Brains on Fire – Book Review

By: Geno Church


In the era of digital transformation, the authors of “Brains on Fire” argue that the power dynamics have shifted from B2C and B2B to a P2P world – a world where the Internet revolution is fundamentally about people rather than just technology. Despite technological advancements, human reliance on personal recommendations and connections remains paramount. The book explores what happens when people hold the power and emphasizes the significance of understanding this shift.

Movements vs. Campaigns:

In a P2P world, movements surpass campaigns in power. Movements unite communities around shared causes, passions, or organizations. Distinguishing movements from campaigns is crucial: movements are ongoing expressions of shared values, while campaigns have defined beginnings and ends. The vocabulary and emotional resonance in movements feel more like an evangelical sermon than a strategic meeting. The key difference lies in who talks about you – campaigns involve self-promotion, while movements thrive when others advocate for you.

Movements Aren’t About the Product, They Are About Passion:

Contrary to conventional wisdom, movements don’t revolve around products but stem from passion. Passion, both internal and external, is contagious and should be discovered, not created. Movements begin with the first conversation, creating passionate advocates critical for success. Inspirational leadership comes from the community, characterized by individuals with a passion dial turned to the max. Aligning your organization with pre-existing passion fosters genuine movements.

Create a Barrier to Entry:

Paradoxically, growing a movement involves intentionally excluding people. Quantity should not outweigh quality, and making entry exclusive through community recommendations fosters a sense of ownership. The Jehovah’s Witness model, where entry requires introduction by an existing member, exemplifies creating a barrier. This not only strengthens the movement but also instills a stewardship mentality among community members.

Empower Advocates with Knowledge:

To deepen the love existing supporters feel, provide them with information. Knowledge about a company’s history and quirky stories enhances the bond with enthusiasts. Fiskars, a case in point, turns scrapbooking enthusiasts into a movement by bringing them to the company headquarters, compensating lead ambassadors, and giving them responsibilities. Sharing insider information fosters a deeper connection and encourages advocates to spread the word passionately.

Cultivating Closeness Fuels Results:

Movements yield significant results, especially concerning the bottom line. Traditional marketing lacks the two-way interaction crucial for leveraging the full potential of customers. Successful companies maintain close customer contact, fostering innovation, performance, and the ability to command higher prices and margins. Despite the challenges and unconventional nature of movement creation, the book suggests that the potential for outsized returns and making a meaningful difference is substantial.


“Brains on Fire” offers a paradigm shift, asserting that success lies in recognizing the P2P world’s dynamics and harnessing the power of movements over campaigns. The book encourages a reevaluation of traditional practices, advocating for the creation of movements by putting in the necessary effort. For those ready to challenge the status quo and embrace movement-building, the book promises insights into a transformative opportunity for both profit and positive impact

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