Now that marketers have more information than ever before on which to base their campaigns, why can't they appeal to their customers? In Marketing Mayhem, Herschell Gordon Lewis, the self-proclaimed "Curmudgeon-at-Large" and author of more than 20 well-respected marketing books, writes that marketing's inability to get the job done has created the financial chaos and organizational instability that has caused response rates to plummet, marketing costs to rise, and productivity and profitability to drop to the floor.
In a humorous, unyielding style that lampoons the idiocies of "the poseurs, the posturers, the no-talents, the copycats and imitators," Lewis sets out to find serious answers to the questions that every good marketer should be asking. The four symptoms of the marketing mayhem to which he alludes in the title are: imaginative sterility, process/technology abuse, language abuse and customer abuse.
To combat the lack of creative imagination in advertising, Lewis says marketers should ask themselves, "What does my creative source offer that will convince the reader, viewer or listener to do business with me?" and, just as important, "Am I qualified to judge whether the person or company I'm paying for this creative work is competent?" Using a vast array of mismatched celebrities and products, Lewis exposes what he thinks are effective combinations (Michael Jordon/Nike) and unsuccessful pairings (Kirstie Alley/Pier 1) while questioning the necessity of CEOs hawking their own products. Among the topics that raise his ire are: back-to-back TV commercials of similar products; bad telemarketing scripts; untargeted, untested direct mailings; naïve, assumptive and vague newspaper ads; and bad names for cars.
Lewis is disgruntled with the "computer technonerds" who are drowning everybody else in an alphabet soup of initials and a quagmire of pompous terminology. He says the new jargon of the computer age and the modern marketing term-throwers have muddied advertising with indecipherable ads and ineffective marketing.
Lewis takes issue with the marketers who used words like "Denali," "Escalade," "Allante" and "Catera" to name cars - titles that do not project any decipherable image. He also says the word "free" has been so abused with follow-up words like "if ..." and "when ..." that it no longer retains any meaning for customers.
Lewis proposes an uprising in the name of returning meaning to "important" and "0 percent APR." He also writes companies should not put, "We would like to" in their ads: They should just go ahead and do it.
Not only does Lewis rail against the endless asterisks that accompany advertising claims, driving negativity into the benefits offered in larger type, but he says there are too many advertising tricks that diminish sincerity and add to the advertising clutter. Lewis' examples of bad marketing include: smug advertising (personified by Dennis Miller), undignified language (the use of "schoolyard smirk-humor"), recorded and phony phone calls, unresponsive customer service centers, online buying hassles, and assumptive sales pitches based on database homogenization. With every criticism he offers about the marketing industry's lack of focus on customer needs, Lewis includes several real-life examples that are all-too-familiar.
For marketers who would like to avoid these pitfalls, Lewis offers these professional suggestions: Work to build customer rapport; communicate eye-to-eye; use all your rhetorical, electronic and production tools; test; and don't sell clichés.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
Marketing Mayhem is packed with Lewis' unique charm and sarcastic humor, and is written with a wonderfully wry style. He drives stakes into the hearts of the villains of horrible marketing with passion and joy, his examples vividly illustrate his messages, and his book remains laugh-out-loud funny throughout. Meanwhile, Lewis provides solid, expert advice to help others avoid the marketing blunders made by those who thought they knew better, but didn't.