Books

I've written eight books about business, communications, and culture.

I’ve been called called “a merry iconoclast,” “lucid and cutting,” and “groundbreaking,” among other things both favorable and not. My first book, Branding Only Works On Cattle, came out in 2008, and in which I made the case that it was no longer enough for marketers to assert attributes, but rather to figure out how to connect consumers with the reality of products and services. I coined and trademarked the phrase "brand is behavior."

My most recent book, A Cross of Silicon: Collected Essays 2016-2019, documents the latest innovations in artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, smart cities, and new uses for big data, though always asking the same questions: Who asked for it? Who does it impact? What does it really cost?   

All of us are participants in the wholesale reinvention of everything we know in the world, yet few of us have the information or decision making authority to have much influence over it. A Cross of Silicon documents the latest innovations in artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, smart cities, and new uses for big data, though always asking the same questions: Who asked for it? Who does it impact? What does it really cost?

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.

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.

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, and brevity over length and depth. 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.

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. In Tell the Truth, Jonathan Salem Baskin and Sue Unerman 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. 

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. Histories of Social Media  explores two thousand years of communications do’s and don’ts to deliver an insightful, entertaining, and useful read.

This book is your resource and guide for better branding and marketing, 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; and hundreds of tidbits, challenges, and possibilities for you to ponder.

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. His 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).