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Passionate People Build Passionate Brands That Attract Passionate Customers
By: Robbin Phillips
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Technology is the shiny, new object in the room.

While many marketers think a Facebook doodad or a Twitter strategy could be the answer to their prayers, those shiny new tools can also be your biggest determent. If you get too focused on technology as a medium or a strategy, you run the risk of taking the human element out of the equation.

Word of mouth is not about technology. It is and always will be a about people. Living, breathing human beings with hopes, dreams, passions, pet peeves, and a whole lot of emotional baggage.

I try to keep my life simple. By the time I am 80, I like to think my entire possessions will fit in less than four small boxes. I’m not a stuff person. Odd that I’ve spent my entire professional life in marketing -- helping people sell stuff. The irony is not lost on me.

I have to admit that in years past I considered leaving the industry because of that conflicting push and pull in my heart and my head. Not now. I have never been happier or prouder to be in marketing than right now. I consider myself a part of a revolution, not a technology revolution, but a human revolution.

Word of mouth marketing, social media, or emerging media -- call it what you want -- has made it possible for people to connect with people in a way that has never been possible before through shared passions. Social technology and the voice of the customer made it impossible for companies and organizations to hide behind a curtain of secrecy or the illusion of controlling the message. Companies now have more ways to embrace their customers and advocates as “best friends.”

Guess what? The brands that get it are starting to act more human, more passionate. And that's a very refreshing change for the better.

Rather than “marketing to” or trying to influence behavior, the real opportunity is to inspire your customers. Face it, what human being wants to be marketed to? Who wants to talk to a guy at a party who's shouting, "Look at me; buy my stuff"?

We want to talk to the people who are just like us -- those who share our same passions.

Brands and organizations now have the chance to unearth and support the shared passion through conversation. It’s not about forcing a product conversation.

Our work with Fiskars and the Fiskateers community highlights a great example of the power of finding the authentic passion conversation surrounding your company. It’s not about the product they are most famous for (Fiskars makes the orange-handle scissors you most likely have in your desk). It’s also not about any of the other crafting products they make. It’s about what their customers do with those tools -- celebrating and sharing memories with their family and friends. It’s about supporting the conversation around their customer’s love and passion for scrapbooking.

Let technology simply be one tool to lead you to a real and honest closeness to your customers. Be real. Be human. Tell your stories. Love the people who love you and they will love you back. Find ways to meet your advocates face to face. (After all, 90 percent of all word of mouth happens offline.) Empower them with knowledge so that they take a shared ownership in your growth and success.

Don’t create a campaign; ignite a movement of loud and proud customers.


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About the Author

Robbin Phillips is known as Courageous President at the word of mouth and identity firm, Brains on Fire and co-author of the book "Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable Word of Mouth Movements." She’s worked with brands such as BMW, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Love146, and Ryobi Tools. You can find her thinking out loud here.

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