2014

 

Books

Today, we live at the cusp of a future that looks a lot like the futures our predecessors faced on this same day last year, a decade ago, or even a thousand years in the past. So each essay in Today in the Histories of Social Media documents a social phenomenon that is as real now as it was then. The short, two or three-paragraph entries reveal varied examples of crowdsourcing, viral, innovation, storytelling and every presumably new quality enabled by current technology. They were experienced when content was usually live, if it hadn’t been captured with quill pens scratched on parchment. They were shared when ideas and trends moved at the speed of horse-drawn carriages, or on trains drawn by steam engines, and remembered when facts were vetted by human minds, and truths stored in our hearts, just like today.

Reading an essay each day will get you thinking about social media in novel, challenging, and counter-intuitive ways. You’ll be surprised by interesting, funny, and sometimes gut-wrenching facts about social experience that aren’t well known or often discussed.

2013

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Five years ago, I predicted that we had to redefine brands — not just repurpose our old ideas to new media — or risk losing authority, relevance, and customers. Branding Still Only Works on Cattle documents why corporate reputations are crashing, nobody believes what companies say, and it’s harder than ever for brands to command price premiums or customer loyalty. What I saw as a crisis in 2008 has proven to be a chronic affliction. It’s time to face the ugly, complicated reality of today’s marketplace: Branding is dead. Before we revive it, we need a new definition of brands. This book outlines why and how.

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This quick read draws on the science of the mind, ancient civilizations, mobile tech, Shakespeare, funny TV commercials, and a host of other diverse topics to explain why we prefer pictures over words, brevity over length and depth, and are thereby willingly giving up our ability to reach consensus and collaboration on any constructive action. Ultimately, A Thousand Words is a book for marketers and business leaders, for whom Baskin makes a novel, contrarian conclusion come to life with illustrative examples, intriguing facts, and not a little bit of wit: it’s not that a picture tells a thousand words, but rather we need a thousand words to understand most pictures. His insights have implications for how brands communicate with their markets, and how consumers interpret those communications. Read this book and you’ll never Tweet the same again…

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Truth is a powerful marketing tool–and really the only way to promote a message and brand effectively.

Truth in advertising has long been something to ignore, or at least downplay. The role of advertising has been to position and manipulate brands to convince consumers that they’re imbued with qualities they don’t necessarily possess, or presume to tell them which ones matter. It worked when the brand’s voice was the only voice, but with the rise of social media that era is over.

Marketers have focused their messages on entertainment, creating funny or engaging campaigns that win awards but don’t always sell products. Consumers determine what’s true, and smart companies have realized that every communications medium can and will be used to contribute to those conclusions.

In Tell the Truth, Jonathan Salem Baskin and Sue Unerman look at the content and context of marketing communications. They provide the research of hundreds of companies and in-depth case studies on more than 50 global brands to show us that truthful brands deliver sales, profits, and sustainable relationships. Truth yields true competitive advantage.

2011-2012

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Are Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube really new? The technologies certainly are, but history provides antecedents for every behavioral, cultural, and commercial quality of new media experience. Crowdsourcing? Medieval villagers used it to learn about treatments for the Black Death long before consumers submitted ideas for new flavors of soda pop. Engagement? 19th Century industrial unions were planning activism in ways that make “friending” a product or service little more than a joke. Conversation? The Romans ran their government with it, while the French Terror used it to murder thousands. Debate? People have jousted and dueled for centuries.

If you strip away the technology, you open up a rich resource of case histories that better explain the dynamics, shortcomings, and immense opportunities for social media. Histories of Social Media (the first edition was published in 2011, and the second in 2012) explores two thousand years of communications do’s and don’ts to deliver an insightful, entertaining, and useful read.

2009

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This book is your resource and guide for better branding and marketing in 2010, culled from studies of 500+ companies worldwide, analysis in 260 essays on the award-winning Dim Bulb blog, and then distilled and refined to deliver:

  • 9 strategic trends that challenge the conventional wisdom
  • 86 tactical ideas you can start use tomorrow
  • 101 essays that add nuance, insight, and humor
  • Hundreds of tidbits, challenges, and possibilities for you to ponder
  • Useful indices by industry category and name, to make the book useful all year long

2008

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Branding expert Baskin plays the merry iconoclast in this witty guide that marshals the latest research and a good serving of common sense to debunk branding’s many myths. The author’s claim that branding is a waste of money is likely to be controversial, but his research is sound and persuasive: he covers the failure of the Gap’s Red campaign, the useless Burger King mascot, why Starbucks’ success has nothing to do with branding, and he revisits Coke and Pepsi’s rivalry, which culminated in their multimillion-dollar dueling ads featuring Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera that had scant effect on sales.

Baskin’s understanding of consumer behavior is nuanced and sophisticated, as are his explanations for why branding myths have so perniciously persisted (he draws parallels between the longevity of outmoded marketing strategies and that of Ptolemy’s geocentric concept of the universe). Baskin is impatient with the resources and energy poured into branding, and readers will be, too, when they realize how little it influences consumer choices—and his well-reasoned, well-written book will garner him a wide and appreciative audience.