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Monday, December 18, 2017

Killing Marketing: Dead on Arrival

I'm a fan of Joe Pulizzi, coauthor with Robert Rose of the new 260-page book Killing Marketing

So I wish I could recommend it.

I can't.

The big idea behind the book―that businesses can convert marketing from overhead into profit―is preposterous; not because it's so wrongheaded, but because it's so thoroughly unrealistic.

Were the idea not preposterous, you'd find more real-world examples than the handful the authors can cite (although I'm flattered they include mention of the magazine I launched for the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, Fire Protection Engineering.)

The "killing" in the title, by the way, is word-play. The authors want you to kill your marketing operation and replace it with a killer media company. (That, or the authors are targeting Bill O'Reilly's audience.)

Killing Marketing argues you can profitably sell the content that drives your marketing, like any media company does.

Sell your content? At a profit? Hell, most organizations can't give it away.

The book further argues you can transform your in-house marketers into crackerjack journalists and media moguls who can "monetize" your audiences.

Fat chance.

When it comes to marketing their products, most businesses indeed "throw good money after bad," as the authors say: they deploy tactics without an underlying strategy; invest in tactics that do not work; and drop successful tactics without forethought.

But to ask every business to "create and distribute non-product-related content" is like asking your auto mechanic to produce Cars, your barber to stage Hair, or your lawnmower to publish Better Homes & Gardens.

Ain't gonna happen.

Yes, LEGO profits from LEGO Club Magazine; Red Bull, from Red Bulletin; and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, from Fire Protection Engineering

But could a single additional organization in those markets replicate that success? Probably not.

A logician would say the authors have written an entire book based on the fallacy known as the "argument from small numbers." Arguments from small numbers go like this:

After treatment with our new drug, one-third of the mice were cured, one-third died, and the third mouse escaped. So if we treat 1,000 mice, 333 will be cured.

The gist of Killing Marketing goes something like this:

Marketing-campaigns-turned-into-media-ventures by six organizations became profitable. So if you mimic them, yours can be profitable too.

With apologies to Hugh FullertonSaying it don't make it so, Joe.


  1. Bob, I humbly disagree with you. Joe and Robert's point is that the key to marketing is engaging and serving a community, rather than cheating them into listening to your marketing messages. I do agree with you that most companies don't have the courage to change their business model or the talented staff to understand and get it done, a few do and have been successful as is referenced in the book. They are right that marketing as most companies are doing it is inefficient and increasing unprofitable. Whether it's what Killing Marketing predicts or another strategy, marketing as it is currently practiced must change. Warwick

  2. Thanks for your comment. I agree 100% with the authors' diagnosis, just not with their prescription. Marketing is sick and needs a cure; and content marketing alone won't revive the patient. But most executives lack the patience to invest in an in-house media venture and wait three years to see results. Watch the interview here with Joe Pulizzi:

  3. Thank you for sharing this information, I would recommend it to my friends, and hopefully this article useful to those who read it. thanks.
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