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Worthy Reads Worthless Reads IV

This has ended up becoming business book week on Brand Autopsy so to further the theme, I present the latest installment of Worthy Reads and Worthless Reads (WRWR). As with WRWR I, WRWR II, and WRWR III, I’m rating each recently read business book on a five point-scale based upon the following categories:

  • IDEATIONhelps me generate new ideas
  • INTELLECTIONgives me a new perspective on a business topic
  • MAXIMIZEincreases my current understanding of a business topic
  • I am also including my Dog-Ear Score for many of these books. (For those needing a primer on the Brand Autopsy Dog-Ear Scoring System, click here.)

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    Worthy Reads Worthless Reads IV

    Branded Nation (James Twitchell)
    Twitchell examines how the seemingly non-commercial worlds of colleges and universities, churches, and museums have become commercialized by embracing the religion of marketing. The book reads like a series of long-form white papers with general and somewhat interesting observations, but no actionable takeaways. I should warn ya … Twitchell is extremely verbose … he carries on from page-to-page like a know-it-all who doesn’t know when the reader has had enough.

    IDEATION – 1/5
    INTELLECTION – 3/5
    MAXIMIZE – 2/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 10:301 (3.3%)
    WORTHLESS READ

    The Marketing Playbook (Zagula & Tong)
    Hmm … this book should have been titled, “The Category Management Playbook” as Zagula & Tong offer great strategic advice on how to dominate a product category. Their five plays (drag race, platform, stealth, best-of-both, and high-low) are easy-to-understand and applicable to any market situation. Plus, their ABC Gap Analysis is a more simplistic way to engage in backcasting strategic planning. As a marketer, I learned very little from this book and found the heavy reliance on high-tech/computer-related analogies obtuse. Had the book been titled “The Category Management Playbook,” I would be more apt to recommend it.

    IDEATION – 1/5
    INTELLECTION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 19:306 (6.2%)
    WORTHLESS READ for a Marketer.
    WORTHY READ for a Category Manager

    The First 90 Days (Michael Watkins)
    A must read for anyone starting a new job with a new company or a new position with your current company. Watkins systematically breaks down the process for how to set yourself up for success from day one on the job. He shows you how to hit the ground running, how best to climb the cultural and functional learning curves, and how to secure early wins (and avoid early losses). If you are a manager responsible for getting new hires up-to-speed, read this book so you can better develop a 90 day plan for your direct reports. This is one of the most actionable business books I have read.

    IDEATION – 4/5
    INTELLECTION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 25:240 (10.4%)
    WORTHY READ

    The Book of Yo! (Simon Woodroffe)
    Simon is a chronic entrepreneur who, when not on the speaking circuit, is attempting to turn his stable of Yo! brands/concepts into the next Virgin uber-brand. His Book of Yo! is full of his hard-earned entrepreneurial gusto-rich ‘Yo-isms’ designed to inspire you professionally and personally to make things happen.

    IDEATION – 2/5
    INTELLECTION – 3/5
    MAXIMIZE – 3/5
    Dog-Ear Score – n/a
    WORTHY READ

    Lucky or Smart (Bo Peabody)
    This may be the first reality fable business book. While I loath fable biz books, I LOVED this reality fable biz book which shares entrepreneurial lessons Bo Peabody learned from starting six successful business ventures. In a mere 58 pages, Bo shares engaging stories, gives poignant perspective, and offers a trove of sage business advice that will benefit any entrepreneur and entrepreneur wannabe. Lucky or Smart is an early contender for the best business book of 2005.

    IDEATION – 2/5
    INTELLECTION – 5/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 14:58 (24.1%)
    WORTHY READ

    The Little Red Writing Book (Brandon Royal)
    Have years of writing in succinct bullet-points for PowerPoint decks caused you to struggle writing in complete and compelling sentences? If so, I highly suggest you pick up The Little Red Writing Book. The author, Brandon Royal, gives timeless and actionable advice in an enjoyable manner that comes off as instructional and never pedantic. His 20 basic writing principles on structure, style, readability, and grammar will not only make you a better ‘long-form’ writer, it might even improve your ‘short-form’ PowerPoint writing.

    IDEATION – 3/5
    INTELLECTION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 22:160 (13.8%)
    WORTHY READ

    Funky Business (Nordstrom & Ridderstrale)
    In nearly every Tom Peters PowerPoint deck he includes some line from Funky Business. So it was only a matter of time before I read it. Well … after reading it, I was disappointed. Disappointed because it is 245 pages of intellectual foreplay. The author’s sexy ideas for designing businesses to compete in the ‘future of now’ look good, read good, and sound good but I was left wanting ‘call-to-action’ next steps. Unfortunately, their ‘call-to-action’ next steps are hidden within their densely layered prose. At least with Tom Peters, you can easily tell where the ‘call-to-action’ points are because of all those exclamation points.

