Straight Talk: Rather Than Brand, Give Them Something to Act Upon
Enthusiastic from the beginning of our conversation to the end, it was clear that Jonathan Salem Baskin didn’t write a book to pad his résumé or sell a product. He wrote a book because he had something —actually, many groundbreaking things, some of which will ruffle some feathers of many brand marketers—to say.
“Branding Only Works on Cattle: The New Way to Get Known (and drive your competitors crazy)” (Business Plus, Hachette Book Group, September 2008) came after 26 years of working in nearly every corner of the marketing communications field. Baskin currently writes a biweekly column for Advertising Age and runs his popular Dim Bulb blog. In the book, he skewers how brand marketing is practiced yet gives an exciting glimpse of what the future of direct marketing can be. In our interview (posted in full below), he painted what that future can be like for direct mail as well.
Boldt: Why did you write this book?
Baskin: Most of the books in my field are really thinly veiled new business promotions. “Brands are a stalagmite growing up from the bedrock of the cave of your identity, blah blah and, by the way, I sell the helmets with the flashlights on them.” In other words, not trustworthy sources. I have no thing to do at the end of this book, including no thing to sell.
It became increasingly apparent to me that there is this ever-widening gap between what people think and what we think they think and what they actually do. Every year the marketing world seems to get more obsessed by or reliant upon effectively mind reading. “Somehow, some day you the client or consumer are going to use that stuff we inserted into your brain or your heart or soul to buy stuff.”
But that approach doesn’t jibe with the reality of what is happening, which is the combination of technology and culture and our better education in media and marketing. What, in fact, moves people is a lot more tangible, more tactical, more real life. When you look at the miracle of the internet, we see images—so marketers think that marketing on the internet is all about images, but it’s not. What’s driving all those images and all the social conversation activity is actually reality—the stuff that’s chatted about and what really moves communities online are the reaction to real-life events, what companies really do, and people can see them more clearly, more often and also comment on them.