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Thursday, January 17, 2008

REVIEW: Studying Marketing

Another cold, snowy day... Zooey's huddled up in her house, and so am I.

So book reviews!

Actually, the book's called A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Marketing. The cover design's quite nice, all handwritten as though on graph paper. It's clearly aimed at college students-- which I am not-- but as Jim Blythe writes in the Introduction:

my two marketing lecturers ensured that I had no formal knowledge of marketing, so like a road sweeper I have picked it up as I went along, and consequently I learned it for fun. I recommend you to do the same.
I'm trying!

Now, understand what I didn't. This is not a how-to book, but a book talking about the roots of marketing and how it's studied (oh no!) in school. On that note, you may wish to skip to "How This Book Realigned my Chakras" below. It fits well in the first weeks of an Intro to Marketing course, or for someone studying political & economic history.

But it is interesting, if you have a head for names and ideas. It opens with Adam Smith and Malthus and takes us through psychology & sociology to end up with this weird mongrel subject, marketing. Personally, I always wondered at people who studied marketing in school. It's not terribly interesting as a book subject and I have since watched a couple of friends without the degree achieve success in the field. It is not, after all, mechanical engineering or Russian. You can fake it. Or just learn by doing.

Blythe's version of events puts marketing's birth with the idea that "the route to success is to consider the customer's needs." Then he traces the discipline, as it borrowed ideas from other more stable subjects, on its shambling march to respectability. Now that it has its own journals & theorists, he claims, marketers don't need to know much of anything. Ouch.

Then he gives a whirlwind tour of everything you need to know in marketing. He summarizes the gurus-- Levitt, Drucker, Brown, D'Aveni, Kotler. He gives some hints to the jargon and even a nice little primer on postmodernism (Hyperreality! Fragmentation! Acceptance of Disorder and C H A O S!). Finally, he covers why marketing is-- and isn't-- a real subject to study. Mainly that it's young. And that people hate marketers.

Now, I kind of feel a day behind in my efforts to Brand, Monetize, Capitalize, and Value-Add my cat. But I'm not so sure time was wasted. This is, after all, an agreeable book, with tons of places to look for more info. Most marketing texts don't even touch on Andy Warhol and peanuts, and I am now in much better shape when it comes to reading marketing books. They rely so heavily on jargon-- in books that are supposed to be pragmatic!-- that I'm thankful to have had a pleasant guide to the ideas behind them.

How This Book Realigned My Chakras for Better and Worse
  • I learned something while being entertained
  • I stopped feeling inadequate next to not only Madison Avenue, but Madison, Dane's little girl next door, who always sits out on her porch and puffs up obnoxious Mr. MacMuffin's fluffy, noxious coat
  • I did no actual marketing
  • (it's actually cheap only only for a textbook)
  • I'm still not entirely sure how to do it
  • Hmmm.
  • Oh, we're out of milk, too.