    IDEATION – 1/5
    INTELLECTION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 3/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 9:245 (3.7%)
    WORTHLESS READ

    Category Killers (Robert Spector)
    In today’s United States of Generica, we have seen the face of retail change from small mom and shops which gave way to department stores which have given way to so-called category killers. Spector’s book is a well-researched and very informative historical look at big box retailers which specialize in a given product category (books, electronics, office supplies, etc). And because of their focus and efficiency, these retailers offer consumers a broad selection of goods at intoxicatingly low prices. Unfortunately, Spector glosses over the rich societal implications that have resulted from the market share dominance of category killer retailers.

    IDEATION – 1/5
    INTELLECTION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 19:191 (10.0%)
    WORTHY READ

    The Cult of Mac (Leander Kahney)
    Okay … many stories have been told about the Macintosh cult and how Apple and Steve Jobs are masters at branding. Yada. Yada. Yada. However, Leander Kahney tells the same story but in a different and more emotional way. In this design-rich book, Kahney eschews branding babble rhetoric for bottom-up stories from within the Mac community. This book is just as much about the Mac cult as it is about the cult of Mac. The breadth and depth of the fanaticism from the Mac community is astounding. If you’re a marketer seeking to create loyalty beyond reason with consumers, read this book to learn the extremes to which Mac evangelists go to share and show their devotion to all things Mac.

    IDEATION – 2/5
    INTELLECTION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 31:259 (11.9%)
    WORTHY READ

    Blink (Malcolm Gladwell)
    Blink suffers from lofty expectations. How could it not … Gladwell’s The Tipping Point was pure genius so why shouldn’t we expect genius again from Blink. While Blink is not as actionable as The Tipping Point, it is just as informative and just as well written. My takeaway from Blink was I need to develop the expertise and the discipline to focus my decision-making on critical factors and not get bogged down in inconsequential minutia. My other takeaway from Blink was Malcolm has become intoxicated by his ability to impact vernacular. He seems to relish in his ability to infect the language of today. The ‘tipping point’ has become a buzzword so much so that Malcolm clings to ‘thin slicing’ and ‘rapid cognition’ in hopes they can become as buzz-wordy as ‘tipping point.’

    IDEATION – 2/5
    INTELLECTION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 32:265 (12.0%)
    WORTHY READ

    Massive Change (Bruce Mau)
    95% of this book on the future design of the world and its societal and environmental aspects went WAY OVER MY HEAD. I found the essays and interviews on ‘Urban Economies’ to be interesting and thought-provoking. But the discussion on topics like biomimicry, rural electrification, and tissue engineering bored me into oblivion. But the pictures sure were pretty.

    IDEATION – 0/5
    INTELLECTION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 2/5
    Dog-Ear Score – N/A
    WORTHLESS READ

    7 Comments

    • I’ll have to get The Cult of MAC because its about me!!As for The Little Red Writing Book I think I shall stick with my well worn – fifth copy – of Strunk & White The Elements of Style

    • Agree on Massive Change. I just got it last week, leafed through it in about 30 minutes, and doubt I’ll ever pick it up again.I didn’t dislike Twitchell as much as you did, though it is true, there is nothing new here. Plus, I just double checked and his entire section in the conclusion on branding countries is pretty much cut-and-pasted from van Ham’s article on the Brand State from Foreign Affairs. If it was an undergrad paper, I’d force them to rewrite it or get charged with plagiarism.Disagree on Blink. I thought it was pretty lazy stuff, and — on the case of the ludicrous stuff on “temporary autism” — dangerously lazy at that.

    • Andrew … just so you know, your Nation of Rebels book will be included in my next Worthy Reads and Worthless Reads. Here’s hoping I don’t find it lazy (wink, wink).

    • andrew says:

      Yoiks — now I’m trepidatious. Should probably stop trash-talking Twitchell and Gladwell when I’m going under the autopsical knife myself.Looking forward to your thoughts, john.

    • Regarding BLINK, someone recently described “blinking” to me as instantaneous grokking or insight just by looking at something, and everyone has this special 6th sense type ability to have instant Eureka!s, but what–?I know that you must be trained and educated to really have rapid cognitions, lightning evaluations, nanosecond nuance notifications.By inspecting and analyzing hundreds of web sites, I become able to quickly determine if a give site is usable or not, yet User Observation Tests are still required.Just my two sense, er, too cents.Buzzword: “Smoke Walkers” are the brave Iraqis who passed through blood and bombings to vote.

    • I really liked David Brooks’ take on BLINK. In his NY Times book review, David had this uniquely appropriate reaction to BLINK …“If you want to trust my snap judgment, buy this book: you’ll be delighted. If you want to trust my more reflective second judgment, buy it: you’ll be delighted but frustrated, troubled and left wanting more. Or just go to the bookstore, look at the cover and let your neurons make up their own damn mind.”

    • First, Stop and THINKGladwell argues that these decisions taken at the blink of an eye are rarely accorded as much attention as the traditional more deliberate decision making process… But is this latter assumption valid? Do we really take time to make a decision carefully?