A Genie's Wisdom: A Fable of How a CEO Learned to Be a Marketing Genius / Edition 1

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In A Genie's Wisdom, legendary marketer and "King of Positioning" Jack Trout offers a humorous and enlightening business fable that dispenses bite-sized portions of marketing wisdom for busy managers and executives.

Newly appointed CEO B. J. Bigdome struggles in his attempt to develop a strategy for effectively marketing his products. Without a background in marketing, Bigdome doesn't know who to turn to for reliable advice-until a genie appears with solutions to all his most pressing quandaries. It's the same genie responsible for earth-shattering company turnarounds, super marketing innovations, and the success of headline CEOs. Through ten succinct chapters, the genie answers these ten fundamental questions:

• What is the essence of marketing?

• What's branding all about?

• What should be my product strategy?

• How do I get my pricing right?

• Are there limits to growth?

• What is good research?

• How do I evaluate advertising?

• How do I pick the right medium?

• How important are logos?

• What mistakes are made most often?

This simple, handy book answers all these questions by illuminating marketing's salient points with priceless insight from Trout's years of experience. If you're anything like B. J. Bigdome, you could use the hard-won expertise of your own marketing genie-one with practical, straightforward advice on developing successful marketing strategies and techniques. Especially helpful for executives with little or no marketing background, A Genie's Wisdom offers a quick study of ten vitally important topics in the field.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a fascinating and simple read, ideal for the CEO or senior executive who wants some light-hearted yet valuable answers..." (Professional Manager, May 2003)

"...I would recommend it equally to those with little or no experience...an easy to read, accessible and lighthearted..." (Managing Information, September 2003)

Publishers Weekly
Many executives probably feel like they need a genie to explain the touchy-feely mysteries of aesthetics, design and consumer psychology that underlie so much of marketing. This short, breezy but informative primer can help. Marketing consultant Trout (Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition) is skeptical of marketing buzzwords like "synergy" and "unique tags"-and indeed of the whole "creative" approach that tries to forge emotional bonds between brand and customer rather than communicate concrete ideas. Much of his advice, therefore, flies in the face of modern marketing wisdom: ads should emphasize verbal messages rather than "dramatic visuals" that "distract people from the message"; money spent on flashy corporate logos is often wasted; and high-falutin' consumer research techniques, such as focus groups and "ethnographic" studies of families in their suburban habitat, are often useless. Trout advocates simple, obvious, oft-repeated ads, preferably with rhyming slogans, to communicate a single "differentiating idea" that will distinguish a brand from all its competitors. His philosophy is a variant of the decades-old "unique selling proposition" approach to marketing, which tries to convince consumers of a brand's one-of-a-kind attribute (say, "won't dry your skin like other soaps") to justify its higher price. While not quite ground-breaking, Trout's easy-to-read update combines an acerbic take on contemporary marketing fads with a surprisingly thorough and practical guide to the subject for managers and "finance guys" who need to gain expertise. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471236085
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 11/11/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

JACK TROUT is President of Trout & Partners, one of the most prestigious marketing firms in the United States, with offices in thirteen countries. Recognized as a top marketing guru, Trout popularized the idea of "positioning" products in the minds of customers. He is the author of numerous books on the art of marketing, including Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition and Big Brands, Big Trouble: Lessons Learned the Hard Way, both from Wiley.

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Read an Excerpt

A Genie's Wisdom

A Fable of How a CEO Learned to Be a Marketing Genius
By Jack Trout

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-23608-X

Chapter One

The Arrival

Once upon a time, after 23 years of climbing the corporate ladder in the world of finance at United Widgets International, Byram J. (B.J.) Bigdome became the CEO. Suddenly, his phone messages, his e-mails, and even his meetings increased to staggering new levels. Quickly, he moved from being busy to being overwhelmed.

He had to deal with plans, budgets, egos, directors, and Wall Street. Everyone was trying to sell him one thing or another. At every meeting, when a tough question was asked, all eyes turned to him to see what he was going to say. Being at the top appeared to be much more difficult than getting to the top. But what frightened him most was having to deal with the marketing people. He knew that how the company's brands were managed and promoted was going to be critical for his survival. But he also realized that he knew very little about marketing.

Who could he turn to for help? Who could he trust? One thing was clear: If he didn't come up with enough right answers, his stay at the top would not be a lengthy one. The business press was full of stories about CEOs who arrived amidst a blare of trumpets only to be quickly ushered out to a far less joyful tune. They were starting to rival NFL coaches for longevity with one big difference: Coaches get rehired. While many CEOsrode off into the sunset with a pocket full of money, their reputations were in tatters. They were widely discussed and written about as failures. Most of them did not find new "top" jobs; in fact, "any" job became a problem.

This thought began to wear on B.J. How could he get help? How could he avoid fatal errors?

Then one morning, as the CEO walked into his off ice, he noticed a shiny, new computer on his desk. He called his assistant into the off ice and asked, "Where did this come from?" His assistant was just as surprised as he was to see the new computer.

"I don't know. It wasn't here yesterday and I've heard nothing about new computers. I'll make some calls to our computer people."

