When I first tweeted that Jack Trout’s new book “In Search of the Obvious” had arrived from Amazon, my mate @euan suggested his (excellent) blog is actually easy to find. He called it “The Obvious” because when he started writing about the application of new technology and social media in organizations, he felt that, actually, he was saying pretty obvious things – even though they are important, and often missed by the many. Jack Trout’s book has a similar theme around today’s complex marketing mess and era of killer competition that we now live in. A good marketing strategy should be founded on an obvious idea that makes common sense, when too much of today’s marketing messages try to be clever, and complex, with advertising that is more like entertainment.
If you haven’t read Jack Trout, you have been missing something. Jack Trout and Al Ries have written some of the best and most influential marketing books of the last 25 years. They wrote Positioning, and Marketing Warfare, and the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. Al went off to write some excellent books with his daughter Laura, and Jack carried on with things like Differentiate or Die. A lot of the key themes and case studies here in The Obvious come from, or are an extension of what Jack wrote in the earlier books. If you haven’t read them, then this book would be a good place to start and get a refresher on the laws of practical marketing. If you have read some of the others, this is still an excellent and entertaining read. He has related the messages of focus, leadership, resources, category divergence, and differentiation to the main theme – your strategy should be obvious and full of common sense. He quotes Robert R. Updegraff writing in 1916 to set the scene in the first chapter:
“The trouble is, the obvious is apt to be so simple and commonplace that it has no appeal to the imagination. We all like clever ideas and ingenious plans that make good lunch-table talk at the club. There is something about the obvious that is – well so very obvious!”
The book expands on Updegraff’s straightforward messages from all those years ago, and Jack’s earlier ideas contrasting the clever and entertaining ads that might be very memorable (but do you remember the product?), with the boring or even irritating ads which definitely leave you with the product in mind. He shows same great examples of confusing and wordy mission statements that are so generic, they could be any company doing anything. I wrote earlier about one section on the law of the ear – does a picture paint a thousand words? The book is full of good case studies, and spot on analysis of the current state of Wal-Mart, Coke, newspapers or the beer business. It has some great guidance on how you should be thinking about getting back to basics, and constructing sensible and obvious strategies. I think it is a great antidote to some of the current muddled thinking that you see from some marketing departments – an entertaining read that is well worth tracking down.