My first solo-authored books were Retail Warehouse Parks (Longman, 1989) and Retail Location: A Micro-scale Perspective (Gower, 1992). I don't usually count these two, since they date from my retailing days. There are some hints of my impending postmodern turn in the final chapter of Retail Location - and in the Preface, come to think of it - but that's about it really. My attitude towards everything I've ever written is that it's work-in-progress, no more, no less. This is how I feel now, at the time of writing. I might feel differently next week, or next year. Don't ask me to defend my 'position' or remain consistent in what I say. There are all sorts of inconsistencies in my work. I don't consider consistency a virtue or inconsistency a problem. Don't hold me to that statement either...
The Penguin’s Progress
The best way to describe The Penguin’s Progress is that it’s a bit like Shrek, only with brand icons instead of fairytale characters. TPP’s heroes comprise a penguin, a meerkat and a lynx, who quest far and wide to discover the secret of branding. Inevitably, their quest takes them to all sorts of amazing places, including a mountainous region (where they encounter the Marlboro Man), a forested region (where they meet the heinous Honey Monster), a dystopian urban region called Madhattan (where they’re pursued by zombie Ronald McDonalds), a desert region (where they’re transported by Joe Camel to the Betty Crocker Rest Home for Retired Brand Characters such as J.R. Hartley, Howard Brown and Buzby), a jungle region (where they witness a battle to the death between Tony the Tiger and Churchill the Bulldog) and a top secret final region (where they finally collar Mr Kipling, the fount of all marketing knowledge).Download Book
Like most people. I hate looking back on what I've written - cringe, cringe - and Postmodern Marketing is a perfect case in point. There are several typos in it, which infuriate me no end. I misspelt the Christian name of Fredric Jameson (so does everyone else, mind you) and added a 'P' to Auguste Comte's surname (typical marking mistake, I guess, sticking Ps where they're not wanted). There's also a problem with the header in the References section and, most irritating of all, when International Thomson reprinted it a couple of years ago, they did so in really thin paper, plus the cover is all washed out. I hate looking at it, I really do.
What about the content, I hear you say? Who cares about content, style is all that matters and PM ain't got any!Buy Book
Postmodern Marketing Two
When I was writing PM2, I genuinely thought it was the bees-knees. Ordinarily, I'm very self-critical, but with PM2 I really thought I was on a roll. I'd convinced myself that this was going to be 'the big one' (comparatively speaking, you understand). So much so, that I even arranged for an accompanying web site.
God knows why I was so confident, because I now realise that the book missed the target completely, a terrible mistake, embarrassingly bad. I can well understand why International Thomson chose not to publicise or promote it in any way.Some books deserve to sink without trace and PM2 is one of them. All I can say in my defence is that I made a decision at the outset to 'be metaphorical'; to develop every metaphor or trope that came to mind as I went along. I certainly succeeded on that count but the readability of the book suffered as a consequence. That said, I still think the underlying sentiments are correct - namely, that we need to break away from dry and dusty modes of 'scientific' discourse - though I undermined my own case with excessive hyperbole.Buy Book
Marketing: The Retro Revolution
This is an attempt – failed, naturally! – to set the marketing world alight. Essentially, the book examines today's retro-marketing outbreak - the new VW Beetle etc. - and contends that the marketing academy should also look back in order to see ahead. The book consists of a series of extended essays on episodes from marketing's past, which are used to draw some contemporary lessons from days of yore. It also posits an alternative to the Analysis, Planning, Implementation and Control paradigm, based on theacronym TEASE. Now there's a teaser for you...
Okay, since you ask, here's a taster for the teaser, the Preface.Buy Book
Free Gift Inside!!
Free Gift Inside!! is the book of the article in HBR, which was itself a summary of the retro book. FGI, however, is not just a rehash of Marketing – The Retro Revolution. Honestly! To the contrary, I took the TEASE acronym, which was a throw-away idea in the final chapter of retro, and expanded it to book length. It’s a book, moreover, that’s written for a managerial audience. Oh, in case you’re wondering, I don’t consider it “selling out”. Quite the opposite, in fact. I firmly believe that postmodern marketers should take their message to the managerial mainstream, rather than opt for the “Hey, look at us, we’re the crazy guys, the radicals, the heretics” pseudo- outsider positioning. In doing so, they allow the field to be dominated by lapsed economists, quants jocks and analogous knuckle-draggers (as someone once described them).
