Digital Advice. From Don Draper


What follows is mostly my fault. I try to make it a rule not to frequent the business sections of bookstores. I try to avoid any book that could make a nice one-off piece in the New Yorker, that began as a piece in the New Yorker, or is written by somebody who is in a field of work that is connected to mine.

I recently spent $25 on Nick Belton’s I Live In The Future And Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, And Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted. It’s the usual accessible, undemanding, breezily written stuff that one might expect.

The first 265 pages detail how our lives – and business with it – have and continue to be transformed by technology.

The last sentence of the last page – page 266 – urges us to “reorganize, rethink, and get back to the business of storytelling.”

I spend $25 and plough through 266 pages to be told storytelling is the key?!

I also spent $26.95 on Aaron Goldman’s Everything I Know About Marketing I Learnt From Google. It’s the usual accessible, undemanding, chattily-written stuff that one might expect.

327 pages detail how our lives – and business with it – have and continue to be transformed by Google and the principles and practices it represents.

The book concludes with twenty ‘Get Googley’ principles. Amongst these are:

Relevancy rules
Tap the wisdom of crowds
Keep it simple, stupid
Be where your audience is
Don’t interrupt
Act like content
Your unique selling proposition is critical
Your competition is broader than you think
Sex sells

$26.95 for some Marketing 101?!

How can you tell me Everything has Changed when the sage advice doled out at the end is advice that Bill Bernbach and his fictional Mad Men counterparts would have recognized and, I’d wager, would have expressed with greater brevity and eloquence?

Are we really inventing marketing for the very first time?

I’m being ever so slightly unkind. What both books do well is detail how the context for our efforts has changed and continues to change dramatically. I agree with both Bilton and Goldman that if we are blind to what’s changing then we will surely fail. Both make the case that the tools and methods we employ must change.

But their respective conclusions – and the fact that they are so timeless in their advice – belie the fact that while the context has changed, the fundamentals have not.

I’ve quoted Mr. Bullmore on this before: “The agency of the future will have a fine, clear and cultured understanding of some primitive and timeless facts of life. They will understand the nature of choice, the nature of persuasion, and how people construct brands in their own heads. Nothing that’s happened in the past 50 years has affected these timeless and generic truths. All the rest is tactics.”

What captures the imaginations, attention, and wallets of human beings has hardly changed. The way we do that is evolving rapidly.

I’m not sure if that’s a learning that was entirely worth the $51.95. But it’s always good to get a little reminder.



    Just like it seems like we cannot learn from everyone else’s mistakes (hence the saying), it seems we cannot learn or at least agree on basics like these. Apparently every generation of marketing people have to arrive at the same realization but perhaps the journey there (really should open up a cafe on the way to Bullmore basics…) where we all try to completely break “it” and do and understand something revolutionary new. Yet only ever succeeding on a superficial level. And, as Bullmore once again explained, for a reason.

  2. Aaron Goldman

    Martin – thanks for your thoughtful review. You’re spot on in that the lessons “learned from Google” that I cover are not rocket science nor revolutionary. Rather, they’re timeless marketing truths.
    And therein lies my thesis. For all its engineering innovation, Google built a fantastically successful company on 20 timeless truths or, as you put it, Marketing 101. Suppose I could’ve titled the book, Everything Google Knows About Marketing Has Been Around For 50 Years but that’s not quite as catchy. 🙂
    Again, thanks for your review (and reading my book in the first place). If nothing else, it sounds like you were able to reaffirm what you already knew and hopefully that was worth the price of admission. As for what else you might’ve spent $26.95 on, suggest watching this video:

  3. gordon euchler

    Timeless rules are great. Especially if they are as challenging/unachievable as Bullmore’s.
    The simple act of constantly trying and failing to gain ‘an understanding of the nature of persuasion’ will not only make us better advertising men every day, but also learn (and read) from areas more exciting than business. Personally, I will start with some Saul Bellow today.

  4. Martin Weigel

    Hi Aaron,
    It does feel that though we are sailing in new, unfamiliar and occasionally treacherous waters, we’re still navigating by the same stars. Ugh. Dreadful metaphor, but you what I mean. And I suppose that’s the lesson we’re all gradually getting our heads around. Feeling our way through new waters, but not forgetting to know the stars.
    I might have been (slightly) more polite if I’d known you would visit this lonely blog outpost. You can punch me in the face when we (hopefully) eventually meet.

  5. Aaron Goldman

    Martin – no punches my friend… just punchlines. And puns. (Sure hope you appreciated at least a few of the ones I dropped in the book.)
    As for your outpost here, another lesson learned from Google is to set a Google Alert for your name so you know anytime someone writes about you anywhere on the web, no more how lonely the corner may feel.
    And re: your star analogy, methinks Google is once again, the proper guide. 🙂