Alone once again, the CEO couldn't resist walking over to the computer and pushing the power button to turn it on. What happened next was both startling and shocking. On the screen appeared what could only be described as a "genie." He had on a turban and looked like something right out of an old Aladdin movie.

Then, to B.J.'s amazement, the genie started talking to him, "Master, I am the genie who lives in this PC and I have come to answer the 10 most important questions about marketing."

Not knowing what to say, the CEO could only stammer, "I thought genies only came in bottles."

The genie replied, "That was in the old days. We've all gone digital. Since the majority of our requests were always about money, we've moved into the business world where all the big money is made today. It seemed to most of us that the PC was a perfect spot to hang out. It's got a screen and sound so we don't have to do all that smoke stuff getting in and out of the bottle. This also cuts down on pollution. Even genies have to be environmentally correct, you know. Anyhow, here I am since I was assigned to this computer and you just summoned me."

"Are you going to grant my wishes?" the CEO asked hopefully.

"No. As I said, this is all about business, so I'll answer only the questions you have about marketing this thing you call United Widgets International. No meaning of life questions and no wishes. And by the way, before we get started, all this is just between you and me."

B.J. paused, then said, "Wait a minute. How does a genie become a marketing expert? What have you ever marketed? Your experience is in granting wishes. How am I supposed to trust what you tell me?"

The genie also paused, then countered, "Those are very good questions and I'm going to answer them without charging you a single question. You start by reading the 12,831 books on marketing. Many of which, I might add, are of little value. Next, and this is very important, you study what happened to companies over the past 20 years or more. Marketing success or failure must be judged from a long-term point of view. And, having been around for thousands of years, I specialize in the long-term view. Human beings are very short-term oriented and they tend to lose interest as new things come along. They rarely keep track of what really happens."

Being more than a little suspicious, the CEO had to ask, "All right, but what's in it for you? Why all this help? As I recall in those genie stories, it's about helping you get out of the bottle, I mean the computer, so you can be free."

"Don't be silly," replied the genie. "This is all about investing, not freedom. We genies have a mutual fund of companies all around the globe. We help top management solve marketing problems and then we invest in their companies. Do you think Bill Gates and Jack Welch made all that money on their own?"

The CEO asked incredulously, "Did you help them?"

"I did," replied the genie. "And as a result, we've done very well with our investments."

"Why didn't you guys help prevent the dot-com crash?" asked the CEO, still trying to come to terms with an actual genie as a coach.

The genie responded, "We've always focused on hard assets. In the old days it was gold, jewels, and kingdoms. The dot-com crowd had no assets. And besides, the CEOs running those operations were inexperienced kids who wanted to run silly, sophomoric advertising. How could you give them answers when they didn't know what questions to ask?"

The genie continued, "But enough of my introduction, here's the deal. When you've got a marketing question, turn on the computer and I'll be there to answer it. I'll address 10 subjects and no more. After that, I'm on to another company. So make your questions good ones. No silly questions like how do I improve sales in Atlanta. Make them big-picture questions. Don't waste my time. And don't expect long, complex answers. I'm going to keep things simple and cut to the essence. As your financial people would say, I'll get right to the bottom line."

With that the screen went blank. All the CEO could do was stare at the blank screen in amazement.

The spell was broken as the CEO's assistant returned, saying, "I can't find out where the computer came from. Should I have it removed?"

"No," said the CEO, "Leave it here for a while. I may want to use it."

As Bob continued to stare at the computer, he thought to himself, "Could this be real? Could I have the ultimate marketing consultant in my computer? Is this the help that I need?"

Thus, began the CEO's journey toward becoming pretty good at this stuff called marketing.


Excerpted from A Genie's Wisdom by Jack Trout Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

The Story Behind the Fable.

Chapter 1. The Arrival.

Chapter 2. What Is the Essence of Marketing?

Chapter 3. What's Branding All About?

Chapter 4. What Should Be My Product Strategy?

Chapter 5. How Do I Get My Pricing Right?

Chapter 6. Are There Limits to Growth?

Chapter 7. What Is Good Research?

Chapter 8. How Do I Evaluate Advertising?

Chapter 9. How Do I Pick the Right Medium?

Chapter 10. How Important Are Logos?

Chapter 11. What Mistakes Are Made Most Often?


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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2003

    A Solid Effort!

    Are you mystified by marketing? If you are, fear not. Author and marketing authority Jack Trout ¿ the man who ¿positioned¿ positioning in the minds of marketers ¿ has planted a genie in a mysterious computer (the new age version of a bottle on the beach) and given him the task of answering core marketing questions. In this fictional tale ¿ which attempts to emulate the success of fables such as Who Moved My Cheese and Fish, but falls short ¿ Trout takes readers through the very basics, from defining the product¿s concept to what elements should be in a logo. Trout warns of seven marketing pitfalls to avoid. Using everyday language and the persistent but wealthy genie who explains it all, he breaks down the subject into small nuggets easily digested by even the least marketing-minded manager. While he does oversimplify, Trout contends that marketing is often made more complicated by the very people who profit from its complexity. Overall, we from getAbstract suggest this how-to book to business people who are unfamiliar with the marketing process.

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