Book Notes: The Passion Conversation

We’re back again with another collection of book notes. I’ll be cranking these out as I continue doing the research for “The Internet is Magic”, which is the follow-up book to “Social Media is Bullshit”.

Speaking of my first book …

If you like what I’m doing with these notes, I have a specific thing I’d like to ask: I encourage you to buy a Used copy of Social Media is Bullshit and do one of the following:

1. Read it and keep it.
2. Read it and donate to your local library.
3. Read it and share with a friend.

None of the above should cost you more than $10 if you get it used through Amazon.

Cool? Let’s get on with it.

And standard disclaimer: These are my notes. There are probably typos and spelling errors as these are not meant to be a finished product. I didn’t even bother to put this all in AP style. My goal right now is to read as many of these 200 books as I can, do the summaries, and keep rolling so I can get to the book proposal stage by early Summer.


John Moore, one of the authors of this book, handed it to me at the NADA Conference back in 2014. I keep a smallish collection of books on Word of Mouth and Viral Marketing with me. They’re consistently the only marketing books I don’t recycle immediately after reading. (And like a lot of marketing books, much of what these books say date back to the 1930s and ‘40s. Proving yet again that there’s nothing new under the Sun.)

Why keep these books? Because they’re the only ones that work.

Note: John Moore was the moderator for the WOMMA Debate back in 2012, which is also referred to as “The Incident” in my new book.

P. 4-5: “Know yourself and clearly define what you really want from a relationship with your employees and customers.” […] “Passion should be a mirror. The reflection should match; inside passion should mirror outside passion. You have to know what drives you and your employees to get up in the morning before you can connect with other like-minded people.”

This book is from 2013. So it is definitely “of its time” in the sense that it talks about “love” and “passion” a fuckton, which is good in the sense that those things should be talked about, but bad in the sense that if any of you read business books or follow the business media, you know that the “love” and “passion” thing was beaten to death like this:

P.6: “You can’t choose your advocates; they choose you.” This is one of those “It sounds obvious” but this is something I see often. Sometimes you expect your audience to be one thing and it’s totally different. I think that’s awesome, but people have a hard time processing that because they get too caught up on Customer Personas and “What the data told them the audience should look like” that they then ignore their advocates. Don’t do that.

P.7 This echoes what Ray Kroc and Reis and Trout were saying in their books: “Make no mistake: We love data as much as the next company, but to really fall in love with your customers and find their passions, you have to take time to be with your customers.” Again, sounds obvious, but in the field, it’s not obvious at all.

P.13 Some of you know this about me, but I am a big believer in full transparency. Part of this has to do with my OCD / Depression and how I interact with my fellow humans and the outside world, but the other part is that I think it removes almost all of the stress most of us encounter (because a lot of stress can be traced back to miscommunication.) So I really liked the “Your customers will get more comfortable in sharing their secrets and trusting you” line which followed the importance of what you share with your customers. “Sharing shows you care, which leads to trust.”

Again, obvious to the reader maybe, but it’s not obvious in the field.

P.19 “Every marketing problem is a people problem”. CMOs, they advocate, would be better off being called “Chief People Officers”. I like this, but I also push back on it because we live in a credential-obsessed society, so you couldn’t get away with being called Chief People Officer unless you were already wildly successful, in which case you could insist on being called whatever the fuck you want and people would go along with it. “Call me Chief Pimp Master Flex!” (Not me, but I could imagine someone saying that. Also did you know there was a guy whose name was actually “Staff Sergeant Max Fightmaster?” I’ve always wanted work that into a book somehow.)

P.24 Ernest Dichter is sort of like the Dale Carnegie (Self-help), Napoleon Hill (Money), or Edward Bernays (PR) figure of the word of mouth industry. You know, the dude who said everything everyone is saying now almost a century ago. He’s the guy who advocated brands talk to people the way people talk to people. A lot of marketers and MBA types push back on this, and often they’re right because it’s done poorly, but I thought it was worth pointing out that the advice you hear given to brands is the same thing that was being said at least as far back as 1966 in the pages of an article by Dichter in the Harvard Business Review.

P.26 “It’s about understanding how a product (or an organization) fits into a person’s life- and understanding how it makes them feel.” Yup. Again, you’ve heard this a lot these days, and it sounds hokey because charlatans (you know who I’m talking about) have used this advice ad nauseam, but it remains true. Where people fuck up is that they don’t set aside time to know their audience. (Which Ray Kroc pointed out in our last notes section was what made him a successful salesman. He knew his audience inside and out.)

P.27 This is something I found gets overlooked among startups: “Every customer touch point is a possible talking point.” The book mentions a lot that marketing is actually a people business, and since people are the ones in charge of talking about the product, you have to make sure every point where they interact with you is the best it can be. (Ray Kroc used to wipe down the floors of McDonalds franchises he visited if they weren’t up to his standards of cleanliness.)

