I was given the opportunity to take an advanced read of the soon to be released book Baked In by Alex Bogusky and John Winsor. As these are two people actively challenging and reworking the definition of advertising the book arrived in a FedEx box stuffed with fresh Colorado air and anticipation.
The subtitle of Baked In is Creating Products and Businesses That Market Themselves. If you’re looking for prescriptive quick fixes, impressive empirical analysis of past success or nifty new buzzwords it’s probably not the book for you.
However, if you’re feeling an inkling there might be a better way to do what you do or you burn with a sense there is opportunity in today’s madness that you’re frothing (maybe not from the mouth though…) to get a hold of then you’ll love this book.
The book is essentially comprised of two interwoven parts, one part an argument why there is an opportunity/need for different ways to approach business. Secondly, a set of 28 exercises called recipes for how to go about rethinking marketing and product development. PSFK has a great breakdown of the book as does James on the Adhack blog whose overviews I'll avoid rehashing and discuss what most intrigued me.
My humble opinion is that this
is one of the most important books you will read this year. Over time it might prove up there with Paul Arden's books as mandatory for anyone wishing to stand out and create "weaponized creativity" in the world of business. I'm certainly biased being a person drawn to
highly creative and innovative ideas along with the environments they breed in but this is one of those rare business books that makes the chaotic pursuit of transformative creativity an approachable and logical pursuit.
What really impressed me
about the book is the ongoing discussion of mindsets and behaviors in companies
to enable great ideas. Not so much gripes or a well worn dismissal of the old methods such as focus groups and the division between marketing and product development, rather a way forward to strip away the preconceived notions embedded in a corporation that get in the way of human beings working more closely with other human beings to create more interesting and innovative products. In particular narrowing the distance between the people who buy what a company makes and the people who make what people buy.
What I also liked, which may frustrate some people, is that the book doesn’t tell you exactly what to do. What it does do is give you principles and exercises to go about rethinking your business and products paired with approaches to implement the thinking. The world of business has become such a wonderfully complex and fast moving ecosystem that cookie cutter strategies or tactics give cookie cutter results whose incremental benefits are diminishing over time. Products need to be and can be intertwined with all the wonderful details and complexity of everyday life. While old or “traditional” ways of doing business or marketing will persist and have their place in certain cultures there is opportunity to think and create in more profound and powerful ways. This book is like a mental workout program that fires up your brain to train itself to work in ways enabling such transformative innovation.
To develop transformative change you need a different way to go about doing what you do. It also helps to have a broad frame of reference and experience when going about it. Plus a willingness to receive ideas and inputs from the most obscure and uniformed places including an open mind to experiment how ideas are made. Baked In is choked full of good applied examples including just a few from the usual suspects (Apple & Nike) though they aren’t the usual cases. But again, the cases are not positioned as a model for exactly what you should do but an example of the recipes in applied practice. A point best summed up in this quote:
One other thought that really struck me while reading the book is how a lot of people still, including those working exclusively in “digital,” really don’t get just how big of a deal it is. Not in the sense of websites, display ads and apps but as the fundamental rewiring of our world. Even in the most traditional of companies you will be hard pressed not to find anything that comes out their doors without some 00’s and 11’s being involved. The very notion of the digital and non-digital world is rather absurd and limiting. Just as the line between product and marketing is limiting.
The book itself lives the world they advocate. Hashtags pepper throughout and the recipes are posted on the Baked In Wiki for anyone’s addition and revision. But the single thing that got me most excited is how tangibly we are seeing humanity potentially return to brands and products. Both because we can get and process more raw and insightful information, secondly because people are generally pretty savvy consumers and therefore appreciative of great products tuned for them. Change is constant and it certainly is exciting change around us.