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A TCI Book Review

Marketing Myths That Are Killing Business: The Cure for Death Wish Marketing

Kevin J. Clancy, Robert S. Shulman
McGraw-Hill, New York, 1994

'Death Wish Marketing' - the very concept is calculated to strike the fear of failure and ignominy into the hearts of marketers everywhere. Clancy and Shulman make the case that many products and services, and the companies that offer them, are failing and dying due to the incompetence of those in charge of the marketing function. Why? Because they subscribe to a variety of misleading if not downright false 'marketing myths'. This syndrome is what the authors term 'death wish marketing'. ('Wishful thinking marketing' would probably be a better term, but what that gains in accurate description it loses in drama and urgency. Given that the authors are marketing experts we suppose that they know what they are doing.)

Especially susceptible to this suggestion of 'death wish marketing' are those that may have gravitated into the marketing function from somewhere else in the company, and who are unsure of the ground they may be on. Even seasoned marketers, seeing the conventional wisdom of their trade debunked in the book, will have cause to question their own attitudes and ideas. In short, Clancy and Shulman have created a reason for everyone in the marketing game to feel nervous if they haven't read this book.

Beyond the hyperbole and scare tactics, though, there is a great deal of useful advice and perspective in the book. Clancy and Shulman investigate fully 172 marketing 'myths' that they say are plaguing business today. These are discussed under twenty different topic areas:

  1. business performance
  2. marketing planning
  3. marketing department organization
  4. marketing decision-making
  5. marketing research
  6. the marketing climate
  7. new product introduction
  8. targeting
  9. positioning
  10. advertising
  11. media planning and scheduling
  12. promotion
  13. public relations
  14. pricing
  15. sales force management
  16. direct marketing
  17. retailing
  18. customer service
  19. test marketing
  20. measuring marketing performance

Each of the 172 marketing myths is exploded in an entertaining and informative way, in a short, highly readable essay of 1 to 2 pages. These essays draw liberally from recent business situations, and tend to have a contrarian and adversarial flavour. Examples include:

  • one good way to spot marketing opportunities is to see what your competition is doing (Myth # 10) - The authors claim that this may be more likely to set you off down the same garden path that your competitors are on, than to reveal any profound insights.
  • people like to shop; it's a form of recreation (Myth #43) - "Are you kidding? People hate to shop." say the authors. Aside from certain crazed affluent women, consumers generally want to waste as little time as possible in the physical act of shopping - hence the growth of catalogue sales and the increasing interest in purchasing via the Internet.
  • psychographic segmentation is a useful tool for segmenting markets (Myth #64) - Total crap, say Clancy and Shulman, because psychographic variables are at best only remotely related to consumer behavior and market response.
  • a company cannot measure the effect of public relations and other forms of corporate communications (Myth #109) - Their verdict on this one? A cop out. "Nonsense", they say. "It's relatively simple to measure the public relations effect", and they obligingly provide some ideas as to how it can be done.
  • the essence of a retail operation is location, location , location (Myth #144) - Wrong-o!, say the authors. The right idea is concept, concept, concept - if you have the right retail concept, and aren't located somewhere in the extreme boonies, the market will seek you out.

...and so on. Each essay is a little reality check of this sort. You may or may not agree with their spin on the issue, but there is no denying the entertainment value, of what they are saying and how it is presented.

Clancy and Shulman are the former chairman and CEO respectively of the Yankelovich Organization, one of the largest and most respected marketing consulting organizations in the world, so they are not exactly fly-by-nighters. Also, Clancy is a professor of marketing at Boston University.

All in all, a good read, with some interesting and illuminating insights.

Oh, yes, one final point..... The authors present a very interesting 'Test Your Marketing IQ' exercise at the outset of the book, consisting of twenty multiple-choice questions on various aspects of marketing. It's worth taking before reading the book, and may give you food for thought. At any rate, it will give you some insight as to how Clancy and Shulman intend to handle their subject.




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