How to make a movement

Movements, as the very name implies, are all about the feeling of motion. But not just any kind of motion. Motion that feels like its compounding over time. Momentum.

Movements we support, join, and love cause us to feel momentum.

In other words, the very idea that things are gaining steam creates the movement, not the fact that something is growing or something is big.

Increasingly, creating a brand people love is about creating a movement for a small number of people. It’s about resonance, not reach. So how does that change the work for us? How do we ensure others feel the momentum? We have to become students of the change at hand, providing the language, the platform, and the central node for the movement.

A few ways to start doing that:

1. Create your “one simple story” as a decision-making filter or lens on the world. Tell it overtly fairly often, and use it as a filter to mold everything all the time. Your one simple story is made of three parts: A status quo (“This was happening” or “this is how we’ve done it”); then some conflict (“but then this happened, which changes everything”); and finally, the resolution (“so this is the better way”). Your brand doesn’t appear in your story. Everyone you serve — prospects, customers, employees, potential new hires, partners, etc. — should see themselves in that one simple story.

2. Use plenty of examples all the time. Find your darlings, those stories you can tell and cite and bring closer and closer to your organization as partners and friends. Grow this list constantly.

3. Repeat the terms and beliefs of your movement until you get sick of them. Like the one simple story, you should become so familiar with key terms that “we” use that “they” don’t. Your belief system should be overtly written out. Why does this movement need to happen? It’s not just the success others experience. It’s something grander, something more transformative, something that isn’t described with the word “better” but rather something concrete. Describe the better way, and the belief driving your organization to achieve that better way. Don’t merely say, “It’s a better way.” How? Why? What is that better way?

4. Find and elevate your true believers. Don’t worry about creating a large audience right away. Don’t try to ‘reach” people. Again, this is about resonance. Focus on a small number of people reacting in a big way. When you see that visceral response, harness it: share what they’re saying, give them a platform, and get to know them as people. They’ll bring others to the movement too.

It all starts with one true believer.

I had to look this up — because #EnglishMajor — but the formula for momentum is mass-times-velocity.

In business, we’re great at talking about velocity. We forget about mass. I don’t mean more resources, by the way. I mean more examples, more proof, more stories. I mean a grander vision for the world for a narrower group we serve more deeply. I mean putting in lots of reps to get great at something over time, focusing on building our body of work rather than any one-off spike in success.

Everyone seems to be seeking their movements, but too many merely tell you there is a movement. “This is big. This is better. This is a movement.”


True movement-makers actually show others what they mean. Want to make a movement? Help others feel the momentum.

— — —

We’re building a movement of marketers who make shows to more deeply resonate with our audiences. If you’re a marketer and want to join a small but passionate group who share the same belief about our work (see below), then head over to Marketing Showrunners.

Our core belief: Marketing isn’t about who arrives. It’s about who stays.

Join some of the world’s most creative marketers from companies ranging from Red Bull, Adobe, and Salesforce to Mailchimp, Zendesk, and Wistia. Start reading MSR >>

Posted on September 25, 2019 .