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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.

    The Business of Love and Passion

    At Brains on Fire we believe with all our hearts and souls, it is possible to fall madly and passionately in love with the people you serve. And we believe that it’s possible for those folks to fall in love with you, too; and, yes, for you to become famous and grow your organization because of that love.

    That’s exactly what we’ve done to grow our own business over the years. Not only have we fallen in love with our customers, we received the permission and indeed the honor to get to know and care for our customers’ customers. It’s our role as marketing matchmakers to help connect our customers with their employees and customers through shared passions.

    Every business owner should be wildly romantic and passionate about your advocates; the employees and customers who help fuel your success.

    What does it take to fall in love with your advocates, the customers and employees who are ready, willing and happy to fall in love with you? Start by following these Passion Principles.

    1. Love people. Never leverage people.
    We hate it when we hear companies talk about leveraging fans to tell their story. Think about it: Do you really use people you care about? Absolutely not. You listen to them. You get close to them. You see them frequently. You want to be a meaningful part of their life. You inspire them and in return, they inspire you.

    If you want people to be in love with you and talk about you, you must fall in love with them first. Your clients, customers, donors, tribe, employees, advocates—what you call them doesn’t really matter—can and should become beloved heroes in your organizations.

    2. Love takes patience.
    For real and lasting relationships to take hold, you have to be in it for the long haul and not for a one-night stand… perhaps the marketing equivalent of a one-time purchase.

    Loving your customers is not something you do for a limited amount of time. It’s something you do every single day. And the value of that effort grows exponentially stronger and deeper with time.

    3. Get people to talk about themselves.
    The passion conversation isn’t about getting people to talk about YOU, the brand. It’s about getting people to talk about themselves. Encourage others talk about themselves, their lives, their hopes and their dreams. Create platforms, online and offline, for the people you serve to share their own stories. Give them opportunities to talk and be willing to listen.

    At Brains on Fire, we no longer consider ourselves to be in the marketing business. Instead, we’re in the people business. This makes sense for us because marketing nowadays is more about reframing the work you do in the world to inspire your employees and customers. The most successful word-of-mouth–driven businesses in the world have always been in the business of inspiring people.

    Good stuff happens when you’re in the people business. We promise.

    I’ve long been into word of mouth marketing. Sparked it. Studied it. Lived it. Done it. Talked it. And written about it in countless blog posts. All of that has led to this…

    THE PASSION CONVERSATION: Understanding, Sparking, Sustaining Word of Mouth Marketing

    In early September, THE PASSION CONVERSATION will be published by Wiley. It’s a co-authored project with Robbin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church, and myself all contributing to the book.

    Much more will be shared about the book on the Brand Autopsy blog and over on the Brains on Fire blog. (Yeah yeah yeah, we’ll also be tweeting about it and sharing other tidbits on Facebook. Pre-orders? Yep, more here.)

    How did THE PASSION CONVERSATION book come about? Read on…


    Last spring I took my word of mouth marketing studies up a few notches with Geno Church of Brains on Fire.

    Geno got wind of a smarty-pants academic research paper about what sparks people to talk. We scrubbed the academic paper free from its rigorous scholarly language and distilled its findings into much easier to understands words. We also dug up more research papers and scrubbed those as well.

    Together, we crafted a presentation that Geno delivered at conference in May of 2012. That one presentation got a lot of play at the conference and has been seen over 90,000 times since on Slideshare.

    We got to thinking all this scrubbed academic research coupled with our real world marketing experiences would make for a great book about understanding, sparking, and sustaining word of mouth conversations.

    Robbin Phillips picked up the ball and together we wrote a book proposal that serves as a sequel of sorts to their first book, BRAINS ON FIRE: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements.

    One of the lines from the first BRAINS ON FIRE book is the starting point for this book.

    “It’s not about the product conversation;
    it’s about the passion conversation.”

