

Almost every move Starbucks makes these days from its acquisition of Evolution Fresh to its purchase of Bay Bread to the introduction of its Verisimo brewer to its purchase of Teavana can be viewed less as a surefire sales growth opportunity and more as a surefire growth story to tell Wall Street in order to keep the Starbucks stock price trending upward.

Every publicly traded company plays two games. One game is to please customers. The other game is to excite Wall Street. With the acquisition of Teavana, Starbucks is playing the game of exciting Wall Street more than pleasing customers.