Thoughts on Marketing

I read an interesting article about the old and new marketing—old being corporation-controlled advertisement and new being the “conversations” held through social media (blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, et al.)

Here’s part of the discussion pertinent to what I want to talk about:

Most corporations, says The Cluetrain Manifesto [a 1999 thesis endorsed by a host of marketers], “ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of markets literally too smart to buy it.”

Moreover, it says, these companies “only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.”

Honestly, when I read those lines, I first thought of some book reviews, particularly those discussing Christian fiction. I also thought of Mike Duran‘s occasional objections to Christian fiction reviews, much of which I think has merit.

In Mike’s article, he postulated that some reviewers may write puff pieces because they are happy to see works centered on the gospel. In other words, because they love the gospel and because a particular work of fiction promotes the gospel, the reviewer feels compelled to love that work of fiction. Therefore, they write reviews filled with “happy talk” and lines straight from marketing brochures.

The result is a loss of credibility. Why should those seeking information about products they might like to buy pay attention to reviews that always and only speak in glowing terms?

Mind you, I’m not pretending I have review writing figured out. Just recently a friend who frequents this blog emailed me about a particular book this person bought as a result of my review. Problem was, at least in the beginning, the book, in this person’s estimation, wasn’t measuring up to my recommendation.

But here are a few things I’ve come to believe about reviews:

1) They don’t have to trash books, even the ones that are less than great or maybe even terrible. Writing, after all, isn’t easy, and the author of the book should be respected for his efforts.

2) Reviews should be honest. A reviewer who always says the current work he’s discussing is the best thing since C. S. Lewis, simply loses credibility.

3) Most books have strengths and weaknesses. In mentioning both, reviewers actually gain credibility. Plus, many readers will decide that the things that bothered the reviewer aren’t significant enough to dissuade them from buying the book.

4) Reviews should not serve in place of discernment. Again, in discussing the strengths and weaknesses of a work, the reviewer is actually putting the ball back in the hands of the reader, forcing him make his own decision.

5) Recommendations can be tailored. Because I as a reviewer may not like a book, does that mean no one else will, or should? Absolutely not. However, if I make judgments as to who I think might like the book and to what extent they may like it, my recommendation can then guide others to consider whether or not they are part of that audience.

If book reviews are to be part of the “new marketing” dependent upon conversations, those need to be genuine, and Christians reviewing fiction should be in the forefront. Our integrity should matter.

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