Category Archives: Book Reviews

Seth Godin is A Purple Cow

I registered for all my college marketing classes with great enthusiasm as I was dreaming of becoming a marketer some day. I learned a lot, but my enthusiasm often disappeared as the semester unfolded. Why?

In my experience there were two kinds of marketing instructors.  First, marketing researchers who had not left the building for about 10 years and seemed to live in the past.  They liked to talk about 4 or 5 Ps of marketing, gave me a solid foundation in marketing vocabulary as well as taught me how to analyze case studies.  Secondly, corporate refugees who gained their knowledge of marketing working for big Fortune 100 or 500 companies. They had real life experiences and often times knew how to push products and services to the masses.  They were well respected by the rest of the faculty for that.

I lost my enthusiasm in my marketing studies by mid semester with both types of instructors as I did not learn how to brand and market small business products and services.  I was not interested in stories about big companies with huge advertising budgets.

Of course they were able to buy attention from consumers. In addition, I saw creative individuals getting below average grades in class as they did not do well at multiple choice tests.

Then I heard of Seth Godin and felt relieved. He announced that the “TV- Industrial Complex” that had lasted a half century, was broken and It was OK to be bored with traditional advertising and push marketing. It wasn’t just me.

The main idea in Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow” is mastering the art of becoming remarkable as the New Era of marketing is NOW. Remarkable ideas that spread, win. Remarkable companies, that stand out, win.

Tips on turning your idea/product into a Purple Cow:

– Is your product/service more boring than salt? Come up with 10 ways to change it.

– Think small. Think of the smallest conceivable market, and describe a product that overwhelms it with its remarkability.  Go from there.

– Outsource, if necessary.

– Build and use a permission asset. Once you have the ability to talk directly to your most loyal customers, it gets easier to develop and sell amazing things.

– Copy. Not from your industry, but from another industry. Find out what they do remarkably well and copy.

– Identify a competitor who is generally regarded at the edges, and outdo them.

– Find things that are “just not done” in your industry and do them.

– Ask “Why not?”

Seth Godin is definitely a Purple Cow amongst marketers as he is not afraid to do anything mentioned above.

Predictably Irrational

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I took some time off to take care of my health at the local hospital. I made a mistake of bringing my assistant Blackberry with me. Here I was, one hour after my surgery drugged up and happy, talking business on my “Crackberry”.

Why did I feel a need to take care of business when I had a perfect reason not to.

Why do we make foolish and irrational decisions?

Read “Pedictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely. You may get some answers.

You’re already thinking the author of Predictably Irrational is not talking about a smart, practical person like you. But he is.

MIT professor Dan Ariely has been studying behavioral economics for 20 years. He contends that irrational behavior is a part of human nature. Don’t be put off by his academic standing. His new book is an entertaining read.

It’s a fascinating romp through the science of decision-making. Ariely shows how emotions, social norms, relativity and expectations lead us astray.

He illustrates how people keep their options open, even when one is obviously better; why a woman can’t decide on one of two suitors though one has demonstrated that he is better.

Want to know why a penny difference in price can prompt you to choose a different candy than the one you really want? Why coffee in a nice setting tastes better? Why a person looks more attractive when a less-attractive person enters the room? Or why people who would never steal money take office supplies?

Ariely says our understanding of economics is now based on the assumption that people behave rationally. It should be based on the natural irrationality of human beings. But once understood, irrationality can be overcome.

Some of his experiments had surprising outcomes. In one, people were asked to write down the last two digits of their Social Security numbers. After they did, it was found that people with numbers ending in the highest digits (80-99) were willing to pay more for items like wine and chocolates than those with the lowest numbers, those ending in 01 to 20.

Economists are using the new-found knowledge to design fixes for problems ranging from drug addition, to undersaving for retirement, or to the positioning of cookies and fruits in the cafeteria.

Go and buy Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, HarperCollins, 304 pages, $25.95.

Meatball Sundae

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“Meatball Sunday” stirred up most of my beliefs about successful marketing. I enjoyed Seth Godin’s book and I wonder if I ever tried to fix Meatball Sundaes for my small business customers.   Maybe we as marketers try to cover up Old Marketing with whipped cream and put a cherry on top?

New Marketing leverages scarce attention and creates interactions among communities with similar interests. In other words: if you want your product to be successful, you need to build a community around it.  In addition, every product or service becomes a form of media through storytelling and interaction.  Dreamers, be aware – the triumph of big ideas will continue. Forget the command-and control approach to the creation and spread of ideas.

The important part of New Marketing – permission marketing is not up to the person sending marketing messages. Permission does not exist to help the marketer. The moment the marketing message ceases to be anticipated, personal, and relevant – doors close in front of the marketer.   Permission exists to help the consumer, and can’t be sold or bought.  In a market where everyone is a critic, there is a constant need to create products and services that appeal to and satisfy critics.

“Meatball Sundae” focuses on 14 trends no marketer can afford to ignore. It explains what to do about the increasing power of stories and shortened attention spans.

———Gotta get me some of that New Marketing. Give me blogs, e-mail, YouTube videos, MySpace pages, Google AdWords…I don’t care as long as it’s shiny and new.

Dead CEO s and how they operated: Book Review

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War heroes, long after they pass on, live on in the movies. The life and exploits of sports heroes are retold in books. Sixty years after his death, we still know Babe Ruth.

Stars of the business world may be less well-remembered, but their daring feats qualify them as heroes just the same. Dead CEOs still have a lot to teach. In New Ideas From Dead CEOs, author Todd G. Buchholtz dramatically brings their business stories back to us.

Take A.P. Giannini, founder of Bank of America. He cared so much for his customers that he reopened his bank four days after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. It was a Sunday. Giannini went down to the wharf, put a plank across two wooden barrels and declared himself open for business.

Some of Buchholz’s heroes started their empires from scratch. Walt Disney first supported himself by taking baby pictures. His career got a boost when he received $500 for a film on dental hygiene.

Sam Walton wasn’t shy about scoping out the competition. At one point, he sneaked around competitor’s stores and looked under the display racks to check inventory. Walton was a proud skinflint. He was so tight with a dollar that he once shared a hotel room with eight staffers. Those were the early days. By the time he became a retailing legend, he only shared his room with one staff member.

Book reviewer Paul Carroll says the author recounts fascinating stories of early beginnings of mega businessmen, showing how his subjects transformed business.

In addition to the dramas of Wal-Mart and Disney, Buchholz tells the adventures of Tom Watson Sr. and Tom Watson Jr. of IBM, Mary Kay Ash and Estee Lauder, David Sarnoff of RCA, Ray Kroc of McDonald’s, and Akio Morita, founder of Sony.

New Ideas From Dead CEOs by Todd G. Buchholz, Collins, 300 pages, $26.95.