Need marketing ideas? Steal these!
Written by Shirley Lichti for The Record,
December 21, 2005
As the year draws to a close, I'm thinking
back on all the marketing books I've read over the last 12 months.
Some were written by academics and focused on theoretical aspects
of marketing. Others were intended primarily for seasoned practitioners
and would not be easily digested by the uninitiated.
And then there were books that anyone could
pick up and get value from regardless of their background or experience.
Two books stand out in this last category.
The first is Steal These Ideas: Marketing
Secrets That Will Make You A Star (Bloomberg Press, $22) by Steve
Cone. And the second is The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of
PR (HarperCollins Canada, $17.44) by Al Ries and Laura Ries.
Both books provide a little food for thought
for companies still planning their 2006 marketing strategies. So
here are my own mini-reviews of each.
Steal These Ideas is a fast read, easy to
understand and well written. It's sort of a Marketing 101 for those
without a marketing background.
Although there are no radically new ideas,
the book shares some good insights. Small businesses can benefit
from the many real life examples discussed and parlay them into
lessons on improving their own marketing efforts.
Cone says that the focus of successful brand
management is how you differentiate your product or service from
those of your competitors.
He suggest that brand building revolves around
four key concepts: a compelling Unique Selling Proposition (USP);
strong visual brand imagery; innovative and reliable products; and
memorable and integrated advertising.
Steal These Ideas presents many examples
of these four concepts. Cone also overviews campaigns that worked
or didn't work and provides black and white copies of print ads
dissected as the good, the bad and the ugly.
For me, the best take-away idea and example
in this book are found in the very first chapter. The idea is that
all great marketing has three ingredients: excitement, news and
a call to action.
Cone illustrates this using the example of
a tiny classified ad placed by British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
It read, "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter
cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return
doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success."
In only 26 words, Shackleton, who was planning a 1914 expedition
to the South Pole, combined all three ingredients listed above.
More importantly, however, were his results. He was looking for
75 applicants. He got 5,000.
The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR
was written by long-time marketing strategist Al Ries and his daughter/business
While I don't agree with everything they
have written, the book is very thought provoking.
The book argues that advertising has lost
its power and effectiveness and can no longer be used to build new
brands. Ever skeptical consumers no longer trust advertising claims
Al and Laura Ries point to numerous marketing
successes such as The Body Shop, Starbucks, Google, Red Bull Harry
Potter and BlackBerry, all of which used virtually no advertising,
relying instead on the power of PR, or public relations.
While the authors make good points about
the value of public relations, they neglect to point out that Anita
Roddick of The Body Shop used PR only because she could not afford
to advertise. Granted, many small businesses are in the same boat
- so they should benefit from these examples.
Like evangelists, Al and Laura Ries tout
PR as "THE" answer for all your marketing ills.
From my own perspective, the upside to PR
is its tremendous cost effectiveness and credibility. (After all,
you can't pay newspapers to write a story about your organization,
however, they will gladly accept payment to run your ads.)
Public relations is credible because people
believe what they read in newspapers and hear on radio or television.
The same cannot be said of advertising.
The downside is that you cannot control public
The best-written news release offers no guarantee
that your message will be delivered to an audience. And even if
you do get coverage, you can't control what the media says - or
the timing of what it says.
For anyone who has ever started a company
or launched a product or service, you know that you absolutely need
to get your message out and fast.
In spite of being a bit one-sided at times,
this book has some very good examples that offer valuable lessons.
It's not too late to add either of these
books to your holiday wish list.