Thoughtful Lessons From Books … The Printed Kind
You can learn a lot from books, usually from reading them but sometimes just from looking over their covers. Branding guru Jack Trout passed away recently. If you haven’t read his seminal work, “Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind,” stop reading this and check it out of your local library right now.
Trout and his co-author, Al Ries, had a simple premise: prospects must know exactly what your brand is and what it stands for. If you are selling quality, don’t try to be the low-cost leader. If you are selling dish soap, don’t extend your brand name onto laundry soap.
Both the book and the concept are even more relevant today than they were when it was first published in 1980. After reading Trout & Ries you’ll never think of calling yourself a “marketing service provider” again.
By the way, Jack Trout has left us, but Al Ries continues to carry the branding flag up the hill. Follow him on LinkedIn to get a quick taste of the positioning philosophy.
Pick up a copy of the first edition of Nicholas Carr’s 2014 book, “The Glass Cage,” hardcover, with the dust jacket intact. They are easy to find on the used market. The cover design is a masterpiece of print design and implementation, using gloss coating and embossing to simulate broken glass in a tasteful and subtle manner.
I can see you all googling the book title, or clicking on the Amazon thumbnail. Don’t bother. I said print design and implementation. Neither coatings nor embossing can be satisfactorily rendered online. Not only is the visual effect greatly diminished at 96 dpi, but the tactile effect is lost entirely.
Some designs, you see, can only be achieved in print.
By the way, after you’ve admired the dust jacket, read the book. It’s by Nicholas Carr, the author of the milestone book “The Shallows,” meticulously researched, brimming with information, and written in a flowing and eminently readable style.
I read a lot of research about the effect that our wired, on-screen, 24/7 culture has on our brains, and it’s obvious that Cal Newport has too. Much of his theorizing (and indeed the title of his book “Deep Work”) is lifted straight from Nicholas Carr, who is given cursory acknowledgement at the beginning.
This isn’t a bunch of scholarly research. “Deep Work” contains actionable ideas to retrieve your brain from the shallows and regain your ability to perform the deep work that is necessary to succeed in the information age.
Newport rails against tweeting, social media in general, open office layouts; in short, anything that provides distraction, which is to say virtually all the accoutrements of the modern workplace. If you think of yourself as an effective multitasker, inspired by constant workplace chatter and empowered by 24/7 connectivity, then you’ll consider the suggestions in this book to be heresy.
If you’ve noticed that your ability to focus solely on one complex problem or project for a long period of time has seemingly diminished with the advent of the internet age, you’ll at least find this book intriguing, and at most life-changing. It is a quick read, and worth reading if only because Newport takes a position opposite of today’s conventional wisdom.
If you like “Freakonomics” you’ll enjoy the writings of Ori Brafman. His work is in some ways similar, yet contains more actionable advice.
His first book, “The Starfish and the Spider,” is subtitled “The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations” and that’s exactly what it is about. Tired of Apple and Starbucks being used for case histories? I am. That’s why Brafman’s unorthodox examples are so refreshing. He draws upon the success of such rarely-chronicled organizations as Apache (both the Indian tribe and the web server) and Alcoholics Anonymous.
His metaphor, the starfish that regrows an arm if it is cut off, will make you rethink the management structure of your organization.
Ori Brafman’s second book, “Sway,” is just as good, but first read the back cover. After all of the quotations from experts praising the book comes this disclaimer: “If you decided to buy this book because of these endorsements, you just got swayed. One of the psychological forces you’ll read about in ‘Sway’ is our tendency to place a higher value on opinions from people in positions of prominence, power or authority. (But you should still buy the book.)”
Steve Johnson, president and CEO of Copresco in Carol Stream, Ill., is an executive with 40 years of experience in the graphic arts. He founded Copresco, a pioneer in digital printing technology and on-demand printing, in 1987. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.copresco.com