Book: Killing Marketing

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In Book review by Peter Gearin0 Comments

It’s time businesses put the old ways to the sword, say the authors of Killing Marketing, and chased revenue.


Despite the blunt message in the title of their latest book, Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose don’t really want to “kill” marketing. “It’s only mostly dead,” the pair chuckle while discussing the book’s launch on their podcast, This Old Marketing. “We’re not saying: ‘Get rid of marketing’,” Pulizzi says. “We’re saying we’re so desperate for marketing to be successful, it has to change.”

The two most influential figures in global content marketing are the public face of CMI – the Content Marketing Institute – which has been a valuable resource for marketers everywhere since it began in 2007. CMI’s annual event, Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio, is the biggest physical industry event on the planet. CMI founder Pulizzi is everywhere: as a speaker, educator and author. Rose is CMI’s chief strategy officer and regarded as one of the best original thinkers in the content game. “PNR” (Pulizzi ‘n’ Rose): This Old Marketing has more than 200 episodes on the digital shelf.

Killing Marketing is the pair’s second book together; the first was Managing Content Marketing in 2011. Since then they have written other thought-leading books: Pulizzi with Content Inc and Epic Content Marketing, and Rose with Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing (co-authored by Carla Johnson).

Those of us who listen to their successful podcasts (Pulizzi also has his own, Content Inc) will know they believe that many businesses benefit from employing content marketing as a strategic function to help solve consumer issues, create customer experiences and build targeted audiences. They’re not anti-advertising, just pro-content … but only when it’s done with a clear, documented strategy and with appropriate levels of competency and commitment.

But Pulizzi and Rose’s book builds on the core benefits of content marketing. Its premise is that some or all of a business’s marketing investment can and should be used to generate profits, not just costs. The way this might be best achieved is through businesses thinking like publishers, not just producers of goods or services. “It is the strategic use of content that will not only build audiences and drive the creation and retention of customers; it will do so at a profit. It will transform marketing as we know it today into something new.” (That’s the killing bit.)

The book makes a strong case that the thing we call marketing – as it’s been practised traditionally – just isn’t as effective as it once was. “Marketing is stuck in a rut,” Rose writes in Chapter 10: The Future of Marketing. “Marketing’s future may be bright – but it needs a swift kick in the behind to get it out of its doldrums.”

“We may be looking at the biggest opportunity to transform our marketing and business strategy in 60 years.”Robert Rose

Rose argues that marketing “is no longer simply the department or team that describes the value of the product or service we put into the marketplace. Marketing must be led, strategically, by a core story – an editorial value that places the creation of differentiating value for customers through content-driven experiences.”

The most important piece of insight in the book is that the strategy that could well sustain marketing’s future is identical to what media businesses are now trying to do to succeed. “The new media business model and the new marketing business model are exactly the same,” Pulizzi writes.

They say that once a brand develops a loyal following through its marketing activities, it can monetise its audience in 10 distinct ways. They list five ways that are direct (advertising, subscriptions, events, premium content and sponsorships) and five that are indirect (such as selling related products and services), and that brands can choose these strategies right now. These choices will sound familiar to publishers nervously looking through their fingers to see where their next buck is coming from.

The key to success, the pair say, is building an audience first. One effective way of doing that, of course, is through a well planned and executed content marketing strategy. “It’s not just marketing … it’s a business model,” Pulizzi writes. “Robert and I believe that those innovative companies that begin to implement this new content business model into the fabric of their current business model will be the ones that lead their industries in the future.

“We don’t presume to want to end marketing – far from it. We want to see marketing change, expand, and evolve into the strategic center of tomorrow’s business model.”

Pulizzi and Rose argue their case clearly and with enormous enthusiasm. They firmly believe they are onto a Very Big Idea here, and their words and concepts ping off the page. They speak with a sense of destiny and a level of certainty that is often missing from marketing-related texts. It helps, too, that the co-authored book’s structure makes it clear who’s doing the talking. Each chapter has a byline, which saves each of them from having to write “we” or “us” or talk about themselves in the third person.

Speaking to Douglas Burdett on The Marketing Book Podcast, Pulizzi says he knows that the concepts they raise will be difficult for many to accept – especially those in traditional businesses with an established view of marketing’s role. “If you’re with an organisation that can’t get their arms wrapped around this kind of idea, I would think about doing something else,” he says. “You and the profession are too important. A lot of companies aren’t going to do this, and that’s fine – that’s more for the rest of us. Do you want to be a leading, innovative company? Do you want to do some amazing things and create some amazing relationships?

Killing Marketing was made for the senior executive. You can give them this book and they’ll start to think differently about how they are communicating with their customers.”

Even if they’re wrong, and marketing never becomes a significant revenue-raiser for most businesses, Rose is confident they have still hit on something big. “Look at it this way,” he writes. “If Joe and I are right, even in a modest way, we may be looking at the biggest opportunity to transform our marketing and business strategy in 60 years.”

Links & references

The content marketing show must go on: Brand Tales at Content Marketing World 2016

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