A Big, Green Furry Smooch
How baseball fans’ love for the Phillie Phanatic inspired a business book
By Victoria Mier

Tom Burgoyne and Evan Marcus are kind of like the Isaac Newton of love.

“The apple was falling for a thousand years,” says Marcus. “Are we the first people who asked why the apple is falling?”

“We got bonked on the head,” Burgoyne says.

cover-of-book-high-res-with-bleedThe result of that bonk on the head is a book titled “Pheel The Love!: How the Most Powerful Force in the Universe Builds Great Companies,” which was published in last fall.

Don’t go thinking the “ph” in the first word of the title is a spelling error. It’s actually a quiet nod to the identity of one of the authors. Though you might not immediately recognizeTom Burgoyne, you’d know his alter-ego right away: the Phillie Phanatic.

Yes, the co-author is the famous furry, green guy. In fact, Burgoyne has been donning the suit for 28 seasons, but he only recently realized the Phillie Phanatic – and the way baseball fans love him – could teach business leaders a thing or two.

His co-author Evan Marcus is more primed for this kind of knowledge. He and his wife own a Dillion Marcus, business consulting firm that provides ongoing coaching and workshops in business leadership.

After the two met at an event where Burgoyne was speaking, they hit it off.

“We’d meet at the Whole Foods over on 70,” Marcus says, and Burgoyne would tell stories about being the Phanatic again and again.

“I heard those stories, and a light bulb went off,” Marcus says. “I realized it was about love. The companies I work with are all trying to be better and find the ‘secret sauce.’ I was like, ‘Wow, what company wouldn’t want customers to love them with the same intensity people do for the Phanatic? What could be better than having that love for a company?’”

“It made all the sense in the world to me,” Burgoyne adds, recalling one time he invited Marcus and his family to come down to a game and watch him work as the Phanatic.

That night – per usual – Burgoyne had been lovingly attacked by thousands of people, all spilling popcorn and posing for pictures and asking for hugs and offering smooches. When they returned to the dressing room, Burgoyne was tired, but calm. It was all in a night’s work – every night, in fact.

Marcus, though?

“His head was about to explode,” Burgoyne says.

The pair began to wonder who wouldn’t want to be loved the way the Phanatic is, even if it’s sometimes a little overwhelming. So they asked a single question that kicked off their whole writing process for “Pheel The Love.”

“What creates that love?” Marcus says. “And then, we asked, can other people create that? We didn’t know.”

As Marcus and Burgoyne began to research and think and dissect, the answer turned out to be “yes.” But there are seven principles that allow a company to reach that level of love, and they aren’t easy. The first one, Marcus says, is probably the most important.

nov-2016-294“Well, you have to love them first,” Marcus says. “When Tom goes out there, he understands that his job is to make people feel special and smile. That struck us as a real universal principle. You have to love people first for them to love you. It has to be genuine and pure. It’s not a fabricated strategy. You can’t sit in a board room and say you’re going to go act loving.”

That’s probably why the first principle embraces something very Phanatic-esque: “The Big Smooch.” Marcus ran a workshop at Citizens Bank Park testing out this.

They entitled the workshop “Loyal Fans for Life,” but Burgoyne was quick to question why the word “loyal” was used in place of “loving.” For Marcus, using the term “love” in a business context didn’t feel right. Loyal, however, felt safe, so he went with it.

But the more workshops they held, Marcus says, the more they realized the word “loyal” didn’t fully encompass what they were trying to teach – and the more they realized attendees weren’t scared of the L-bomb.

“The more feedback we got, the leaders got the idea of love, and they weren’t afraid of it,” Marcus says. “We’re getting such great reactions from traditional business people that say, ‘Really, we get it, this idea of love – if we embrace it genuinely – can lead to building a good company.”

How does one actually implement love within a business, though?

“You’re looking for opportunities,” Marcus explains. “We took all of this from the Phanatic. He makes a decision to go out there and look for opportunities to care for people and do his thing with people.”

Likewise, a business leader looking to foster love needs to be willing to take action. Every encounter – with employees, with customers, with potential customers, with competitors – has to count.

Just like every encounter with the Phanatic counts. Each time the character approaches someone at a game, he has the ability to make a memory that is going to last a lifetime, whether it’s a high-five or a photo or a hug, Burgoyne says. He would know. It happened to him.

“I remember the first time I came face-to-face with the Phanatic,” he says. “I was in seventh grade, walking along the concourse, and I ran into the Phanatic. He looked at me, I looked at him, and he gave me a smooch. I remember that it was between the 200 and 300 levels – it’s a very vivid memory.”

So every time Burgoyne runs into someone while he’s inside the costume, he has the opportunity to create that kind of lasting memory. So do business leaders, he and Marcus argue in Pheel The Love, whether it’s walking around the company’s building and saying hello to employees or making sure to greet customers at events and make them feel special. It’s all about creating a moment that people can cherish and share.

“When people find out I wrote this book and I wrote it with Evan, they tell me some version of a Phanatic story,” Marcus says. “Everyone has a story, and they wonder, ‘Does he remember my moment?’ Well, there’s only been 10 billion moments. But it’s so personal, they’ll say, it feels like he’s going to remember me, he made it so genuine. How do you translate that into business? How do you create a brand that big? The only way to do it is one moment at a time.”

Marcus has a moment too – he went to a Phillies game with his family toward the end of the season. They sat in the fifth row, right near the dugout where Burgoyne puts on his seventh-inning dance as the Phanatic.

In the fateful inning, Burgoyne came out to do his dance and grabbed Marcus’ three sons. Suddenly, Marcus’ children were dancing with Burgoyne on the dugout. They’re on the PhanaVision screen, loud and proud. But best of all?

“Sports Illustrated just happened to be there making a documentary about the Phanatic and Tom,” Marcus says. “They capture this. In the documentary, there’s two scenes of him and my children up there dancing. None of it was planned. Now we, the book, the whole thing is a love story. You couldn’t concoct this if you tried.”

Probably not. Just like the idea of love can be created, but never concocted, within a company. But when it is created, fostered and given room to grow, amazing things can happen, Marcus says.

“This is bigger than us and the book,” he adds. “We feel there’s a mission here to bring more love into the world. Everybody’s touched by business every day. If we can bring more love into business – it’s a way to help transform the world.”

January 2017
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