Open any marketing book and you'll invariably come across Biographical Notes, one or two paragraph pen-portrait of the great marketing guru whose pearls of wisdom are about to be cast in front of swine like you. Indeed, you should think yourself lucky he's decided to descend from Mount Olympus in return for £19.99, or whatever, of your hard-earned money.
For some years now I've been trying to subvert these straight-laced biographical bromides with wild and woolly riffs on my imaginary career(s). Sometimes I get away with it, other times I'm forced to toe the line (cos it makes the other authors look dull and boring - as if!). So here's a selection of my Bios If you can think of any interesting career paths I should have taken, just let me know and I'll incorporate it into my next biographical note. Naturally, I won't acknowledge your contribution. Hey, whaddya want from me, integrity?
BTW, be careful what you recommend, since I have squads of libel lawyers just waiting to pounce...
Stephen Brown is the treat you can read between deals without ruining your marketing strategy.
Stephen Brown is The-Professor-Formerly-Known-as-Retailing at the University of Ulster. He has written widely. He has written lots of other words as well, but none so deep as 'widely'.
Stephen Brown is an academic installation artist. He made his reputation with the infamous Double Blind Review, a tent embroidered with the titles of all the manuscripts he's trashed under the protection of the peer review system. It was more like a marquee, actually. The subversion continued with Desk, a provocative exhibit comprising the artist's actual two-drawer university desk, plus modesty board, strewn with empty coffee cups, Post-It notes, overdue library books, journal rejection letters and a mound of unanswered memoranda. So outrageous did Desk prove, that the installation was attacked by two deranged marketing scientists, who proceeded to tidy it up and almost got a far as sharpening the pencils before they were physically restrained by security guards. Undaunted, Stephen is currently working on Nix the Mix, a series of four monumental sculptures in the shape of giant pea pods. Constructed from discarded copies of Kotler, the works are due to be installed outside the Marketing Science Institute (Boston), the American Marketing Association (Chicago), the Chartered Institute of Marketing (Cranfield) and the European Marketing Academy (Brussels). Unless the Tate gets in touch first..
Stephen Brown is no relation to Dan Brown, though he wishes it were otherwise. He is hopeful, however, that The Marketing Code will benefit from its shameless attachment to Dan Brown's coat-tails. Written as a thriller, it reveals that The Da Vinci Code was a marketing conspiracy from start to finish.
Stephen Brown. Not many marketing academics can claim to have wrestled a fully-grown lion, bungee jumped from the top of the Sears Tower, raced in the Indie-Car 500, discovered a cure for the common cold and circled the earth in the Mir space station. Neither can Stephen Brown. A shy and retiring, yet immensely engaging, Irishman, Stephen is modest to a fault, adored by his wife and family, and full of the milk of human kindness. But only on blue moons. The rest of the time, he is a monstrously egotistical, foul-mouthed, ill-tempered misanthrope who harangues his spouse, terrorises his kids and maltreats assorted domestic livestock (anything smaller than himself, basically) if they so much as squeak when he's trying to write. No one knows why Stephen gets so agitated since he's never been published in the principal academic journals and his books remain resolutely unsold, though he has high hopes for Romancing the Market. Some people never learn.
When this volume was first mooted, Stephen Brown was mighty of thew, clear of eye, sharp of mind and enthused by the unprincipled principles of postmodernism. Aeons, however, have passed since then. Hemlines have risen and fallen, as have companies, civilisations and entire continents. Stephen is now a decrepit, rheumy-eyed, absent-minded something or other. What's more, he now realises that, as a modernist trapped inside a postmodernist body of work, he has been living a lie the whole time. He'd like to thank the editors and publishers of Rethinking Marketing for giving him the opportunity to own up, tell all and generally unburden himself.
Stephen Brown was born with the smell of greasepaint in his nostrils and the roar of the crowd in his shell-likes. Last in a long line of circus performers, Stephen commenced as a human cannonball, where he worked without the aid of a safety net or crash helmet and doubled in a side-show tableau as "Son of Elephant Man". At the age of ten, the circus's fake phrenologist predicted that he had a big future in sales -- headache powders a speciality -- and so he ran off to Boots in Puss, a small town outside Romford. Despite many lucrative offers to return to the ring -- a mooted comeback tour, Son of Elephant Man Remembers, had to be cancelled because he forgot the itinerary and failed to appear -- Stephen still works in Boots 24-hour pharmacy, albeit on the late night shift. He also occasionally appears in the company's promotional material, as the "before" in "before and after" photo-spreads.
