The Book: Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements by Robbin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church & Spike Jones, Wiley, Hardcover, August 2010.

"Brains on Fire is not really a business book. It's a love story …"

Those are the opening lines to an incredible collection of stories and insights that is, in fact, both business book and love story. Brains on Fire is also the name of a great company of people in Greenville, South Carolina from which the stories and insights originate. But, more than all that, it is what happens when you ignite movements that stir passion in people.

The online marketing environment is changing so rapidly that it can feel as if you're tumbling down the rapids, sometimes above water and sometimes not, but never seeing very clearly what's ahead. The authors know what's happening to those conversations online, and have tips on how to join them, but they have a deeper knowledge of the fact that, eventually, that river empties into the ocean.

The authors know that what's truly powerful in business (indeed, in society as a whole) is the creation of movements. And they know that "90 percent of word-of-mouth interactions happen off-line. Yes, you read that right. Nine. Zero. Percent. The good folks at the Keller Fay Group have done the homework, and it's no joke." They continue:


Look, social media is great. The Internet allows ideas to travel at the speed of light, and it connects us to both information and other like-minded people. But as great as all the Twitters and Facebooks and MySpaces and blogs and message boards and digital doodads are, they will never, ever replace the power of shaking someone's hand, looking them in the eye, getting kindred spirits in the room (or better yet, at your brand's Mecca), and laughing together, getting a drink, sitting at the dinner table—whatever.

The book clearly defines the distinction between campaigns and movements. And while making no call for the death of the campaign, the authors reveal how to ignite sustainable movements that build on and spread the passion that people already have for your idea, product or company. Those people are out there; you just have to get out and find them. Because "All it takes is one person to start a movement. … One. Passionate. Person."

Reviewer Jack Covert is the founder of 800-CEO-READ, a leading bookseller to corporations and large organizations, based in Milwaukee.