The Marketer's Bookshelf: Look At More, The Kama Sutra Gets An MBA, Killing Giants
It would be easy to take many potshots at Look At More, by Andy Stefanovich (Jossey-Bass), who spends his time coaching companies on innovation and creative thinking. Now chief curator (yep, his title got our eyes rolling, too) at Prophet, and cofounder of Play, he's the type of speaker the corporate office trots out during offsite retreats and down-cycle pep talks. He's the one giving inspirational speeches on how to encourage a risk-taking, failure-embracing corporate culture, the guy who vanishes long before the next round of layoffs and finger-pointing begin.
True to type, he even kicks the book off with his own very special and unpronounceable acronym -- LAMSTAIH, short for Look at More Stuff; Think About it Harder, which he brags is written in five-foot letters in his office. (You can already smell the dry-erase markers and feel pity for his assistant, can't you?)
But taking potshots would be a mistake. Encouraging innovation and creativity can be an exhausting endeavor, and this book is oozing with ideas -- many of them simple, challenging and doable, with plenty of examples from companies like General Electric, Timberland and Ore-Ida.
All it takes is imagination, and Stefanovich has got plenty. He took a crowd of Disney executives on a cemetery tour, encouraged toy executives to come up with the worst doll reinvention ever ("Let's make her be a hooker," he suggested) and went on a field trip to a thrift store with a group of credit-card marketers targeting low-income consumers (he gave each of them $20 to buy an outfit for the day).
Will any of his stunts work at your company? Who knows? But his point is that unless creative leaders are constantly taking responsibility for challenging their teams with the likes of "worst idea ever" and "thief and doctor" contests, not much happens. He spends a lot of time talking about mood, and has honest insights into how grim and dispirited many creative teams are. And since many solutions are as simple as a $14 gallon of paint, or name tags to announce your daily mood, it certainly won't break your humorless employer's budget to give some of them a shot.
So look past the buzzwords ("confusion tolerance" and "gross organizational happiness," for example) and the really stupid stuff ("Hug a bartender" and "Who can keep a jelly bean in his or her nostril longest?") -- Stefanovich has plenty of great suggestions you can start using right away.
And speaking of the intersection between stupid and useful, let's segue to Kama Sense Marketing: A Love Affair with your Customers , by Jacob Levy (iUniverse), a strange back-and-forth between marketing textbook and the Kama Sutra (yes, the 1,600-year-old sex manual). The book ploddingly takes you from "Preventing your wives from being seduced" to Woolite, "Eros with Planning" to L'Oreal, and from "On the need to relax women" to "Your brand harem" with Victoria's Secret. Our take? MBAs shouldn't mess with the Kama Sutra.
Still, anyone marketing products to women might do well to listen to Levy's advice about using all the senses to sell a brand...and what women may really mean when they say they love your product.
Finally, if you're a marketer at a small or medium-size company, grab a copy of Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in your Industry, by Stephen Denny (Portfolio Penguin). A fast and gratifying read for those working with smaller brands, it's full of accessible case studies from the likes of Method, Jet Blue and 42Below Vodka. With plenty of Greek legends sprinkled in, marketers will appreciate Denny's straightforward approach to finding vulnerabilities in the competition, and moving in on them fast.