Known to his non-existent friends as Professor X, Stephen Brown is a marketing man of mystery, the Scarlet Pimpernel of scholarship, the Austin Powers of the academy. Although he flits from discipline to discipline, journal to journal and alias to alias, his home base is believed to be in marketing, where he writes under the pen-names of Theodore Levitt, Philip Kotler, Shelby Hunt, Alan Smithee and, above all, Stephen Brown (at least three versions of which - Stephen W. Brown, Steven P. Brown and plain Stephen Brown - are extant). No authenticated photographs of "Stephen Brown" exist; his lectures and conference presentations are made by a variety of henchmen and women, with an interesting mix of speech defects, facial tics and physical deformities; and, he is reputed to reside in a nuclear strike-resistant concrete silo at the bottom of a bog in Northern Ireland (where even the hardiest of souls are reluctant to venture). Perhaps the most intriguing thing about "Stephen Brown" (if he exists at all) is his intellectual ambivalence (if it can be described as intellectual). He variously attacks and endorses the marketing concept, advocates academic and practitioner orientation, espouses qualitative and quantitative research, subscribes to art and science, recommends modernism and postmodernism, and champions-cum-challenges the Relationship Marketing paradigm. Maybe he can't make up his mind; maybe he hasn't got a mind to make up; maybe he's a reincarnation of Hermes, the trickster god of deception, pretense, communication and, not coincidentally, the marketplace. Maybe.
Prior to entering academic life, Stephen Brown eked out a living on the edges of the entertainments industry. He variously worked as The Sex Pistols' interpersonal skills consultant, played one of the exploding drummers in This is Spinal Tap and served as Dave Lee Roth's body double in several Van Halen videos. Since taking up an academic position, Stephen has written extensively. He has written lots of other words as well, but "extensively" remains his favorite. He uses extensively extensively in Time, Space, and the Market, though prominently figures prominently as well.
Stephen Brown witnessed his first bra-burning ceremony at the tender age of 8. His mother, admittedly, wasn't too pleased at the sight of her underwear drawer going up in flames. Pyromania, then, is one of Stephen's many talents, as are kleptomania (other people's ideas a speciality) and monomania ('Is there a paper in it?'). These days, however, he prefers to flambé the metaphorical Wonderbras of marketing thought (cross his heart) and, countless accusations of chauvinism notwithstanding, claims that his feminist credentials are impeccable (albeit forgery is yet another of Stephen's non-scholarly fortes).
Blood looks black by moonlight. Under the lunar lantern, flesh wounds are rapidly spreading inkblots. Head shots are exploding carboys of Quink, with chunks in.
Not many marketing textbooks begin with sentences like the above. Not many textbooks start with flesh wounds and head shots, period. But then again, not many marketing textbook writers write like Stephen Brown.
The moon-black blood appears on page one of Brown's forthcoming book, Agents & Dealers. It's a prequel to his previous book, The Marketing Code, arguably the world's first 'management thriller'. Noticing that his students were unwilling to wade through the tedium of traditional textbooks, he elected to radically change the template: thrills replaced theories, corpses superseded case studies, and bullets were exchanged for bullet-points.
Some have observed that the titles of Stephen's management thrillers are suspiciously similar to those of his best-selling namesake, Dan. Some have suggested that Stephen and Dan are twins, albeit separated at birth (one was brought up in the lap of American luxury, the other was raised by feral Irish wolfhounds in the wilds of the Emerald Isle). Some have even suggested that Dan and Stephen are one and the same, since they've never been seen in the same room together. But who knows the true secret of the Brown bloodline? Maybe it's just a quirky conspiracy theory.
Quirky isn't the only word used to describe Stephen Brown. Professor of Marketing Research at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, Stephen is widely regarded as the Antichrist of marketing. A danger to his discipline, he has challenged many of marketing's most sacred cows and clashed with some of the field's foremost gurus, including Philip Kotler and the late Ted Levitt. Perhaps Stephen's greatest achievement was having an entire manuscript rejected by Harvard Business School Press. 'They were appalled,' he says, 'by my suggestion that marketing is the art of blowing smoke where the sun doesn't shine'.
Stephen Brown has written twenty books in total; he is renowned for his sparkling conference presentations; he has been a visiting professor at the University of California, the University of Utah, and Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. Oddly, they didn't invite him back.