    If you think you are in the marketing business, think again. You’re in the people business, and THE PASSION CONVERSATION 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.

    We truly believe this book will change your perspective on marketing by:

  • Explaining the motivations for why people talk about businesses and causes
  • Detailing how every marketing problem is a people problem in disguise
  • Giving heartfelt evidence that marketing materials are now conversation tools
  • Showing how customer communities sustain word of mouth while also sparking financial impact
  • Helping your business apply these marketing lessons through a series of workbook exercises called “Passion Explorations.”
  • The time is now for marketers and businesses to go beyond the product conversation to understanding, sparking and sustaining THE PASSION CONVERSATION for why your business is in business.

    A disruption is always an interruption. It’s something that gets in our way preventing us from doing what we set out to do. That’s the negative take. But there’s a positive angle from which to view a disruption.

    Bill Jensen reframes the conversation about disruption in his book, Disrupt! Think Epic. Be Epic. Yes, he touches upon how disruptions can be horribly bad. But really, the takeaway for me is how disruptions can positively change the course of your life.

    To share his perspective on disruption, Bill is talking to lots people over Skype and having them share personal stories about how disruptions have radically changed their life. It’s a series on YouTube called DISRUPTIVE HEROES.

    Bill invited me to play along and I jumped at the chance because it allowed me the opportunity to tell the story of how Lisa Denney Compton is my disruptive hero.

    Lisa forever disrupted my life and my career by hiring me as a field marketing specialist for Starbucks in 1995. If that disruption didn’t happen, I shudder to think where I would be today.

    Lisa took a huge risk in hiring me. Not only did I lack experience, but my wicked-good stutter made me unhirable to so many companies. Lisa was able to look past my stuttering and hired me into a role where I flourished.

    To learn the very personal story of how Lisa positively disrupted my life, watch below. (You’ll also hear me talk about my favorite disruptive change [tasty craft beer] and the disruptive change I’m struggling with [my smartphone that’s making me dumber].)

    The Power of Follow-Through

    I’m a Jackie Huba fan. Been one since late 2002 when I first read Creating Customer Evangelists. Over the years I’ve come to know Jackie as much more than a colleague, but as a good friend. A few years ago she started talking about the marketing genius of Lady Gaga. I was skeptical but I kept an open mind as Jackie began telling me everything Lady Gaga did to become this generation’s Madonna.

    Jackie first shared her appreciation for Lady Gaga’s marketing skills in a blog post from February 2010. At that time, Jackie was a principal at Ant’s Eye View (now part of PWC) and knee deep in enterprise consulting work. Her Loyalty Lessons from Lady Gaga blog post began to receive a lot of attention and Jackie’s infatuation with Lady Gaga grew.

    In early 2012, Jackie had reestablished herself as an independent marketing consultant but couldn’t shake loose her attachment to Lady Gaga as a marketing genius. She had gathered enough material to write a book sharing how big and small businesses can benefit from what Lady Gaga did to sell over 23-million albums and rake in hundreds of millions of dollars from touring the world. However, Jackie, having co-authored two marketing books, couldn’t envision herself being a solo author.

    Jackie faced what Steven Pressfield describes as RESISTANCE in his masterful book, THE WAR OF ART. Pressfield writes, “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

    Jackie faced an avalanche of internal resistance to turn her blog post into a book. That resistance ultimately propelled Jackie to write the book without having a strategy to get it published. Her plan was to write it and then figure out how best to publish it. To overcome resistance, Jackie started writing.

    Months past and Jackie wrote a little every day and tapped into her network of friends to help with all aspects of the book from proofreading to publicity. She worked with biz book geek Todd Sattersten on shaping the content and together, they devised an ingenious plan to self-publish the book. By November 2012, the book was done, self-published and soft-launched at a WOMMA Conference with a keynote presentation.

    Soon after the soft-launch, top-notch business book publisher Portfolio caught wind of this book sharing marketing lessons from Lady Gaga. Portfolio loved the book and Jackie’s self-publishing plans went away as she was offered a major league business book deal.

