Book Review

by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & Punk Marketing by Richard Laermer and Mark Simmons & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & 'm pretty sure I hate this book. I'm just not sure why. Maybe it's that a couple of marketers have co-opted a much co-opted term to explain how marketers should adjust to the frightening consumer taste diaspora that's happened post-2000. That must be it.

The Internet, they explain, has given people more choice and rewarded marketing niches. Likewise the profusion of cable networks has given people a greater variety of things to watch, and TiVo means they can watch them commercial-free. We must, then, talk with our customers, not at them.

It's populist hokum designed to make us feel good about consumerism and train marketers to feed our own half-formed ideas back to us, which is fine. It's just not near the manifesto that Laermer and Simmons claim it to be. Rather than inciting and nourishing the industry's young elite, Punk Marketing is more like hand-holding for an older generation fattened by GQ ads and Super Bowl spots who now find themselves largely irrelevant. It seeks to ease them back into a game whose rules have changed drastically right under their noses. Helping hands. How un-punk.

The book is filled to overflowing with little nuggets like, "[t]he punk knows it's always better to connect in small numbers than irritate in large." In fact, the punks the authors so admire (the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Bad Religion to some extent), connected in small by irritating in large.

In the end, then, this isn't punk marketing. Punk marketing would be making big, flippant waves with the intent of inciting a large variety of people and inspiring a few. It would rigidly define itself as against whatever suburbia is for, even when that contradicts previous values. It would self-destruct when it got too popular. The authors advocate none of this.

What they're going for is something more like consumer-driven marketing, which wouldn't make nearly as sexy a title. By "punk," they really mean hip, new, revolutionary. Their book doesn't exactly deliver that for those of us who've been living the transition to increasingly digital lives. It might, though, for all those advertisers still living and dying on that Hail Mary known as the Super Bowl spot.