Friday, August 10, 2007

Making sense of marketing chaos

I used to think that marketers, with their big budgets, lack of accountability, and scads of vendor goodies, had it made. But in recent years, three challenges -- the fragmentation of media, the rise of the customer, and the difficulties of figuring out whether the trillion or so dollars that companies spend on marketing actually produces a decent ROI, have made the job a lot harder. I've also been getting a growing stack of books from would-be gurus and other pros that attempt, with varying degrees of success, to address the challenges marketers are facing.

Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here (Wiley) is a story-driven survey of the state of marketing vehicles. Written by David Verklin, CEO of Carat Americas, the world's largest independent media buyer, and the late Bernice Kanner, a noted marketing journalist, it covers the meltdown in traditional media vehicles, such as TV and newspapers, and the emergence of a host of others, such as search, buzz, mobile, product placement, etc., etc. The book is a readable intro to the complexities that today's marketers face when trying to reach customers, but there isn't much prescriptive advice for how to handle them.

Jean-Marc Lehu's Branded Entertainment (Kogan Page) focuses more tightly on product and brand placement in films, music videos, novels, video games, etc. Packed with examples, the book contains both an overview of the development of this fast-expanding vehicle and a practical education for marketers who want to use it. One interesting conclusion: there is no proven and comprehensive way to measure the ROI of these marketing investments.

Richard Laermer and Mark Simmons, the authors of Punk Marketing: Get Off Your Ass and Join the Revolution (Collins), hone in the growing power of the customer in the "brandscape." They say that customers are running the show these days and that traditional marketing bores the hell out of them. The book is full of attitude and fun to read, and there's even an idea or two you might be able to put to work. (See the manifesto here.) But unless you're still marketing like it's 1969, I don't know that it's as earth-shaking as the authors seem to think.

In Your Gut Is Still Not Smarter Than Your Head (Wiley), Kevin Clancy and Peter Kreig, the leaders of Copernicus Marketing Consulting, take on the third challenge marketers face -- how to make marketing profitable. Toward that end, the authors offer a functional makeover that uses analysis and facts to make investment decisions, a basic business concept that marketers have been able to avoid by focusing on the creative side of the discipline. It's good book that imposes some systematic managerial order on the most critical and mysterious business function.

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