Book Review: Bogusky on Baking

baked in copy

In this volatile, post-modern marketing landscape, agencies, brands, and planners all fall victim to a common problem: too many cooks in the kitchen.

Conventional wisdom suggests that if multiple thought-leaders and strategists lend their individual perspectives on a particular challenge, the result will be a solution that combines the creative power of everyone.  In practice, however, this technique often proves counterproductive.

So how do we, as marketers/brand stewards/brand editors/brand managers – maneuver with a clear, coherent vision to allow our clients and brands to better connect their products and services to their audiences? We don’t.  If Alex Bogusky and John Windsor (of Crispin Porter + Bogusky) have anything to do with it, a lot of marketing’s ineffectiveness can be prevented by “baking in” the marketing (story/innovation/design) into the product itself.  Their theory is explained in their new book, “Baked In: Creating Products and Businesses That Market Themselves.”

baked in book

Split into three, simple-to-read sections (“Preheat Your Mind”, “Rules For Baking In”, and “The Way Forward”), Baked In is a thought-starting manual that provides some mind expanding examples and case studies.  It (thankfully) avoids sounding annoyingly enlightened, or serving as an self-serving summary of CP+B’s best work.

The book kicks off with a “quick history of branding”, and explaining why the current marketing landscape has evolved into the way it is. “Brands became important during the Industrial revolution to describe a whole new idea: mass-produced goods… it became the marketing’s job to inject news and excitement into what was essentially a consistent, unchanging product”. The book kicks into high gear immediately after, and offers Bogusky’s and Windsor’s insights into creativity, product marketing, storytelling, and changing culture- topics that are close to every marketer’s heart.

Below are a few of the book’s strongest insights, in the authors’ own words:

  • Word of mouth can actually be shut off by using traditional marketing
  • Today, the ability to innovate is not only the best marketing tool, but also the best way to grow revenues and profits
  • The only thing consumers really trust is true peer to peer input: personal stories of products they love
  • Creativity has become the ultimate business weapon. The same creativity that’s been used to change culture through advertising can also be applied to distribution, packaging, and even-you guessed it- the product itself.
  • We believe that, at its core, culture always wants to change- especially pop culture. In fact, change it its whole job. Cultural change is imminent, waiting for random events, either large or small, that will push it over the edge. In the end, cultural change is the product of an alchemy of events and individual influence. As the cultural conditions change, the change is expressed in particular events; influencers become early detectors of this change and communicate it to the rest of the community.
  • It’s all about your willingness to experience the changes affecting how your company relates to its consumers.
  • Innovations usually happen at the intersection of disciplines, whether they are internal or external.
  • While many companies try to make their brand or product relevant to a culture, most successful brands actually transform culture by finding and exploiting cultural conflicts and tensions, using them as a lever to drive change.
  • When inclusive dialogue is at the creative center of your brand’s product and marketing narratives, powerful things happen.
  • To gain the most from a community, you’ve got to be committed in good times and in bad.
  • Not everybody has great instincts, and in all probability, the rise of quantifiable analytics was powered by those poor souls who need a way to navigate business without it… We’d never deny the existence of analytics, but we’re here to argue that you can go the other way, too.
  • Great brands that are culturally relevant are built on the kind of intuition that gives a brand the ability to leapfrog the competition and change the game, the way Google, Amazon, and Threadless have done.

A quick, 150-page read, Baked In is a great handbook to help thinkers and non-thinkers get their minds in the right place and begin adapting to the rapidly-changing consumer marketplace. In order to earn a place in the minds of your consumers, strategic thinking must be part of product development, marketing, and rollout; sprinkle in a tad of sociology and cultural anthropology, and you’re on the right track.