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  • Writer's pictureSpike

Brains on Fire Book Revisited - Intro

First thing’s first: Brains on Fire and I parted ways in February of 2010 after a decade of togetherness, so nothing here reflects the opinions or beliefs of my previous employer.

In August of this 2022, that labor of love known as the Brains on Fire book will turn 12 years old. It was a joy writing it and I’m told that sales are still going strong. I’m not gonna lie – I still get a thrill of seeing that thing on a shelf in a bookstore or catching a pic or comment about it in someone’s Twitter/Facebook stream.

But as we all know, a lot can change over a decade. And, well, it has.

So, over the next series of posts, I’m going to revisit the principals laid out in the book and examine them in context of today’s marketing world. And, of course, I’d love to hear your opinion.

The truth is, we proposed many different titles for the book in the first place, but got coaxed along by Wiley to make it big and bold and name the book after the company. So we did. But also added was the tag: “Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements.” And that word, “movement,” was the centerpiece of the book.

So let’s start there.

Back in 2010 (and actually way before the book was published), that word wasn’t used a lot in marketing meetings. In fact, that word wasn’t used at all outside of the non-profit sector. But it was the perfect embodiment of what we were trying to accomplish. And it didn’t hurt to be the first to redefine and use it in the marketing realm.

But then things started to change. The kids at Strawberry Frog started using the term “Cultural Movement” (and no, I’m not suggesting at all that they got it from BoF). The term started popping up in conference presentations and blog posts. In the scramble to bring some deeper-level meaning to all the social do-dads being developed, people thought that if they slapped the word “movement” next to their brand or ad campaign, then it would resonate more with people.

My point is this: The term “movements” has jumped the shark in the marketing world… but I still very much believe in the concept.

Not only is it EVERYWHERE these days, it is incredibly bastardized. Just search the word “movement” with “brand” or “advertising” or even “campaign.” Ford even got in on the action with their Fiesta Movement – even though one of the basic tenants of a movement is that it goes on and on (and the Fiesta Movement lasted six months.)

Not only is the term overused, but it’s also misunderstood. These days, I use the term “program,” as in “ambassador program” or “advocate program” because the concept of a movement is just too big for a lot of people to wrap their arms and minds (and dollars) around. There are so many moving parts to a movement (see what I did there?). But boiling things down to a programatic level – which is familiar and systematic – increases the chances of buy-in.

In the end, I still believe whole-heartedly in the concept of building movements. People want and need to believe in something bigger than just themselves. And there’s no reason that marketing efforts can’t be meaningful.

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