My new column is live at The Drum:
That’s not a marketing textbook. This is a marketing textbook. Or so Byron Sharp might say.
After university, my first full-time job in 2002 before I became a reporter was as a staff assistant at the Beacon Hill Institute, an economic think tank at Suffolk University in Boston. The organisation – like the executive director, economics department chair Dr David Tuerck – has an extremely libertarian and laissez-faire point of view.
One day, when the staff were having some beers after work, I asked him why the department’s textbooks and institute’s reports did not give equal consideration to all other economic systems – such as socialism and communism – as well.
“Communism doesn’t work,” he replied. “It’s been proven. There is no reason to consider it. Would we offer competing ideas to the theory of gravity just to be neutral?”
All professors must decide how to educate the next generation. Should they be neutral and let students make up their own minds or advocate for the positions that they think are wise and correct?
Some years later, when I studied and then went into marketing after my time in journalism, I read marketing textbooks such as those by Philip Kotler that took the neutral approach. As usual, the theories, models, and case studies were typically presented from various sides without opinion.
Now, Sharp, the director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia, has done something similar to what my former boss does. He recently released a new edition of his Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice textbook and, upon request, sent me a copy for review.
“Current textbooks don’t cover important issues like media, shopping, and metrics – things that marketers have to know about to do their jobs,” he told me in an interview. “They also tend to be ‘theory’ heavy, such as on the product life cycle, and short on facts and patterns.”
The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute aims to be “the home of evidence-based marketing” and uses its methods to answer questions such as “Are big brands dying?” and “Does the iPhone defy the double jeopardy law?”
Sharp, whose previous work includes How Brands Grow, includes many of the institute’s findings in his textbook. Of course, the book contains all of the material that these texts always have. But what makes this one different is that it advocates for opinionated and controversial ideas on a wide variety of topics.
If you agree with Sharp, the book will be the best thing to come out of Australia since Kylie Minogue. If you disagree, the proclamations will paint with too broad of a marketing brush and leave a bad, Vegemite-like aftertaste. Regardless, the book’s assertive tone adds some Jungle Rain chilli sauce fire to the usually dry material in marketing textbooks.