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July 14, 2005

News & Opinion: zzz-marketing

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 4:22 PM – Filed under: Marketing & Sales

Mark Hughess recent title Buzzmarketing: get people to talk about your stuff brought to mind one of Groucho Marxs more famous quips: I never forget a face, but in your case Ill make an exception. Thats because I have a steadfast rule of not reviewing or commenting on books that I havent fully read. But in this case Im willing to make an exception.
Ill start with the cover, which is the one thing I really like about this book. The bright, playful illustration of one person speaking into anothers ear is eye-catching, and serves the core message of the book well.
What did I not like about this book? For starters, the topic. Do we really need yet another book on the art of buzz marketing? On generating word-of-mouth, creating tipping points, spawning viral marketing, all in the service of garnering attention for the latest insignificant bauble? To date the only proven success of buzz marketing has been the buzz marketers themselves. The author is famous for the gimmick of convincing the people of Halfway, Oregon, to rename themselves Half.com, when he was VP of marketing at that company. Okay, thats a real applicable lesson for all you marketers out there.
In his book, Hughes draws lessons from such important business topics as American Idol and Britney Spears, advising people to start conversations (and buzz) by pushing one of the six buttons of buzz: the taboo, unusual, outrageous, hilarious, remarkable, and secret. I cant quite figure out which one of these categories his book fits into. Was humdrum one of them? Or maybe the piling-on, as in jumping onto a topic already covered to death by many predecessors. At least he has the grace to avoid drawing lessons from the Blair Witch Trial, a case study that has inspired far too many business authors.
The point is, why arent there more celebrated books about how to make great products? Or books that question the role of business today? Or take on topics like making meaning among the employees? Marketing is essential, but most marketing books are tired. And one last gripe: in the notes the author misspells the name of Rosabeth Moss Kanter.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.