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Book Review: A "Conversation" You Can Put on Mute

Sometimes I feel like disclaimers and caveats can be longer than the posts themselves. That’s going to be the case in my review of Joe Jaffe’s latest book, Join the Conversation: How to Engage Marketing-Wear Consumers with yadda yadda yadda…. even the book’s title goes on forever.

Caveat : I don’t read Jaffe’s blog, or listen to his podcast. I don’t listen to any podcasts, though I hope to get back into Coffee Break Spanish one of these days.

Caveat : I like and respect Joe quite a bit. He’s done a good job getting a lot of important ideas out there.

Caveat : If you don’t read any blogs at all, and don’t spend much time reading trades like MediaPost and Ad Age, you might have a very different impression of this book than I did. But odds are you realize that this is a blog, and you’ve come across all or most of the examples in the book before.

Caveat : The proceeds of this book go to charity, which is great. So if you expense this book and get reimbursed for it, you break even, whatever charity comes out ahead (in Joe’s email to bloggers like myself he didn’t mention where, but maybe if I read the blog I’d know), and your business comes out ahead because the powers that be there think you’re educating yourself and taking the future of the company seriously. Joe of course benefits too. So the act of buying the book is a net positive on the world, except for the rainforests, but maybe, just maybe, there’s some recycled paper in here. If you can get this book for the Kindle though, you’re clicking on all cylinders.

Caveat : I didn’t read this book cover to cover. I just couldn’t. I got about 50 pages into this 300-ish page book and couldn’t take it anymore. I skimmed some of the rest, skipping big chunks of the middle entirely. I’m guessing somewhere in there he mentions those Dove campaigns, and Nikon, and maybe the Super Bowl (okay, so I just checked the book’s index, and the Super Bowl’s nowhere to be found – I’m guessing he mentioned it a lot in his previous book Life After the 30-Second Spot, though I didn’t read that one either).

Caveat : The book really started to lose me on page 27. That’s when he starts going on with all these platitudes like, "Marketing used to be an art. Today it is a science." I should invite him to some of my brainstorming meetings. And then there’s, "Marketing is no longer any fun." Ditto the above. I actually have a lot of fun with marketing these days. I’m always spending time with BMW’s Mini ads in Wired magazine – I remember that one well from the last issue. And the whole Tide stain thing was fantastic, on TV and online. Every time I see the outdoor advertising for Bravo’s Top Chef, I instinctively check it out to remind myself to watch it on March 12, even though it is so ingrained in my brain already. But I actually get excited to see the ad, because it reminds me how excited I am about the show, which makes me feel a little sad inside because the show, really, is only so entertaining, and I shouldn’t look forward to it that much. But then I look at that ad again, and I stop myself from thinking too hard, and I enjoy that fleeting second, as then the bus drives away and the ad on the bus drives away with it and my attention must focus on the next thing.

Caveat : That Bravo ad isn’t a conversation. I don’t want it to be. Maybe, at most, I want some kind of reminder when the show’s on. But I don’t want this whole lengthy conversation about the show. I just want to watch it. And I don’t want to check my email while it’s on.

Caveat : In case you missed the review in this review, you don’t need to read the book in question there. You should just read some other good blogs, like Jeremiah and CK and Jim and Mitch and Jay and Valeria and Kaila and way too many people to name here. You don’t need to read all of them every day. Just get to know as many of them as you can because their blogs are current and alive and full of brilliant ideas day to day.

Caveat : The people who’d most appreciate the ideas in the book already know this stuff, and the people who really need to read this book aren’t going to sit through 300 pages of it. It’s the catch-22.

Caveat : This is also why I’ll probably be waiting awhile before I embark on writing a book of my own.

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Comments to: Book Review: A "Conversation" You Can Put on Mute
  • Avatar
    February 25, 2008

    That’s a lot of caveats, Mr Berkowitz.
    Someone has to always be the contrarian and I guess this time, it’s you.
    Not much more to say except thanks for taking the time to read 27 pages.
    Oh and one more thing, re: caveat 9. I’m going to disagree with you here. Check out Jim Garrity’s review on my blog (he guest blogged on Jaffe Juice in December when I was in South Africa) representing the marketer perspective (which is the primary intended audience for this book): http://www.jaffejuice.com/2008/02/reflections-on.html
    As for the others (and if you’d care to read chapter 10 – the community/wiki written one), the book is peppered with deference and respect for “the crowds” and if anything, is intended to be a merchandising tool (validation; elucidation) for those who spend most of their days hitting their heads against a brick wall.
    Your friends’ blogs and podcasts are all excellent recommendations btw. Valeria wrote a great review of JTC and Jay is a good friend to “Jaffe Juice”.
    PS Good luck with your book writing. It’s a lot harder than it looks.

  • Avatar
    February 25, 2008

    For the record, I’m not trying to be “the contrarian” here; I’d be perfectly happy to regurgitate mainstream viewpoints, but others may well outnumber my views here. I doubt anyone here is only reading my blog, so if I am the one holdout, it will be readily apparent.

  • Avatar
    February 25, 2008

    Of course you’re entitled to your opinion and law of averages, not everyone will agree with me and/or like my book.
    I can deal with it.
    I just was a little shocked or surprised at the tone of your review. It just struck me as odd, knowing you (or of you) as I thought I did (see caveat #2)
    In any event, power to you my friend and again, thanks for taking the time to review the book.

  • Avatar
    April 5, 2008

    I am impressed you got as far as page 27! I was reduced to skimming my borrowed copy after a short time, but think I have a fairly good handle on it. I think “regurgitation” and “full of platitudes” sums Jaffe’s book up. I am also irked (as a marketer) by Jaffe’s assumption and assertion that no one in marketing “gets it”. PS Did the money really go to charity?

  • Avatar
    October 5, 2009

    I concur. The book doesn’t have much new to say. Jaffe should have left the conversation in 2005.


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