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Brain Surfing: The Top Marketing Strategy Minds in the World Paperback – November 11, 2015
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"A truly fascinating blend of travel journal and business text, it drifts beautifully between the dreamy rambles of an enthusiastic traveller and the great insights of a business book. Brain Surfing should be on every strategist's reading list." Mark Inskip, CEO, The Futures Company
"If you run a business, a start-up, or a brand, this book is essential reading. Not only did Heather persuade some of advertising's true maverick thinkers to let her stay with them, she also somehow got them to reveal their secret methodologies to how they outthink the competition. Clever." David Hieatt, Cofounder of Hiut Denim Co and The Do Lectures
"Strategists spend so much time applying curiosity and imagination to the lives of brands and consumers. But what happens when you apply that same relentless energy to normal life? That's what this book is about-the strategist's mind, only inverted and directed to the things that actually matter: culture, purpose, humility, family, adventure. Sure, this is required reading for people that want to be strategists, but, more likely, this is required reading for strategists that want to stay people." Alain Sylvain, Founder, Sylvain Labs
About the Author
Heather LeFevre is a modern marketer who earned her stripes working as a brand and communications strategist. After completing a masters degree in communi- cations, Heather landed her first job at the height of the dot com bust, and from that point forward she's made it her mission to guide clients through the complex opportunities technology has made possible for business. She served as Group Strategy Director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky's Miami office, where campaigns such as "Whopper Virgins" led to eighteen quarters of positive growth for Burger King. While Head of Strategy at StrawberryFrog Amsterdam, Heather led a comprehensive brand relaunch for Emirates Airline, one of the fastest-growing airlines on the planet. Heather is currently a thought leader tapped by Hyper Island to teach master classes on growth hacking for executives all over the world. She lives in Miami, Florida.
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Heather writes in a brisk, bold style, splicing together the multiple narratives of travel, the people she meets, her own and their ideas, and case studies in an easy to read, thought provoking fashion. Confession of an idea addict: I've already started reading three other books and magazine articles based on Heather's implicit recommendations in these pages--and let me tell you, she's got great taste in her own reading, too. This is my one quibble: I would have loved a reading list. Maybe Heather can write an annotated bibliography up and post it on her website.
So, what's the gist? Well, after stints at the world's top advertising agencies where she graduated from earning her chops to becoming a respected thought leader, Heather decided she wanted to broaden her horizons even more by picking the brains of top people who had impressed her or touched her professional life. So she reached out to a bunch of them and asked if she could crash their lives for a while. Tag along. Do a day in the life. Since these were awesome folk, they said: Sure! (Actually, not all of them did, but, spoiler alert: the ones who ended up in the book did.) So she traveled around the world, sat in on these folks' meetings, got to see how they worked, lived, interacted with clients, and engaged each and every one in conversations about best practices, big ideas, and the future.
This is a Think Big, inspired book that you will read at a feverish page flipping pitch but also in spurts because you periodically have to face the Big Dilemma of: I WANT TO KEEP READING versus I MUST WRITE DOWN HOW HEATHER'S INSIGHTS ARE INFORMING MY THINKING ABOUT PROBLEM X. (Take deep breaths. It's gonna be ok.) Big clients, big ideas, guerilla marketing, work-life balance, strategy in the digital age--you name it, Heather and her strategist mentors have thought about it and thought it about more deeply and more entertainingly than you could possibly imagine before picking up Brain Surfing.
I highly recommend this book. Final note: I bought the hard copy, which immediately gave me a free Kindle edition. I recommend doing this--you're going to want to make notes and have this book be its own conversation starter on your desk, but you're also going to want to have it to hand whenever you have downtime so you can dive in. Enjoy!
Heather has gathered and synthesized learnings from nine amazing professionals from different parts of the world, the kind of endeavour that takes, well in this case two weeks per person - 18 weeks - plus travelling and writing time afterwards. All the best bits of that in a thoroughly enjoyable read. I just couldn't put the book after starting and read it in a weekend.
The story flows seamlessly with a chapter per mentor, from Hong Kong to Edinburgh by way of a few other destinations around Europe, Asia, and the US. Each of the nine strategists have different specialisms in fields such as branding, business innovation, social media, advertising, and marketing. Each one of them contributed valuable stories and lessons to end their chapter. The conversations, research (including other must read book references), remarks and insights into the current state and evolution of the role of strategy and strategists in the creative communications industry are brillant.
I highly recommend reading it, definitely a must read for strategists in this field of work! Beyond that, I think it's definitely relevant to anyone interested in business communications, perhaps for people who are questioning what they're up to in their careers as well, and finally for people who will enjoy a fun and novel approach blending travel and business.
Heather manages to uncover the raw truth of our discipline in a way that has only been seen once before in what many consider the Account Planning bible; Jon Steel's Truth, Lies and Advertising. Yet, Heather's book focuses less on the subject of the discipline itself and more on what has previously gone unspoken. How personality, personal experience, mind and soul come together to transform our approach to strategy. This is truly a voyage into worlds that are not only defined by geographic boundaries, but also by very different individuals whose minds, personalities, experiences and emotions infuse their approach to strategy to help redefine it. In Brain Surfing, Heather takes us in a personal journey where her soul is exposed as a strategist and more importantly, as an individual. She takes us in search of master craftsmen who will help her grow her craft and help her become a master herself. In her path she finds much more than just strategic approaches and as a reader taking this voyage with her, so did I.
This book is great for those who may be just starting on this journey, to those who currently find themselves at crossroads and need a spark to keep their journey going. Our discipline can only be as great as how much we put of ourselves in it and in doing so, we push preexisting boundaries to create our own path.