It’s no secret that I’m big fans of the gang at Brains on Fire. You probably know them for their work with client Fiskars in helping to create and develop The Fiskateeers movement, which is a staple case study at marketing and social media conferences, and for good reason. I used it as a case study in Think Like a Rock Star and also interviewed BoF’s Greg Cordell and John Moore for the book.
And I wanted to interview John again because Brains on Fire has just released its second book, The Passion Conversation. The Passion Conversation looks at the science and research behind what motivates us to have passion and excitement for a particular business or cause. It’s a wonderful companion to their first book, Brains on Fire, and I’m very excited that John has agreed to tell you more about it:
Mack – Early on in the book you talked about how brands can create ‘meaningful’ engagement with their communities of customers and you cited a study that said that said that less than 0.5% of people that Like a brand on Facebook actually engage with that brand during any week! How can brands create meaningful engagement with their customers, whether it’s online or off?
John – In the book will recommend businesses follow this concept when trying to create meaningful engagement with customers: PROVIDE MORE. PROMOTE LESS. As in… provide more information, provide more customer service, and provide more interesting customer experiences while promoting in a much less obvious way.
Whole Foods Market “provides more information” by having a concierge in many of its stores. It’s staffed by very knowledgeable employees who provide shoppers with the information they need to make better decisions. Customers come away knowing more and will probably pass that knowledge on to their friends and friends of friends.
Lexus “provides more customer service” before, during, and after the sale. I’ve purchased two cars from two different Lexus dealerships and every time I am amazed at their proactive attention and fast follow-up. Is it any wonder a Lexus recommendation I once made to a friend resulted in a sale?
Cirque Du Soleil provides “more interesting customer experiences.” I was just in Vegas and saw the the Beatles LOVE show. Whoa! The show experience was multi-dimensional and multi-sensory. It was nearly customer experience overload. Since returning, I’ve shared how amazing the show was to many people in-person and online.
Ultimately, the passion conversation isn’t about getting people to talk about you, the brand. It’s about getting people to talk about themselves. If a brand can make a meaningful connection with its customers, then a customer-driven conversation will naturally include how the products/services a brand provides makes them feel better.
Mack – One of the things I loved about The Passion Conversation was the amount of scientific facts and research you cited that explored what Word of Mouth is and how it’s created. In Chapter Two you mentioned that there were three motivations that spark conversations about brands: Functional, Social and Emotional. Which of these three do you think is best for sparking WOM?
John – Let’s backup and explain the three conversation motivations. A functional conversation is about sharing basic information — facts and figures type stuff — like the specs on a fancy Nikon camera. A social conversation happens when a person visually shares their affinity for a brand such as through wearing a pair of TOMS shoes or tweeting online about how much they got a steal of a deal on wine at Costco. An emotional conversation is sparked when someone has strong feelings about a brand or a cause like when someone openly talks about how funny the “Hump Day” Geico commercial is or when someone talks about why they support the Wounded Warrior Project.
Each conversation motivation can spark word of mouth equally. My advice for a brand is to pick one trigger and have it serve as the lead conversation starter but not to ignore the other two triggers because they can also spark a word of mouth conversation.
Mack – I loved that you touched on the fact that many companies focus on acquiring new customers, and almost seem to ignore their current ones. Why do you think most companies are willing to go to such great lengths to chase the attention of new customers while ignoring the current customers that often want to connect with them?
John – My many years spent working deep inside the Starbucks marketing department gives me an interesting perspective on this. Our hope at Starbucks was that if we could drive in a totally new customer then they would be so enamored with their drink and the overall experience that they would come back again (and again) and become a customer for life.
This issue is similar to romantic relationships. During the courtship phase both people bend over backwards to be accommodating and to show appreciation. For some, once the couple has been dating for a period of time the bending over backwards to be accommodating and appreciative wanes. Each person takes for granted the relationship.
Brands also take for granted their relationships with current and long-time customers. Why is this? Perhaps it’s sexier to start a relationship than it is to continue a relationship.
Mack – Many of us are aware of wonderful examples of brands that have sparked a passion conversation with their customers, such as Fiskars with its The Fiskateers Movement or Maker’s Mark having a robust brand ambassador program that’s over half a million strong. Why aren’t their more examples of brands that have created a Passion Conversation with their customers? What’s holding them back?
John – 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.
Thanks so much to John for agreeing to share his thoughts on the book. It’s a great read and as I said above, I think Chapter Two is worth the price of the book alone simply for the explanation and research behind what drives Word of Mouth in both an online and offline situation. Plus the book has several interesting client case studies that you can learn from as well. Hop on over to Amazon and get your copy today!