on 13 March 2011
Somebody had to write this book. It is as well that it was done with at least a veneer of "in a good cause" about it, but the topic is basically about cynical manipulation.
The book describes "viral" marketing effects including the Obama campaign. It scrapes just one or maybe two layers under the surface, and leaves you hungry - but you don't know for what, which is the worst part. It has cute touches, including mention of the authors' children (btw the authors are Aakers and Smith, not their colleague Heath as Amazon suggests). Presumably that is part of the "sincerity" element - one is reminded of the Nixon quote, if you can fake sincerity, ......
I don't actually doubt the authors' sincerity, at the base level, but life is more complicated than they make it out to be. Stunts that work a few times at particular points in time are not the stuff of enduring principles. Aaker has a respectable background as a Stanford professor - but could do more to protect it, by proofreading her material or employing a more literate editor to produce a beefier feel. One comes away feeling slightly disappointed, not least by the trite description of "design thinking", and several other flow charts that seem to have been included to break up (or fill out) the text, rather than to convey any real information.
Spoiler alert - the afterword by Ariely is the best part. He goes through the principles laid out in the book, and shows how they can be used to frustrate, just as easily as to promote, a good cause. If you are short of time, read Ariely's few pages, you will get about 60% of the value of the book. Dan's the Man!
I invested time in this book on the basis of a strong recommendation from the McKinsey Quarterly. It alerted me to the threat faced by established charities from stunt merchants abusing social media. There are many good, hard working people, lifetime employees of charities, that will be less well-off ass a result of this kind of manipulation.
For that insight, I thank the authors.