So, although Free Gift Inside!! is an attempted “mainstream” text, it isn’t a complete compromise. What, after all, could be more radical than beating the mainstream at their own game? What indeed. Beating the mainstream is easier said than done, unfortunately, as I unfortunately found out. FGI was commissioned by Harvard Business School Press and finally published by Capstone, a Wiley subsidiary. The story of the “transfer” is told in My Harvard Hell.Buy Book
Wizard! Harry Potter’s Brand Magic
Published in June 2005, Wizard! is probably my best-selling book. It was written and launched tocoincide with the release of the sixth Harry Potter, Half-Blood Prince. We thought it would benefit from collateral publicity, though in truth it was completely swamped by the Harry Potter media frenzy. Funnily enough, it has sold much better in Germany and France than in the UK or the US. It’s also available in Hebrew, if you’re interested. Cyan did an outstanding job on the production – Wizard! looks fantastic, if I say so myself – and expertly handled the associated legal headaches. I could tell you a tale or two about J.K. Rowling’s lawyers, but on reflection…Buy Book
The Marketing Code
The Marketing Code is very different from all my other books. It’s a novel. Yes, a novel. A thriller, no less. Well, to be more precise, it’s a marketing textbook written in the form of a Da Vinci Codesque thriller. It describes a heinous conspiracy at the heart of modern marketing, a heinous conspiracy that involves the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail, the Freemasons and, naturally, the nefarious marketing campaign behind Dan Brown’s brilliantly successful best-seller. Some cynics have suggested that The Marketing Code is a shameless attempt to attach myself to Dan Brown’s commercial coat-tails (how could they think such a thing?). Others are wondering whether the Danster and I are estranged twin brothers, separated at birth (and there is an ancient family legend to that effect). But all I’m saying is that writing The Marketing Code was a wonderfully enjoyable experience for me. I hope you enjoy it too. Here’s the first chapter for your delectation.Buy Book
Writing Marketing is a book-length version of my occasional pieces on titanic marketing thinkers like Ted Levitt, Phil Kotler, Shelby Hunt, Morris Holbrook and the one and only Wroe Alderson. The basic premise is that, since every marketing academic is a writer – we get on by getting published, after all – there's much that we can learn from the supreme literary stylists of our field. These lessons, needless to say, run counter to the writing advice you find in how-to-do-it guidebooks (you know, short sentences, plain prose, simple words etc). Amazingly, Writing Marketing has received reasonably positive reviews, not least from Malcolm McDonald, whom I’ve attacked unmercifully in the past. Malcolm’s a cunning devil. He really knows how to get his own back. By being nice!Buy Book
Inspired by the imperishable Samuel Beckett, Fail Better! argues that we should pay more attention to failure. Although management gurus constantly chant the mantra of success – how to attain it, how to sustain it, how to unearth it, how to unleash it – the sad reality is that the vast majority of business ventures fail. Most companies collapse, most start-ups stop, most mergers misfire, most innovations implode, most CEOs crater, most R&D founders and most long-range forecasts flub. In Fail Better! I contend that failure is not only the key to success but also that many people who should have failed – on account of their failure to embrace ‘best marketing practice’ – may well be on to something, something that the rest of us can learn from. I’m thinking here of marketing mavericks like Madonna, Michael O’Leary, Rupert Murdoch and Gabriele D’Annunzio. Who he? Read Fail Better! and find out.Buy Book
Agents & Dealers
Agents & Dealers> is a prequel to The Marketing Code. It features some of the characters in TMC, such as Pitcairn Brodie and Barton Brady, though it’s very different in many ways. The protagonist is female and the book starts off at a very high tempo. The first seven chapters, plus prologue, are attached. See what you think. FYI, the back cover blurb reads as follows:
Love of Customers is the Root of All Evil
A feisty final-year student at the University of Hustler, Abby Maguire is on remedial work placement. While dressing the shop window of Some Like It Hot, a saucy lingerie boutique, she is attacked by two lapsed paramilitaries, who destroy the store and almost destroy Abby. With the aid of her placement tutor, Dave Kelley, Abby escapes the psychopathic enforcers only to plunge into a noisome netherworld of arms dealers, money launderers, secret agents, neo-Nazis, paedophile priests, literary forgers and, most horrifying of all, freelance management consultants.
An action-packed prequel to The Marketing Code, Agents & Dealers races from Edinburgh to Nuremberg via Belfast and Dublin. Spine-chilling and side-splitting by turns, it reveals the whereabouts of the legendary Spear of Destiny, uncovers the equally legendary encounter between Adolf Hitler and W.B. Yeats, exposes a ruthless secret society at the heart of Ireland’s unstoppable Tiger economy and unmasks the blood-soaked background to Dan Brown’s bestselling books, Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code.Buy Book
The Lost Logo
A sequel to The Marketing Code, The Lost Logo is the final part of my “management thriller trilogy”. Once again, it features the several of the characters from the earlier books and wraps up all the various plots, subplots, twists, turns, loose ends and suchlike. A pdf of the first two chapters is attached as a taster. My publisher has also produced a (very professional) podcast of chapter one, “Everything’s Coming My Way”. If you recognise the actor’s voice, you’re presumably a fan of The Archers. FYI, the back cover blurb reads as follows:
What’s Brown and Read and Dead All Over?
Booklovers beware! Dan Brown fans are being brutally murdered. A tour guide is killed in Paris. A webmaster is butchered in Rome. A bookstore worker is slaughtered in Sydney. All have their throats cut, photographs taken and the cover of a Dan Brown novel stuck in the centre of their eviscerated chests.
What is going on? Who is responsible for the killings? Why are Dan’s fans being targeted in such a gruesome way? Where do the cryptic symbols on Brown book covers fit into the grisly picture?
The call goes out to Simon Magill, former employee of Dan Brown and sometime marketing lecturer at Hustler Business School. With the aid of Abby Maguire, the brains behind Belfast’s black rose branding campaign, Magill endeavours to untangle the web of murder, mayhem and marketing strategies that surrounds them.
The final part of Stephen Brown’s commercial conspiracy trilogy, The Lost Logo is a blood-pumping, heart-pounding, page-turning sequel to The Marketing Code and Agents and Dealers. The end of marketing is nigh and only one person can save it…Buy Book