In my comments on Beckwith's "Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing" a couple years ago, I indicated that in the words of the author that text was a "'how-to-think-about book', not necessarily a 'how-to' book, 'because if you think like these new marketers - if you think more broadly and deeply about services and their prospects - you will figure out dozens of better ways to grow your business'". In recently revisiting that earlier Beckwith masterwork in comparison with "Unthinking", while both can be seen as "how-to-think-about" books, the former contains many elements of a "how-to" book, while the latter moves more in the other direction. As Beckwith discusses in this new text, this move led him to discuss the consumer. More specifically, the American consumer: "what leads us to choose what we choose and to buy what we buy".
I am not so sure that what the author provides here are "lessons of a lifetime", because of the book format, which essentially consists of case study after case study rather than lessons per se as were presented in "Selling the Invisible". However, the segues provided between each of these case studies are among the best I have ever read, and the categories of case studies ("Childhood", "Culture", and "Our Eyes") to discuss the major sources of influence, the unconscious marketing choices on which the author writes, were well chosen. Following my reading of this book, the number and location of dog ears in my copy indicate that greater interest was concentrated in the latter half, and while this work is apt to find a general audience, it is also probable that those in the marketing space will especially find the material interesting, and I could not help but come to an obvious conclusion that readers are bound to summon ideas of their own following a reading.
The ability of a book to lead readers in such a way should be the goal of all business texts. Remember, the title of this book speaks to the fact that consumers often make decisions without conscious thought, and is not about the book itself, which is actually a "how-to-think-about-book". In some aspects, "Unthinking" reminds me of "Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others" (see my review). Especially interesting to me are the author's discussion of Community as a Service (CAAS), human error concluding too much from too little (statistically), the repackaging of unchanged products to capture greater market share, high product return rates due to complexity, and the increasing prevalence of product name brevity. Some of the information provided here has already become outdated, such as the number of smart phone "apps" currently available in the marketplace, but this is to be expected in works of this genre.
The part of this book that helped me tie the case studies to the marketplace is the "Unthinking Marketer's Checklist" in its concluding pages - questions that marketers need to ask themselves in several categories, such as "Shortcutting and Stereotyping", "Big Versus Little", "Play", "The Power of Surprise", "The Power of Stories", "The Importance of Me", "Simplicity", "Clarity and Cognitive Fluency", "Appealing to Feeling", and "Conquering Our Attention-Deficit Disorder". Potential readers of this work might consider reading the "Unthinking Marketer's Checklist" at the outset, prior to reading the case studies comprising the bulk of the text. Doing so might help set the context. A reading guide that addresses this checklist during a reading of the broader sources of influence might prove to be a good move by Beckwith, but overall the goal of this book is met: "to find some patterns in our fascinating complexity and share them with you".