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 / Winter 2013 / Issue 73(originally published by Booz & Company)

Business Literature: Best Business Books 2013

Best Business Books 2013: Marketing

Second, the consumer penchant for doing research before buying has increased exponentially in the Digital Age. Baer cites a 2010 Google study that found that people referred to 5.3 information sources before a purchase decision; a year later, they referred to 10.4 sources.

This yen for information isn’t limited to big-ticket purchases. These days, people tap 5.8 sources of information before deciding which quick-serve restaurant to go to. “If the fact that Americans need almost six data inputs before pulling the trigger on a chicken sandwich decision doesn’t convince you of the need to win the war of information, I give up,” writes Baer.

He argues that these days, the key to a marketer’s success is becoming part of that pool of information sources. Witness the Clorox myStain mobile app, which offers stain-fighting advice on the fly. A great way to market Clorox’s products? Sure, but a crucial part of the app’s success is the company’s willingness to help even when that help doesn’t include its products.

As the book makes clear, the array of tools in the youtility toolbox is vast. Baer draws not just on CPG brands, but also on hospitals, hotels, and even taxicab drivers, one of whom publishes a newsletter, “Taxi Mike’s Dining Guide: Where to Eat in Banff.” Distributed free all over town, the guide has nothing to do with cab rides, but who are you going to call for a ride back to your hotel after you’ve had a great meal at a restaurant recommended by Taxi Mike?

We’ve heard the youtility thesis before, but it says something about the timing of this book and its practical, universally applicable advice that as I write this, it is on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list.

Delivering Experience

If experience is becoming the essence of marketing, experience delivery is becoming a more high-tech endeavor. These days, marketers must also be technologists.

Converge: Transforming Business at the Intersection of Marketing and Technology dives deep into the ramifications of technology-infused marketing. Written by ex-CEO Bob Lord and CTO Ray Velez of the digital marketing agency Razorfish (for which I have worked), the book covers topics including data-driven experiences, the cloud, open source software framework Hadoop, and agile methodology (an innovative, iteration-based software development practice) with a facility that can boggle the reader’s mind. And if you don’t know what words such as ubicomp mean, be prepared to use the glossary. But then, if you don’t know that ubicomp means ubiquitous computing, it’s all the more reason to read this clear-eyed, comprehensive look at how technology is changing customer experience.

As you read it, pay particular attention to how Lord and Velez position the volume of technology in the marketing universe. “Winners in the twenty-first century won’t be distinguished by how fast they master buzzwords or how many faddish new digital marketing campaigns they undertake,” the authors write. “Those winners will be organizations whose main focus is on their consumer’s journey and who possess a relentless desire to understand and improve that journey from beginning to end. This isn’t merely about serving up new ads cloaked in the latest social fashion, but about improving the consumer experience at all stages.” Yes, there’s the e-word again.

Converge is one of the few marketing books that deal with the back end of customer experience—with how to use technology to deliver it. You may wonder what cloud computing and agile methodology have to do with marketing. But both are fitting metaphors for the real-time nature of marketing. As Lord and Velez write in a brief section on the hoary TV upfronts, in which marketers vie to buy commercials up to a year in advance, “For those individuals who spend most of their marketing budget in digital channels, the upfront is a striking outlier from the rest of marketing reality. Marketing in the twenty-first century is all about speed, accountability, data, and digital. The upfronts are about long-term thinking, guesstimations on the potential success of new programming, personalities, and, of course, golf.”

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