Introduction to Marketing
Our first major foray into a publisher induced tactical nightmare, and the first time one of our innovations was so blatantly stolen from us, we had to call foul. Back in the day, having successfully produced the Strategic Internet Marketing texts, we were widely recognised, highly critically acclaimed, and poised to go after the biggest slice of the Australiian marketing textbook market – the introduction to marketing classes. This was a market absolutely held by Kotler, and for us to be the upstarts against the Crown Prince of Marketing? We needed a game plan.
So we pitched the unKotler book – black and white, no photos, no gloss, text and line art diagrams, low cost production and short production run (2500 copies first run). Our plan was to undercut the market with the cheaper option, heavily and blatantly Australian with cases and examples from local areas, which was completely the opposite of the existing texts that ignored the local market in favor of cases from Boston. US texts wrote local case studies and were pitched as “International Learning Opportunities” because they were local US cases. We thought if it worked for Kotler, we could work it.
It kinda went wrong when we took the concepts to the publisher. Because we were going to be the “Big Challenger(TM)” text, instead of our usual team, we were escalated up to a new group, and we didn’t have the track record, trust or rapport needed to make this work. Our book escalated from black and white minimum run to a full colour run that required 7500 copies for the economy of scale. Internal text was full CMYK shiny colour, and the first wave of clipart was sourced from US photo stock. Like, blatantly US photo stock.
So we pushed back, and put forward a couple of novel approaches – first, if we had to be full colour, we wanted to do something new – use in-text highlighting on key ideas. Make it look like someone had hit the thing up with sticky labels and highlighters, like the well used textbooks in our classroom looked like when actually used by students.
Now this where something interesting also happened – we had our book peer reviewed, as our books are always peer reviewed. We never pick the reviewers so as to avoid conflicts of interest. This time, our editor selects one of their friends to review the text – one of their friends who happens to have an introduction to marketing text about six months ahead of us in the production cycle, for a rival firm (a firm our editor would later go on to work for). Unsurprisingly, our little highlighter trick shows up in the reviewer’s book, making us look like we’d copied them (first mover advantage). When we complained about the selection of a direct rival as a reviewer, we were told that it was best practice – not just a disappointing lack of ethics by our rival, and a complete lack of smarts by our publisher. In the long run, it probably had no impact on our sales, but it definitely killed our desire to go for a renewed contract with Wiley.
We also managed to add an innovative case study approach for the book by embracing CD technology (it was 2004. Two years before YouTube). We had a video case study with interviews with Eagles Boys Pizza CEO Tom Potter, and the CD provided supplemental material which supported a number of semester length assessment tasks. Of course, the downside was that CD drives weren’t as common in student computer labs as we expected, and despite all of the market research from the publishers saying the academics wanted case studies, they weren’t trained in the classic case study method (which we used), and instead wanted “12 weekly cases on different topics” and not one integrated 12 week case. Ah well, it was worth the effort.
Still, we shifted something like 2000 to 2400 units of the book – falling drastically short of the 3500-4000 a full colour print run required to go to second edition, but absolutely on the mark for profitability on a black and white text. Who knew marketers could do market predictions?