Free And Meaningful: The Future Of Marketing?

During my honeymoon I actually unplugged for nearly three weeks -- well, mostly. It's amazing how much it feels like there is to catch up on after traveling for three weeks, both back at my office and in the world of social media in general.

Like many people on vacation, I took the opportunity to read some real books (well, kinda real books -- I did read them on my Kindle). I was a little worried that living life 140 characters at a time and news feed item to news feed item had completely destroyed my ability to read "long form" content. Luckily, after a couple of rough hours wanting to send an email/tweet/update every time a book prompted a new line of thinking, I settled in. And I am very glad I did, because in addition to reading a couple books for fun, I was finally able to get through two books I had been meaning to read for a while, that I believe will help shape the future of marketing: "Free: The Future of a Radical Price" by Chris Anderson, and "The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning" by Bob Gilbreath.



"Free" deals with everything from the history of the very word and concept of "free" to the usage of "free" in marketing products and services. What makes the book so powerful is that, as Anderson points out, marketers are evolving their ability to deliver certain goods and services for near-zero marginal cost, and consumers are changing their perceptions of what should be free. This presents challenges to industries that face pricing pressure from competitors offering services at a price point of "free." But at the same time amazing opportunities exist for those that can offer  value for "free" and leverage this concept to reach consumers in new and meaningful ways.

All that's a perfect lead-in to Gilbreath's book on "marketing with meaning." His premise, one that I fully subscribe to, is that the future of marketing rests on marketers' ability to deliver value through marketing, rather than simply delivering marketing messaging. In a world looking for ways to make marketing work in non-broadcast media like social media, creating what Gilbreath calls "marketing with meaning" is a great first step.

The two books, while at first blush very different, are actually very complementary for those working in marketing and advertising. Much of the perspective Anderson provides in "Free" can directly benefit those marketers looking to create meaningful advertising. If marketers want to reach audiences in critical mass and deliver value, the ability to play with what can be made free is an invaluable tool. I know not everyone has a three-week honeymoon coming up, but I definitely recommend reading both books if you get the chance.

If you've read either book, would love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a line below or on Twitter @joemarchese (

4 comments about "Free And Meaningful: The Future Of Marketing?".
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  1. Stanford Crane from NewGuard Entertainment Corp, October 20, 2009 at 12:03 p.m.

    Joe, that's it? Marketing with meaning? Never thought of that. Maybe reread Ogilvy on Advertising instead.

  2. Joe Marchese, October 20, 2009 at 12:47 p.m.

    @ Stanford Bob talks about Ogilvy on Advertising, and I think everyone should read it as well. But reading a book written today should be about providing a modern lens to some universal advertising concepts. A lot of people argue that there aren't a lot of new ideas out there, just new applications of ideas based on a changing universe of possibilities. Look at the world of philosophy.

    There's only so much depth I can go into in a summary, but it's worth drawing your own conclusions from the entire works rather than relying on my soundbites to make an assessment.

  3. Rodney Brooks from ToTouch One, Inc, October 20, 2009 at 12:48 p.m.

    I like the thinking you reviewed in these two books. Now I have two more books to add to the list of books to read.

  4. Bryan Mailman from New Breed Marketing, October 20, 2009 at 4:02 p.m.

    Joe, thanks for the suggestion. I get tons of "how to do marketing" emails and try to scan them all, but this one resonated. I checked out the short video on Amazon and I am sold. I am going to buy the book. The content that I have seen so far is perfectly in tune with the marketing that I do on a daily basis, but just sort of pulls it all together (which is something I don't have time to do).

    No, it most likely isn't the end all and be all to marketing, but I like where the author is going with it. In today's market, where authenticity is key and transparency will bite you in the butt, marketing does need "meaning" and not just put an "advertising spin" on it.

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