Book Review– “Do It Wrong Quickly”

Mike Moran’s “Do it wrong quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules” is truly a guide for starting E-marketing. The main idea of this book is that the Internet brings significant changes to the marketing environment and there is no “rule-of-thumb”. Rather than speculating when and how the changes will affect your companies, marketers should begin experiments based on the techniques and tools introduced in this book. The principle of “Do it wrong quickly” and “improve-it-immediately” is highly appropriate in the marketing context that the Internet has defined.

As a previous marketing practitioner, I have found that the pragmatic approach to E-marketing offered by Mike echoed my own experience: changes are more rapid and you cannot afford doing nothing. You should embrace these changes and re-learn your customers within the new E-marketing setting and make the most use of the features of the Internet. As a business graduate student, I have also learned how to listen, talk and engage with the customers and how to plant the E-marketing concepts in companies, which is highly useful in my future career.

The book is an easy and interesting read. Part 1 discusses that how the Internet or digital technology in general has shifted marketing. Specifically as I learned from the E-marketing class, customers are more empowered and companies are no longer having full control of the marketing messages. This means that some marketing tools expire but in the meantime some basic principles hold true and other new opportunities also arise. Part 2 focuses the actual way to “do it wrong quickly”: starting with studying online consumer behavior, you could utilize various concrete tools introduced in the book to create unique and compelling marketing experience. With the width and depth of data you can collect, you would be able to adjust your marketing initiatives almost simultaneously when you start something new. The “action-feedback-action” close loop will facilitate you to “do-it-wrong-quickly”. Part 3 is where the book taps into the empirical field and offers practical methods to make the E-marketing thinking happen in many traditional marketing-orientated companies.

Here are some detailed takeaways from this book except for those high-level insights discussed earlier:

First, the Internet age has changed the marketer and customer relationship. To me, it is one of the by-products that democracy brought by internet to various facets of life: no individual or a group of individuals/organizations are monopoly of information. People have accessible means to publish and share information. Customers in general are more selective to marketing information or become resistant to irrelevant marketing messages. Similar to the in-bound marketing concept, marketers should actively learn the customers and engage them in the messages, which are naturally attractive to the audience. Hard-sell or massive marketing communication are not extinct, but they are becoming less effective.

Second, certain key principles in marketing remain unchanged. Here let’s use a broad marketing definition which involves finding, delivering and meeting customer wants. Under this assumption, the “Product” still should be excellent in E-marketing. No matter how fancy your website or how attractive you viral video is, the crappy product is never going to sell. Similarly, “Price” also needs to be competitive. Very importantly, a distinctive and powerful brand positioning is crucial to be successful even in the current e-world. Here is an argument that I do not totally agree with Mike’s conclusion that brand loyalty is not as useful as in the pre-internet time. Brand or product relevance, instead, is more prominent. Just consider the amazon case, brand name still a big thing although its competitors like Barnes and Noble may offer similar products and services, customer may well loyal to the trust that the Amazon name implies, reluctant to shop with competitor websites.

Third, a “trial-and-error” approach is particularly meaningful in the E-marketing environment. On one hand, think about how rapid are the changes of consumer behavior as a result of the Internet, any companies that ignore the trend will be left out pretty soon. People search product alternatives from the Internet, consult reviews from others, customize and finalize the purchases on-line and they feedback the experience than it influences others. A simple marketing message without purposeful design, attractive content and specific relevance, will be certainly bypassed or avoided anyway. Any complaints and dissatisfaction will eventually find a way to get back to you. On the other hand, the E-marketing environment permits easier experiments that allow you to “do it wrong” and turn it around without huge costs. As an example, Amazon can test different webpage designs easily with accurate click tracking.

Although this book is a practical reference of E-marketing, it could be more thorough if it had elaborated more on how small or medium businesses should take the advantage of the advent of web 2.0 and the prevalence of social media. Personally I think many small companies are disappointed because at first they thought that the Internet offered an affordable tool to compete head-to-head with those giants, but what they later realize was that they could not make more impact except for the Facebook page and some email newsletters. Another area that the book might need to discuss more is how to define those initiatives that could “do-it-wrong-quickly”.  I do not oppose to the idea of “do-it-wrong-quickly” and in fact I think it makes more sense in the digital era than 20 years ago. But the question is whether we can fail indiscriminatively on any marketing projects. For example, some marketing efforts are profound in terms of brand goodwill and social responsibility and cannot be “done-it-wrong-quickly” and improve later. I think Mike needs to provide some frameworks or criteria to draw the line within which the activities could be tested and evolved.