P.29 I won’t repeat the stats from the book here, but basically like with every WOM (word-of-mouth) marketing book, this one repeats a lot that WOM is the most effective form of marketing because that’s how we interact with each other as humans (although whether it’s online or offline does make some difference.)

p.30 “The best word of mouth is how a company does business every single day.” Yup. I try to focus on one big thing every day and not much else when I work on something for this exact reason. I’m running a marathon, not a sprint, and if you want to be ready for the marathon, you have to practice every day.

P.45 This book did a fun job of breaking down the basics of WOM using a sort of Periodic Table. It’s cute, and clever, and I liked it way more than I thought I would. I mention this because I recommend this book if you want a basic overview of WOMM.

P.47-48 If you’ve heard me do presentations I talk about this a lot, but one reason people share with other people is “functional” (their term).”One person sharing useful information with others. This allows people to make more educated decisions and better interpret the world.” “New and complex things prompt us to talk to others about how, when, and where to use products that might be useful.” And of course, people who care (or as I like to say “give a shit” about a thing will tell others about that thing because they think it’s improving the other person’s life.

P.50 Social Signaling is something you can write an entire book on, but they did a nice job recapping it here and explaining that people share with other people because the thing they’re sharing says something about them. (Look at me, I’m smart / funny / cool / sexy.) “Getting dressed every day is often an exercise in social signaling.” This is why I wear a graphic tee every day, like the one below …


P.54 This is one of the more controversial topics in WOMM in that people are more likely to talk about a brand (for better or worse) if it creates a strong reaction in them. So if you find something funny, you’re going to share it. Or if you’re anxious about something, you’ll also share it (see: All your liberal friends right now sharing the crazy shit Dorito Jesus is doing in the White House on Facebook.)

Where it gets controversial is when we talk about media sites (Remember Upworthy?) are deliberately provoking people to get that reaction in the interest of getting shares and traffic. So the whole fake news thing is a good example. So is, Breitbart, and other members of the Internet Outrage Machine (TM Ryan Holiday). All of that stuff is done in order to put you in an aroused state, generate an emotional feeling of some kind, and make you act on it.

P.57 “Contagious” gets a shout out (that book we’ll get to eventually.) People like to shit all over marketing, advertising, and PR, but as both this book and Jonah Berger (Contagious’s author) point out, the more times people see something (keeping it top of mind) the more people are likely to talk about it. Again, sounds obvious! But it’s not in the field. Which is terrifying to me because if you go back to the early 90s and then draw a line all the way to 2017, you can point to all of the Unicorns (multibillion dollar tech companies) and show how all the advertising, marketing, and PR they did / received was what made the difference for them. And yet! The tech industry is the one obsessed with how stupid marketing / advertising / PR is.

It makes no fucking sense. So, I know I am a broken record on this, but sometimes you read shit in a book and go, “No fucking duh, man” but then you go out into the world and you’re like, “Didn’t you motherfuckers read that book?” And the answer is no! No they didn’t!

P.58 “Made to Stick” gets a shoutout here (we’ll get to that one eventually too.) Stories stick, facts and figures don’t. Any of you reading this that hated Math class in high school will understand this. Rob Morris, co-founder of Love146 says “When you root your messages in truth and tell powerful, emotional stories, you can visually trigger people to quickly remember that story. They will even find their own visual triggers and share those.” Also: “Short, powerful stories stick.”

P.60 There’s a section here about interrupting the systems people use to navigate their day in some way that will cause them to stop and take notice. I like what they used in the book but thought it’d be easier to describe interrupting schemas like this: If you’ve ever seen a Mel Brooks movie and laughed (and if you haven’t, you’re a fucking monster), his movies are great examples of what they’re talking about here with disrupting people’s thought processes. Because as Brooks has described his comedy in interviews is following the patterns and paths people typically expect, and then taking a hard left turn when the opportunity presents itself. Blazing Saddles is the best example of this. The entire end of the movie (I won’t spoil it, you need to see Blazing Saddles if you haven’t) is a great example. So is this scene:

If you’ve ever seen a Mel Brooks movie and laughed (and if you haven’t, you’re a fucking monster), his movies are great examples of what they’re talking about here with disrupting people’s thought processes. Because as Brooks has described his comedy in interviews is following the patterns and paths people typically expect, and then taking a hard left turn when the opportunity presents itself. Blazing Saddles is the best example of this. The entire end of the movie (I won’t spoil it, you need to see Blazing Saddles if you haven’t) is a great example. So is this scene:

You notice this scene doesn’t break the movie. The Sheriff is still very much in character, but you wouldn’t expect at all to see an orchestra playing out in the middle of the desert (or that the sherGuccias a gucci branded bag, which makes it funny. These things should not exist. They’re hard left turns, and so we take notice of them and remember them.)

So yeah, I mean we can talk about “schemas” but I think it’s too technical. I rather show you clips from Mel Brooks movies and encourage you to find opportunities to take a hard left turn while staying in your brand’s character.

P. 62 I think this is the most important lesson from this book: We share content differently online than we do offline. This too, can (and probably should) be an entire book. Because there’s a lot of psychological shit here about how we all wear masks and we’re different depending on who we’re with and who we’re talking to (online and off, but especially online). The key here is to understand that in person, we share things with others that we really give a shit about. And online we share things with others that say something about us. “I thought this was funny / cool / interesting and by extent, I am therefore cool / funny / interesting.”

