How do we build our list of email subscribers? How do we get Facebook users to ‘like’ our page?
Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements asks you to stop tweeting at people for a moment, stop obsessing about the numbers, and pose a completely different question: What do our biggest fans care about most, and how do we give them more of it?
Though this is clearly a book by and for marketers, there’s a lot of good stuff in here for almost anyone who wants to get people excited and build long-lasting change.
The book makes its point through a number of case studies from both the nonprofit and corporate worlds. The authors, who run a marketing firm of the same name, learned quite a bit about movement-building from working with Rage Against the Haze, a youth-led anti-smoking movement in South Carolina.
They had been handed a tough job:
- combat one of the highest rates of teen tobacco use in the country
- …without publicly demonizing an industry that is a major contributor to the state’s economy
- …and do it with a very small budget.
So what did they do? More important is what they didn’t do: they didn’t start brainstorming hip commercials or slogans. They didn’t bombard teens with lots of scary statistics about the dangers of smoking – statistics that had fallen on deaf ears for years. They started by meeting teens face-to-face and asking them for ideas.
What really matters to teens? Autonomy. Owning your self. The ‘grown-ups’ just needed to get out of the way. So the firm had the teens choose the title of their own movement. They designed their own swag: numbered dog tags they could wear and t-shirts that put an ironic spin on the state motto, “While I breathe, I hope.” They went to high school football games and talked to other kids where they already were. They changed the conversation from one about mortality to one about empowerment – choosing not to be controlled by big tobacco. And it worked so well that, even when the money ran out, the movement kept right on going. In just four years, with no major media campaign or new taxes on cigarettes, they decreased teen smoking rates by 16.9% – one of the biggest decreases in the nation.
The bottom line? Find the people who care the most and give them more power. You can make them feel special just by giving them a little face time, a little inside knowledge, and the authority to make some real decisions. Scary? Yes. But a risk worth taking? Absolutely.
Want to read Brains on Fire? If you purchase the book through this Amazon link, a percentage of the proceeds will help power our work.