It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that 99% of all business books are rehashed wisdom, dressed with mostly boring personal anecdotes and case studies that make you want to claw your eyes out.
There’s only so many ways that you can redo the makeup on basic business theory and, until a new social network or technology really takes hold, the vast majority of technical performance has been covered. There’s truly nothing new under the sun.
“Does this mean that there is no inherent value in business writing?” I ask nervously, updating my business blog. Of course, there is. You will always have new audiences that need this classic information in ways that speak to them.
But you, the seasoned businessperson, you… do you really need another marketing book that gives you the same information?
In 2016, I started the Bowie Book Club, dedicated to reading the 100 books that David Bowie felt were the most influential. This list has been a massive intellectual undertaking, with books ranging from neuroscience to frothy fiction classics.
The ones that I’ve discovered I like the best are the art and literary criticism books. Sexual Personae, by Camille Paglia, was life-changing as it guided me through sexual and gender mores that are largely ignored and denied by a very heterosexual male historical view. I learned about the history and practices of using particular shapes and colors in art from Beyond the Brillo Box by Arthur Danto.
As I was reading, I realized that ads featuring those shapes and colors tended to do better than others. I also realized that photos with more classical composition got more likes. (I do realize this is a no shit sherlock paragraph to those with graphic design training.)
For those of us without the benefit of graphic design education, this is important information that greatly improves our work and is generally not found in the average marketing book. Why? Because it’s business and art is not business. Business needs numbers and proven logical strategies that anyone can follow and always work until they don’t.
Or does it?
When everyone is doing the same thing, you stand out by doing something different. There are 50 million variations of that statement, floating around the universe on motivational coffee mugs, and for good reason. It’s true.
Data is the current king of marketing, presenting in all manner of spreadsheets and reports. It causes products and careers to rise and fall and determines what color clothing you’ll be wearing next year.
What happens when you take the data and combine that with the lessons learned from millennia of art? Something beautiful.
So, next time you are perusing Amazon while waiting in line for a smoothie, do a search for art criticism. Your clients will thank you.