Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Book Club - Buying In by Rob Walker

This is a book about modern marketing. I know, sounds pretty dull, but its not a textbook. It's really a pretty good book on popular culture and certainly taught me that I'm kinda of out of touch. We'll I am 56 years old. I don't consider myself a fuddy-duddy, at least not yet, so I'm happy to read something like this. The premise of the book is that old-fashioned mass marketing doesn't work with young adults (the people who apparently have all the money) anymore. The author presents a number of case-histories, in lively and entertaining fashion about what does work. About how people are embracing brands more and more, but in such a way that the consumer gives meaning to the brand instead of the producer.

Did you know that Pabst Blue Ribbon (or PBR) was a dying beer brand until it was embraced by the bike messenger culture (really, there's a bike messenger culture?) in the Pacific Northwest? Pabst was smart enough to take advantage of it and has managed to increase sales.

Did you know that Timberland work boots are really popular with the hip-hop culture (this I've heard of)? Timberland didn't know it at first, it didn't understand this new market it was given at all. But they got on the bandwagon and moved from a $200 million company to a $2 billion company. And they've come out with a new line called Timberland Pro for their original marked.

Did you know that Red Bull created a whole market segment called energy drinks out of nothing, with virtually no advertising. Instead they sponsor various events. One is going on in Houston right now. It's an art contest where the contestants make objects out of Red Bull cans. There have been two big spreads in the local paper, and Red Bull got the space for free.

Did you know that there are several companies in the US that specialize in word-of-mouth advertising? How does this work? You sign up on a web site and they send you stuff. You talk the stuff up to you family and friends and send a report back to the firm. Why do you do this? Because you think its fun. Do you get paid for this? Prizes are available but hardly anyone who is involves bothers to get their prizes.

If you're interested in pop culture and in marketing and reading about how really smart people, like Mark Ecko, yeah, the guy who put the asterisk on Barry Bonds record breaking home run ball, made millions of dollars doing what was fun for them, read the book.

And, speaking of home runs, how 'bout that Josh Hamilton?

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