I thought I’d help Guy round up his Lies series, by writing about my top 12 favorite sins of marketing gurus and their books.
- Anecdotal evidence: Guru’s are always telling nice (even great) stories, giving lots of examples and anecdotes. Those can be a lot of fun and quite educational, but most are too specific to work for you, and when you want a more thorough justification it’s not necessarily there, thanks to the invention of best practices…
- Best practices: best practices are a result of reverse-engineering, so it’s like trying to figure out a cake recipe by using a lab analysis of its ingredients. Most are either too generalized to be helpful with specific problems, or too atomized to be restructured practically.
“Best Practices” actually means: building on experience in a world of disruption and fluid rules ; Building on gut feelings on subjects that are built on complex, contradictory or just messy theoretical disciplines ; Using imitation in a world where very few players actually know what they’re doing and even they use a lot of trial and error.
And when best practices are not powerful enough you can make them into rules…
- Sweeping generalizations: Gurus love rules! The golden rule of this, the immutable laws of that. And on the other hand…
- Sweeping negatives: Which doesn’t change the fact that we’re told that “X is dead” and “Y does not work anymore”, while “Z is just not enough” and besides – all the rules have changed, rules are meant to be broken etc… (see cliches)
- 100% evangelism (or “I’m converted, let me go”): Many guru ideas are explained in the first dozen pages of their book, and can be quite powerful. While you look forward to their development, it tends not to happen, and the rest of the book is mostly reiteration and preaching to the choir (with frequent use of anecdotes, which are fortified by calling them “case studies”).
Heck, maybe they are just saving the good stuff for the next time.
- More bulk for your buck: this is about over beefing books, reports and presentations. Why are so many marketing books so thick when the first 30 page (and if to be honest – sometimes less) will suffice? If what you have to say can be summarised in a post – write a post, don’t sell me a whole book. (BTW – the best way to beef up a book? Yup – Anecdotal evidence)
- New marketing is old marketing and vice versa: This is a cycle that has been spinning so fast, that it seems both new marketing and old/retro-marketing live together in perfect harmony side by side on the best seller list. Surprise! while some things change, some stay the same. It’s tempting.
And you can always make the old look new and the new newer by creative use of rebranding…
- Rebranding of jargon: take an old concept and wrap it up in a new metaphor. My current favs (=peeves) are “total branding”, “quantum branding”, and Lovemarks(TM!) – All different levels of rebranding branding, a problematic product to begin with.
If that’s not enough – go extreme…
- Fundamentalism: Many guru arguments are built as all powerful, all engulfing doctrines. It’s that “All you need is X” rhetoric (X being CRM, Branding, Positioning, Buzz Marketing, etc.).
That’s just not true.
- Evoking the geeks: Want your ideas to be more viral? Compare them to star wars (e.g. light side/dark side analogies), talk about blogs, and don’t forget there are other strong geek groups, like the spiritual geeks – have you sold your Ferrari today?
- Cliches: In the new business environment of our rapidly changing landscape, complexity is increasing, uncertainty is the only certainty and consumers are fickle…
- Round numbers: Gurus just love to make up lists. This list should have ended at either 10 or 12 points according to guru rules. Thus I’ve sinned myself, but since I was at 11 I had to either make it 12 or (good grief!) go all the way to 15 or 20.
The more artistic version of list-making is letter-alignment – making acronyms out of words like SMART, or the 3 S’s and 7 P’s and the n N’s. Just by thinking about this phenomena I realise this list is getting way too silly, and must stop.
(damn, I forgot you never point – you pontificate!)
This list is obviously lovingly dedicated to all the gurus I came across through the years, many whom I obviously learned from and appreciate…
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