    Last week, Portfolio published MONSTER LOYALTY: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics. Jackie Huba celebrated its publication with a book launch party in Austin, TX and for the foreseeable future, Jackie will be very busy with new consulting projects and corporate speaking gigs based upon her Lady Gaga infatuation.

    The lesson here is simple… Don’t allow resistance to win. Follow-through on what matters most to you. To overcome resistance, start anywhere. Stop doing nothing and start doing something, dig?

    Jackie overcame resistance by forcing herself to write. Because of her follow-through, Jackie is now primed to enter the next phase of her career. Kudos to you Lady Huba.

    Chopping Down a Product

    Years ago I wrote about how businesses “chop down” their products to maintain/grow profits. I used a scene from AMERICAN GANGSTER to illustrate this point. It’s the scene where Frank Lucas confronts Nicky Barnes for chopping down his “Blue Magic” dope in order to make more money.

    The current Maker’s Mark brand dilution hullabaloo makes the following vintage Brand Autopsy post new again.

    Read as drug kingpin Frank Lucas shows some serious CMO chops in explaining why diluting a product is a bad idea.


    Setting the Scene:
    Frank Lucas’ “Blue Magic” heroin became the market leader in New York City. Rivals said he had “upended the natural order of things” by selling heroin that is twice as good for half as much. Competitors left the heroin market because “nobody wants to compete with a monopoly.”

    To accelerate growth of the “Blue Magic” business, Frank arranged wholesale distribution agreements with other drug lords and mafia families. This shift in business strategy made competitors part of the “Blue Magic” family, with Frank Lucas as the all-powerful CEO and Chairman of the Board.

    Never Dilute a Brand
    Nicky Barnes competed with Frank Lucas and the success of “Blue Magic” hurt the financial viability of Nicky’s operation. Grudgingly, Nicky signed on as distributor of “Blue Magic.”

    In an effort to increase profits of his “Blue Magic” sales, Nicky began diluting the purity of the heroin to increase his inventory and his margins. He sold the diluted heroin as “Blue Magic.” Frank Lucas wasn’t pleased and addressed his concerns just like a top-notch Chief Marketing Officer would to any rogue field marketing manager, maverick product manager, or renegade franchisee.

    Follow the encounter from this modified script snippet…


    Businesses “chop down” their products all the time. In the quest to maintain profits or possibly, grow profits, businesses make strategic decisions to dilute their offerings. And if done inconspicuously enough, customers will hopefully never notice.

    Frito-Lay chopped down its 12-oz bag of chips to 10-oz. bags. Price remained the same.

    Hellmann’s chopped down its 32-oz. jar of mayonnaise to 30-oz. Price remained the same.

    Dial chopped down its soap bars from 4.5-oz to a 4.0-oz size. Price remained the same.

    Bounty chopped down the number of towel sheets per roll from 60 to 52. Price remained the same.

    Kellogg’s chopped down its Fruit Loops cereal package size from 19.7-oz. to 17.0-oz. Price remained the same.

    Iams chopped down its 6-oz. package of cat food to a 5.5-oz package. Price remained the same. [SOURCES: USA Today ; New York Times]

    However, customers have noticed all this chopping down. According to a Consumer Reports study, 75% of shoppers surveyed said they have noticed smaller package sizes from their favorite brands. And, 71% of shoppers believe the package downsizing is a clear attempt by brands to hide price increases. It’s interesting to note, 50% of shoppers prefer brands stop chopping down their products and instead, keep their old package size and simply raise the price. [SOURCE: Consumer Reports]

    The takeaway lesson is simple … when a business decides to dilute its products, it runs the risk of drawing ire from customers.

    The action step is also simple … if you find yourself saying or thinking, “A customer will never notice that.” Chances are, they will. Be prepared to deal with their reaction.

    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?