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[Review] Marketing Greatest Hits


With the subtitle “A Masterclass in Modern Marketing Ideas”, British marketing consultant Kevin Duncan’sMarketing Greatest Hits: Mastering the Brightest Minds of Modern Marketing” provides quick summaries of what he considers seminal or interesting titles and their key ideas in marketing. Touted as a “definitive compendium of everything you need to know from the best minds in modern marketing”, the book attempts to encapsulate key lessons from the discipline’s thought leaders.

Neatly organized into six chapters, Duncan’s book systematically dives into the essence of 40 books covering major themes, principles and philosophies, branding, consumer behaviors, creativity and personal organization. Each section provides a book summary that is further crystallized into an elevator pitch of sorts called a one-sentence summary – the core idea behind a book. Examples of these include the following:

– When considering creative ideas, concentrate on the size of the idea, not the size of the budget (“Juicing the Orange” by Fallon and Senn)

– There will always be someone who wishes to generate fear and panic, but they are usually biased, ill-informed or just plain wrong  (“Panicology” by Briscoe & Aldersey-Williams)

– Don’t fool yourself that your company has modernized just because you are doing something on the Internet – work harder at changing the business itself (“Meatball Sundae” by Seth Godin)

The book summaries read like blog posts (rather similar to my own book reviews!) and come with their own critiques of the methodologies proposed by the individual authors.  While some of Duncan’s analyses are thought provoking, others appear to be more summaries than critical reviews of the key theses proposed by the various books.

To seal in the learning and provide a key overview of the main concepts, Duncan provides two useful annexes.  The first summarizes the summaries (yes he has a knack for nutshelling everything!) into 35 points that can be considered part of a “new marketing manifesto”.  The second provides one-minute summaries of each title reviewed, highlighting the core essence of each book, what’s good about them, and what one has to watch out for.

Coverage-wise, Duncan’s selection of marketing titles appear more idiosyncratic than encyclopedic. Renowned “gurus” like Chris Anderson  (“The Long Tail“), Seth Godin (Meatball Sundae“), Jack Trout (“In Search of the Obvious“), and John Grant (“The New Marketing Manifesto, The Brand Innovation Manifesto“) are positioned alongside less renowned names.

While the book paid homage to iconic ideas like the concept of “Marketing as Conversations” by the legendary quartet of Levine, Locke, Searls, and Weinberger in “The Cluetrain Manifesto“, other important ideas such as Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” and Berndt Schmitt’s “Experiential Marketing” were sorely missing.

The choice of titles and key concepts in the last section on “Personal Organisation” are also a little miffling – I don’t quite see how relevant a title such as “High Impact Speeches” (by Richard Heller) is to organizing one’s marketing.

Having said that, I like Duncan’s choice of themes which are “off-the-beaten-track” as opposed to including the huge number of social-media-is-everything authors out there. Some of his selected titles like “Quirkology” (Richard Wiseman), “Affluenza” (Oliver James), and “Flat Earth News” (Nick Davies) offered useful insights into the contexts and consumers of the marketing world, providing much food for thought to jaded marketers who may think that they already know everything.

In sum, Marketing Greatest Hits” provides a quick and breezy read for those who are time-challenged but keen to know what some of the key ideas and trends in marketing are.  Serving more as an appetiser than a main course – a cheat sheet for marketers if you may – the book provides an introductory springboard to these seminal ideas. To really benefit from the various gurus’ words of wisdom, however, it may be better to read the actual books themselves.


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