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A Genie's Wisdom - A Fable of How a CEO Learned to Be a Marketing Genius





Book: 'A Genie's Wisdom - A Fable of How a CEO Learned to Be a Marketing Genius'

Author: Jack Trout

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2003


Leader Values

Anyone who is interested in organisational leadership will find something useful, stimulating or challenging in this modern fable.  Although A Genie's Wisdom claims to be directed at CEOs who have come from a non-marketing function, it is clearly relevant to a much wider readership.  The fable has just two characters - BJ, a newly appointed CEO who knows little about marketing, and the all-knowing genie, who tells BJ how marketing works.

Of course, the genie speaks with the authoritative wisdom and quirky sense of humour of well-known marketing guru Jack Trout.  And BJ asks all the questions that the reader needs to have answered. The result is a classic combination of straight guy who asks all the dumb questions and oracular expert with all the answers – rather akin to Sherlock Holmes and Watson.

The genie defines marketing as simply how to “sell your product or service for a profit”. He then gives clear and outspoken guidance on topics as diverse as how to set the marketing budget; how to build strong brands; the relative importance of brand names and logos; line extensions and new market segments; choosing the correct price; how to evaluate advertising; choosing the right medium, and a lot more.  This is quite an achievement for a compact and readable 120 page book.

The genie refers to common marketing mistakes as the Seven Deadly Sins of Marketing. They include arrogance arising from success, greed, ignorance, wishful thinking in which plans are built on dreams instead of facts, loss of focus, tinkering with the franchise, and pride. If none of these sins feels uncomfortably familiar, you are either a saint – or (more probably) blinkered by your own success, so you don’t see the danger signals.

The modern fable approach is not unique in management and leadership literature. But speaking as the genie allows Jack to make bold criticisms of major companies that he views as having made dumb marketing decisions.  These include line-extension products like Crystal Clear Pepsi and the lower priced Mercedes, which are used as examples of brands that have lost focus on what they stand for.  Speaking as the genie also enables Jack to mention high profile CEOs that the genie (in his Jack Trout alter ego) has helped – for example Michael Dell, Chrysler’s Lee Iacocca and Bill Gates – without overtly bragging about his achievements.
Jack Trout could have made his material into a very different book.  For example, it could have simply been "Jack's Wisdom: How to be a Successful CEO", summarizing Jack's accumulated experience and wisdom as a straightforward set of rules to follow.  That would have made it rather dry and didactic. Instead, he presented the information as a modern fable – and produced a more interesting, entertaining and 'in-genie-ous' book.

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