This week, I discuss my annual list of favourite marketing books. We'll look at a new book, titled, Mad Women, written by an original Mad Woman from the 60s era Madison Avenue. Next, we flip through the pages of another new book by one of the most outspoken and notorious Mad Men of all time - George Lois - whose no-holds barred book of advice will certainly ruffle some feathers. Simon Sinek's book, Start With Why, argues that most companies don't know WHY they're in business, and will not succeed as a result. Lastly, we discuss a book by Steven Johnson that looks at where good ideas come from.
Pour a cup of coffee and join us.
I love books.
I've got at least five books on the go at any one time in my house. Spread around in all in different rooms, all with bookmarks in different places.
I'm constantly on the hunt for books on a variety of interesting subjects - not all of them on marketing.
I buy new ones and old ones.
The interesting thing about used books is that they handled by many other people. Some books have been in a family or a household for generations. Which means that booksellers find a lot of interesting things stuck inside the pages.
What people apparently use as bookmarks is fascinating.
Money is a constant theme. Many books are found to contain legal tender as bookmarks - usually twenty dollar bills. Train and plane tickets are familiar bookmarks.
One item I would have loved to have found was discovered last year. A letter, written by Paul McCartney to an unknown drummer to audition for The Beatles, was found folded inside a book sold at a Liverpool yard sale last year.
The letter was written on August 12, 1960, two years before Ringo joined the band. It was later sold at auction for approximately $56,000.
It's astonishing to learn what people will use to mark their places in books. Several booksellers have found unrolled, unused condoms as bookmarks. Others have found used Q-tips. Unused sanitary napkins. Bullets. Drugs. And baby teeth.
One even found a strip of bacon.
But there's one more tasty thing you can always find in books.
There is just something about the wisdom found in the pages of a book. Writing a book is a journey, a painstaking one that can take a year of more to complete. It passes through the hands of writer, their publisher, their editor, the fact checkers, and the layout artists.
Therefore, it is rarely taken lightly.
This is my annual look at books I love. I've chosen a handful that I hope you may find interesting. I've learned something from each of them, I've applied the learning in my life, and their stories never fail to amaze and entertain.
Jane Maas was one of the most famous Ad Women on Madison Avenue.
Jane Maas Source: Bucknell.edu
And she has just written a terrific new book, titled, appropriately, "Mad Women."
Maas was hired as a copywriter by Ogilvy & Mather in 1964.
She managed to rise to the top in the male jungle that is New York advertising based on smarts, creativity and sheer bravado. She would go on to create many memorable commercials, including this legendary campaign:
Her book is filled with stories right out of the Mad Men era, and if you're a fan of that series, her early copywriting days eerily parallel those of Peggy Olson.
Peggy Olson Source:AMC.com
Maas outlines the incredible struggles women endured in the ad biz back then, including unequal pay, rampant jaw-dropping sexism, lecherous bosses, offices filled with after-hours sex, and the almost impossible balancing act of motherhood and a high-pressure job.
She also tells many hilarious stories.
One of my favourites involves United Airlines.
United wanted a promotion to increase business travel. Essentially, the promotion United Airlines came up with was this: United offered businessmen a discounted airfare and hotel room if they took their wives along with them.
The commercials were elaborate musical numbers, with a Broadway chorus line-like feel, with wives singing "Take me along with you if you love me."
The promotion was a huge success.
As a matter of fact, United was so pleased with the results of the campaign that it followed up with a mailing to all the wives thanking them and hoping they enjoyed the trip.
But it turned out that a big percentage of the wives were surprised to receive the letters. Because they weren't the women their husbands took on the trips.
United quietly folded the campaign soon after.
One of the most notorious, outspoken Mad Men from that era was art director George Lois.
George Lois Source: Flufflylinks.com
Mr. Lois has a new book out, sweetly titled, "Damn Good Advice." It's a terrific, quick read book that sums up Lois' no-holds barred philosophy of what it takes to be a creative success in this world.
His advice has titles like "Don't Be A Cry Baby," and "Stop Tweeting Your Life Away and Do Something Productive."
And - "If all else fails, threaten to commit suicide."
Let me explain:
In 1959, Lois was working at Doyle Dane Bernbach, the agency that would start the creative revolution on Madison Avenue.
They had a client called Goodman's Matzos.
Lois created a poster for the product, and an account man from the ad agency took it over to the Goodman's for an approval. When he came back with a resounding NO from the client, Lois went off all four walls.
So Lois went to his boss, Bill Bernbach, and insisted he be allowed to take the ad back to the client personally.
The President at Goodman's Matzos was, as Lois describes him, "an old-testament, bushy-eyebrowed tyrant." As Lois went into his passionate pitch to re-sell his idea, the tyrant just yawned.
When Lois unfurled the poster, for the second time, the bushy-eyebrowed honcho simply said, "I don't like it." Undeterred, Lois ignored the turn-down and just pitched louder.
Finally, the client rapped his desk for silence, and growled, "I DON'T LIKE IT."
So George Lois did what any passionate creative person would do in that moment.
He walked over to the office window, opened it, and climbed out onto the ledge, overlooking the New York street far below.
The client stood there in shock.
Lois gripped the window with his left hand, waved the poster with his right hand, and screamed at the top of his lungs, "You make the matzo, I'll make the ads!!!"
"Stop, stop" yelled the old man. "We'll run it, we'll run it."
Lois climbed back into the room, thanked the client in the nicest way for approving his work, and left.
And by the way, the still passionate George Lois wrote this fantastic book at the tender age of 80.
