BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Or do they?

As regular readers of this space will no doubt recall, I am quite a fan of Scott Stratten, and regularly recommend his UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging as an ideal introduction into the world of Social Media for those business folks who “don't get it”. I appreciate his irreverence, and “outsider” stance on many things in the Social sphere (such as his insistence that the frequency with which one should blog is when one has “something awesome” to say … which might well be once a month, rather than the three times a week that seems to be the “standard advice” out there). So, when I heard he was coming out with a new book, I shot an email off to the good folks at Wiley and requested a copy.

Now, Scott's been playing with the central conceit of QR Codes Kill Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground quite a bit out there on the web, with kitties being featured in teases, and I had to wonder where the book was “coming from”, considering his last book was rather rife with QR codes … and (in case you were wondering) the QR code next to the worried-looking kitten on the cover is functional (I just fired it up with my phone), and leads off to a video of him riffing on the misuses of QR codes, much like those detailed in the book. On his web site, Stratten refers to this as “a picture book, for fed-up business people”, and that at least points in the right direction. This is a very quick read, under 200 pages, with LOTS of pictures, and everything focused on how social media marketing is regularly abused by the clueless.

Frankly, QR Codes Kill Kittens reminds me of several other books. It obviously builds on the “unawesome” side of Stratten's The Book of Business Awesome/Unawesome, with it being a look at how QR codes (and other social elements) are being “done wrong”. It also, largely in design (lots of pictures, tightly edited text), recalls Jason Fried's seminal Rework, and has a counter-intuitive title (if not carried through to the book contents particularly) similar to Jason Seiden's How to Self-Destruct. The book has four chapters of about equal size addressing marketing or communications “fails”: They Don't Work, Nobody Likes Them, They're Selfish, and Your Time Is Better Spent Elsewhere. One would think that this was all about QR codes, but it's really not, although they are a touch point to which Stratten does return. From QR codes in email (how does one scan that?), on highway billboards (how quickly can you launch that app?), in places with limited connectivity, heck, even on banners being towed by planes (noting that “motion and distance” are not particularly good for scanning, he notes “I know one of you reading this approved the budget for it.”!).

A lot of the book focuses on Twitter foibles (horrible things that should never had gone out), lemming-like usage of display ads (a 50-character URL on a store's sign, a QR code sign placed directly behind a door's handle, making it unscannable, etc.), disasters of mobile site design, and assorted other levels of stupidity. Speaking of stupidity, here's a tasty quote:
Using an icon without an address leaves people to their own Internet skills and intelligence to find you.
Never leave people to their own intelligence.
... and you should see the “IQ test” that he suggests a particular spam e-mail is (asking you all your pertinent banking info, just to prevent having your “email closed” – reproduced on p.85).

If I had to voice a quibble on QR Codes Kill Kittens, it feels like it should have more about QR codes than it is – the title and chapter headings all point in that direction – while the unifying theme is actually more “things that kill kittens” across the board in social media marketing. And, while this is amusing in a schadenfreude way with all the bad behavior outlined (again, much like the “unawesome” half of Stratten's previous book), it takes a rather jarring turn on its last page … part of the “conclusion” section, where he veers into pitching his public speaking business. Call me a prude, but he could have moved the pitch to an “about Scott” section at the very end – there are 8 blank pages back there – which wouldn't have ended it on such a sour note (seriously, when I hit that “sell” paragraph on p.196, I suddenly felt like I'd just got done reading a promotional piece intended primarily for potential corporate speaking clients, rather than general readers … leading me to wondering if this book started out its life as a brochure for that market).

With that one caveat, I recommend this pretty much to all and sundry. Even if you're not in marketing, the “bad behavior” is funny enough to keep you reading. It's priced a bit steep for such a small book, but the on-line big boys currently have it at 40% off of cover, making it much more reasonable.

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Tags: book review
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