Over the years I spent in the corporate world, I read hundreds of books about business. Teachers included the most recent ones in my B-school syllabi. Trainers at leadership workshops tucked their personal favorites into my take-home bags. Authors headlining at marketing conferences sold autographed copies. I got them from salesmen and bosses and professors. Heck, I can recite all seven habits of highly successful people with one hand tied behind my back, and I have a good idea who moved my cheese. Early on, I embraced the leadership style of a goose over that of a buffalo. Iíve broken things that didnít need fixing and Iíve achieved more with less. I know it takes a hundred monkeys to change a light bulb and I once met one minute manager. So I knew what to expect when I picked up Thaler and Kovalís BANG!
Billed as a marketing tool by "the founders of one of todayís most innovative advertising agencies," The Kaplan Thaler Group (KTG), the book speaks to other marketing agencies. The authors discuss their approaches to creating an environment that encourages creativity through a series of anecdotes. First they explain their concept -- what IS a big bang, anyway? Itís an idea that so resonates with the target audience that it forever is associated with the product and significantly changes the fortune of the company. "The Real Thing," iMac, "Just Do It," Starbucks and Martha Stewart are a few examples.
Clever and informative, one of the first stories is about the "New York Miracles" ads that came out shortly after 9/11. They were daring in that they used humor at a time when no one felt like laughing. Yet we all remember Woody Allenís athletic spins and leaps on the ice at Rockefeller Center and Henry Kissinger running the bases at Yankee Stadium. It was a big bang idea that helped bring up the spirits and hopes of New Yorkers and reestablished the city as a tourist draw.
One of the firmís most successful big bang ideas was the AFLAC duck. AFLAC is a supplementary insurance company. When they first came to KTG, they had spent substantial sums in advertising dollars over the years, but no one knew who they were. The CEO had one goal. He wanted people to recognize their name. The team struggled with the odd name. On the surface, humor seemed inappropriate for cancer insurance. However, AFLAC had already tried the standard soft ads focusing on families and besides, that approach would blend in with other campaigns selling similar products. When they came up with the duck quacking out the name, they were almost embarrassed to present it -- but the client loved it. And it tested out as one of the most memorable commercials ever. The CEO tells a story of meeting George W. Bush in a greeting line. When told that the man was from AFLAC, the president happily quacked "AFLAC." Now THATíS name recognition.
BANG! is fun to read -- and informative. The authors make their points, give examples and then restate their position in light of the insight gained from the anecdote. There is some repetition, but everything is presented with a sense of adventure and fun. The marketing hyperbole is there, of course, but what do you expect? Itís a marketing book. I worked for the gas company -- dour, conservative and focused on whether or not it was going to be cold the next day. The kind of freshness and creativity advocated in this book might work for consumer products like shampoo, but the idea of such an approach to my old company amuses me. Even so, as good business books should, BANG! inspires the reader to ponder new ideas and apply them in different ways. Itís certainly worth picking up if you are a marketer -- or if you plan on hiring a marketer anytime soon.