May 22, 2019 - 06:00 PM
Marketing Rebellion starts by stating the somewhat-obvious: traditional marketing techniques no longer work on modern consumers. While that’s not exactly hard to figure out, the hard part is figuring out how to market to those consumers now - and that’s the issue Marketing Rebellion seeks to address.
One small issue I found with the book early on was that even though it seeks to offer a new, revolutionary approach to marketing, the text itself falls prey to somewhat dated marketing techniques. Before the first chapter even begins, the author informs readers that there are “valuable, free surprises” hidden in the book.
Most savvy consumers know that free stuff from a brand (or an experienced marketer) is just a ploy to get them to buy something in the future. Although the tactic is effective sometimes, it’s not rebellious or revolutionary, and seems too transparent for a book like this.
Even though Schaefer promises “no strings attached,” it’s not hard to see that these giveaways are a ploy to get more people to visit his website, become newsletter subscribers, and eventually, make more purchases.
After this intro, Schaefer launches into a brief history of marketing, and details consumer “rebellions” along the way, such as the 1930s cultural shift that resulted in government regulations to prevent (blatant) lies in advertising. This section is interesting, though not entirely critical to the point of the book. Schaefer is again stating the kind-of obvious: marketing tactics have had to pivot many times over the years, as consumer demands have changed.
From there, he delves into the real meat of the story: what the next marketing rebellion is going to be, and how brands can survive it. And his answer for survival comes early: “companies and brands must be built through an accumulation of human impressions.” Slick, faceless advertising will no longer cut it - consumers want products with real, trustworthy people advocating for them.
Thanks to the power of things like recommendations and online reviews, traditional sales funnels no longer work. Schaefer next discusses some of the reasons marketers are struggling right now: mainly because they’re relying on outdated processes, like those sales funnels. He suggests that brands refocus on what matters most instead - creating products and processes that meet human needs.
Schaefer does an excellent job of keeping the book engaging with real-world examples and personal anecdotes, while sprinkling in critical truths about what consumers want. Things like warmth, belonging, and connection come up often. Brands that don’t offer these feelings can’t attract loyal consumers. In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to “Belonging” alone, with a close look at how brands can foster it in customers.
One of the best parts about this book is how Schaefer uses the chapters to break down modern marketing buzzwords like “artisanal” and “values-based,” giving them real, practical meaning for marketers.
He offers step-by-step action plans for navigating marketing challenges in each chapter, making it easy to translate his advice into the real world. He also explains how to effectively navigate newer techniques like influencer marketing.
While some of his advice seems obvious, it’s revolutionary enough from a marketing standpoint. For example, he suggests that brands move away from methods like pop-up ads, which consumers across the board claim to hate. No matter how well these methods “work,” he says, it’s not worth alienating consumers by annoying them into action.
Throughout the book, Schaefer name-drops certain brands. Early on, they’re largely “what not to do” stories, but as the book progresses, he mentions more brands that get marketing right. He takes care to describe what those brands did to get his attention, providing a meta-example of how rebellious marketing techniques gain new customers through word-of-mouth recommendations like his own. The ultimate goal is for the customer to become the marketer, and Schaefer’s writing provides an example of just how well that can work.
At its core, Marketing Rebellion suggests that big companies adopt the same tactics small companies have always used. Connect with customers, aim to please rather than just grow profits, cultivate a sense of community, be geniune, and so on.
Now that consumers are burned out on traditional advertising tactics, this is what works. Crucially, Schaefer also ends with some suggestions for how to convince a reluctant marketing department to adopt these “rebellious” methods.
He makes a convincing and detailed argument for how to navigate a real marketing challenge, and I have no doubt that these tactics work. Reading between the lines, it seems like it’s harder for large brands to succeed with these tactics than small companies, since modern consumers are often mistrustful of (or disinterested in) big brands.
But overall, Schaefer offers enough actionable advice for brands of any size to make Marketing Rebellion worth a read. And, in addition to being useful, his wealth of real-world stories and personable tone make it an entertaining read for marketers and consumers alike.