-One other thing, and this goes back to advertising: People offline tend to talk about what’s in front of them and what they experience. Everyone in NYC has a story about the subway for example. Here’s one: One time, while I was riding the A on the way to a date in Harlem, this guy shoved another guy causing the second dude to spill his drink on a bunch of people. They were pissed. He quickly exited the train at the next stop.) So food, weather, sports, products that are omnipresent, politics, that’s all top of the mind so we’re more likely to talk about it with each other in person.

P. 80 This is something I strongly agree with: “We believe that social signaling, at its best is done quietly”.

P.88 This is another of those “This should be obvious but it’s not” things: “What is the customer telling us?” If you’re not having that conversation, or orient your business / organization around answering this question, and then delivering what the customer wants, you’re going to be fucked.

P.100 I mentioned some notes above that I’m running a marathon, not a sprint. And part of that process is focusing on one small piece each day and making it the best that it can be. So here I found some nice affirmation of this.

P.102 Pulled from the book Firms of Endearment (GREAT NAME): “Companies that lead with their values outperform the market 10 to 1.” I believe it.

P.109 I really liked this from one of the Fitness Rebellion members: “The hardest day of my life is also the fuel for my fire. I’m thankful for everything I have ever been through, because in the long run it was training for my role as a leader. I know rock bottom in every way. I also know what sunlight at the top of the mountain feels like. It feels amazing.”

Given my own background (drug addict mom, absentee Dad for most of my life, growing up with two mentally disabled brothers, getting married just as the Great Recession started and that falling apart because of economic distress, almost dying just after I turned 30, my hilarious inability to connect with regular people or with women while on dates) I know bottom pretty well.

P. 114 A lot of WOMM books talk about “Sneezers” or people who make up a small group of your audience but will do a lot of the early talking and promoting for you. So here it’s stressed that you find those people and give them a lot of love and attention. It’s smart advice. You also see this same advice take other forms like the “1000 True Fans” thing or that startup CEOs should know the first 100 customers by name.

P.138 I’m not a fan of UGC (User Generated Content) campaigns. I think most of them tend to fall flat on their face and turn out to be total duds. So while it’s true you should empower your customers to “tell their version of your story”, I would strongly push back on the idea that this translates to pushing for more UGC. Don’t make that mistake. Let your audience tell your story where, how, and when they feel like it. Don’t try to make it all official or run some stupid contest around it.

P.140 (Via Steve Knox, former CEO of P&G’s “advocacy marketing business” and “Senior Advisor to the Boston Consulting Group”: “Quantitative data is wonderful and powerful, but brilliant insight generally comes from mining the rich, unstructured discoveries that come from qualitative conversation.” A-fucking-men.

P.161 I thought this was really important, and it’s something else I believe: You can’t force WOMM. A lot of people think you can, and it’s true you can manipulate the media and the online platforms if you have a ton of money, but most of us don’t. So for the 99% of us who can’t do that sort of thing, you have to understand that you can’t force people to talk about your stuff. This is why a lot of marketing / tech / other people hate WOM because always that chance that you have something awesome and no one gives a shit about it, but it’s a chance you have to take. As Gretzky said (and Kevin Smith often repeats) “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”


P.165 This is something else that drives me up a wall with the tech people. I am constantly saying they need to talk to their customers, human to human. Not automated message looking personalized to human. You gotta call up your customers, get to know them as people, and see how they’re doing. What you can do better. The response I ALWAYS get is “That doesn’t scale”.

Fuck you forever.

Seriously. I don’t care if it doesn’t scale. Neither do these authors. Their solution is to find the customers you want to get to know and start with them. That’s a good solution, but I really do believe if you’re the CEO of a company, you gotta carve time out of your day and do things that don’t scale. One of which is getting to know your customers and thanking them for giving you their hard earned money, and letting them know you’re going to work hard to make them happy with their investment in YOU. (Remember: As Simon Sinek says, the author of “Start with Why” “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

P.180 “What gets measured gets manufactured”. Now, I defend the marketing / advertising / PR industries more than I should. They have a ton of problems too. But I think, even in 2017, and despite the fact that I wrote this in a book back in 2011 that hit stores in 2012, you can’t trust online metrics. You can’t. We’re even today, as Snapchat is heading to an IPO, having that discussion about their numbers and how Snap Inc. is trying to convince people to look at other metrics. (Nice try guys.) Facebook got slapped pretty hard for a “glitch” (yeah, right) concerning their video metrics. That’s not ancient history. That JUST HAPPENED.

So “what gets measured gets manufactured”. That’s why with marketing I focus on the basics: Is the company making money? Yes? Sweet. Let’s keep going. Did we see a sales increase from this campaign? Sweet. Let’s keep going.

You know what the only metric to me that matters when we’re talking online metrics? Verified email signups. Legit emails. People signing up and giving you the opportunity to build a relationship with them. THAT matters. That’s valuable. Twitter impressions? C’mon. In the grand scheme of things, who really cares?

Remember there’s only one metric that matters in business, and that’s making money.