There is a book I want you to buy. It's called "Start With Why" and it's written by Simon Sinek.
Simon Sinek Source: montewashburn.wordpress.com
And I would love business owners and managers to buy it tomorrow.
This book is all about why a company's "Cause" is the most important thing.
In other words, "Why" a company does what it does is thee most important thing it can communicate. Not How it does those things, or What it does.
How and What are only tangible proof of the "Why."
Sinek maintains that almost every company can tell you What they do, and How they do it, but most can't tell you Why.
The problem is that loyal customers don't buy the What and the How, they buy the WHY Let me explain. Great companies are not about products - they are about a philosophy or a vision to which people want to belong.
Sinek cites Southwest Airlines as a great example.
Southwest was not built to be an airline, it was built to champion a cause.
Back in the early 70s, only 15% of the population flew. Air travel was expensive, elitist and complicated.
That 15% market was so small it scared off most competitors. But Southwest wasn't interested in competing for the 15%, they cared about the other 85%.
Their competition wasn't other airlines, it was cars and buses.
In other words, they championed the common man.
That was their WHY.
Southwest started an airline that was cheap, fun and simple. There were no classes of seats, and no reserved seats.
Sinek cites Southwest as the most profitable airline in history.
It has been profitable almost every single year of its almost 40-year existence, including during the year of 9/11, and through fare wars, recessions and all the fuel crises.
Southwest is not always the cheapest option, it isn't the best airline in the world, it offers fewer routes, it doesn't fly internationally, it only flies to 30 of the 50 States, and most of its flights are under two hours, so it doesn't serve meals.
But WHY they do it is crystal clear to the public and everything they do proves it. Southwest exists to make airline travel affordable.
That's why Southwest employees and customers are so loyal to them.
People actually sent cheques to Southwest Airlines after 9/11 - some even as big as $1,000 - because they were loyal customers who wanted to help the airline they loved.
Loyalty has nothing to do with price. It has to do with how attracted people are to the purpose of a company.
Great companies give people something to believe in.
Sinek points to Apple as a perfect example.
Apple's WHY is to challenge the status quo. It is creative rebellion. Other computer companies wanted to empower corporations, Apple wanted to empower everyday people.
Apple inspires people because they aren't just about products. It represents an ideal that people want to be associated with.
As Sinek so rightfully asks - would anyone you know line up for six hours to buy a phone from Dell?
Answer: Not a chance.
But they will for Apple.
Other companies can copy your WHAT and your HOW, but they can never copy your WHY.
"Why" is what makes customers stick with a company. "Why" is what makes employees stay loyal. A company's "Why" is a competitive advantage.
Read "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek. And save your company.
Another book I found fascinating is called, "Where Good Ideas Come From" by Steven Johnson. He explores the history of innovation. One of his theories is that the more disorganized your brain is, the smarter you are.
Because that chaos leads to random connections. And random connections lead to innovation. As an example of innovation and random connections, he tells the remarkable story of the invention of the incubator.
Sometime in the late 1870s, a Parisian obstetrician named Stephane Tarnier, took a day off from his work at a maternity hospital and paid a visit to the Paris zoo.
Stephane Tarnier Source: Wikipedia.com
While there, he stumbled upon an exhibit of chicken incubators. Watching the baby chicks totter around in the warm enclosure triggered an association in his head.
Before long, he hired the zoo's poultry raiser to construct an incubator for human newborns.
Tarnier knew that temperature regulation was critical to keeping infants alive. When his newborn incubators were installed at his hospital, which warmed babies by hot water bottles below wooden boxes, the results shocked the Parisian medical establishment.
At that time, infant mortality was staggeringly high. One in five babies died before they learned to crawl, and 66% of low-weight babies died within weeks of birth.
But only 38% died in Tarnier's incubators.
He effectively cut the mortality rate in half.
Incubators became standard equipment in North American hospitals after World War II, triggering a spectacular 75% decline in infant mortality rates between 1950 and 1998.
Think about that: Because incubators focus exclusively on the beginning of life, their benefit rivals almost any other medical advance of the 20th century.
Radiation therapy or a double by-pass might give you another decade or two, but an incubator gives you an entire lifetime.
And it was all inspired by the random connection between chicks and babies.
Incubators are complex, expensive machines, costing more than $40,000 each. In developing countries, you need the budget to afford them, as well as the expertise to fix them and replacement parts.
One day, a Boston doctor made a random observation that the one thing developing countries seem to do very well was keep their automobiles in working order. They may not have air-conditioning or laptops or cable television, but their Toyota 4-Runners were still on the road.
Which led them to wonder if an incubator could be made out of automobile parts. So they built a device that looked like an incubator on the outside, but the guts were purely automotive.
Sealed-beam headlights supplied the warmth, dashboard fans provided filtered air circulation, door chimes sounded alarms. You could power the device via an adapted cigarette lighter or a standard motorcycle battery.
The result was a brilliant solution: It tapped the local supply of parts, and you didn't need to be a trained professional to repair the incubators, you just needed to know how to replace a broken headlight.
Innovations are interesting things. As Steven Johnson says in his book, we tend to classify them as enormous feats of genius-level thinking that transcends mere mortals.
But more often than not, great ideas are incubated in limitations. And an absence of budget, and a lack of time.
And the mortality rate of those good ideas drastically declines.
It's all about connecting the dots.
And it's why I love books.
The wisdom in books helps you connect the dots in life.
Because along with twenty dollar bills and strips of bacon, there is so much wisdom tucked inside those pages...