Oprah time: Seventeen by Hideo Yokohama

Seventeen by Hideo Yokohama

Seventeen follows Yokohama’s first break out book translated into English; Sixty Four, but it isn’t a sequel or a prequel.

Hideo Yokohama is a former journalist. he used to write for the Jomo Shimbun, a regional paper in Japan. It was obviously easy for him to write about life as a journalist. Yokohama-san captures the atmosphere in a news room. The egos and tensions. Perhaps the biggest tension being the solitary nature of being a writer, whilst participating in the team effort of a daily miracle of creating a newspaper.

It describes a pre-internet world, where pagers were hot items, cellular phones were starting to make an appearance but outrageously expensive. Two-way radio sets were commonly used by taxi-companies, field services organisations (utility vans) and possibly media who couldn’t afford cellphones.

Seventeen isn’t a straightforward book to read, it has parallel narratives that wind together. One narrative is that of a senior journalist in a local paper in 1985 in the aftermath of Japan Airlines Flight 123; the world’s largest loss of life in a single aircraft accident. The second strand is the journalist some 15 years older; preparing to climb a rock face with the now adult son of a friend who died at the same time as the air crash.

The book mixes the existential crises of the journalist in both home and professional life; with the emotion involved in reporting such a horrific event. Yokohama  captures the politics and internal pettiness of his office colleagues and the perverse nature of the company chairman.

Seventeen is a great read, which I can highly recommend as a summer holiday read.

 

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Oprah Time: Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert M Cialdini

Cialdini’s Influence is now over ten years old and still stands up. It is a good guide on the psychology of why people say “yes”. The accessible style of Influence reminded of Douglas Rushcoff, or Malcolm Gladwell. Ok Malcolm Gladwell is a poor analogy, Cialdini’s work isn’t candy floss for the mind. This is deceptive as there is usually an inverse relationship between value and accessibility. Exceptions to this heuristic would be the likes of Sun Tzu – The Art of War.

Influence by Cialdini

Cialdini hasn’t been researched within an inch of its life in the same way Byron Sharp’s books have been.

Cialdini provides planners and strategists with starting points for customer experiences. The book isn’t a how to guide for digital journeys but provides first principles. Psychology is not channel-specific.

The Journal of Marketing Research described it as

…among the most important books written in the last 10 years.

The book’s style allowed me to pick it up and put it down, to fit in with my holiday schedule of train travel and family time.

Why should you have Cialdini’s Influence?

  • If your work includes marketing planning or strategy, your bookshelf should have this book. If you are thinking about customer interactions, this book outlines the first principles that you need
  • If you’re a consumer and want to know how you’re being sold to; read this book
  • If you want to get on better with people ( your kids or co-workers); buy this book

My copy is well-thumbed and stuffed with post-it notes around the edges as I go back and forth into it on a regular basis.

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Oprah time: Operaatio Elop (Operation Elop) by Pekka Nykänen & Merina Salminen

Nokia

There has seldom been a fall so drastic as Nokia’s fall in the mobile phone market from leading player to disaster. With that fall came the humbling of a country.

Given the scale of the fall and the size of Nokia as a brand around the world, I was surprised the the book hadn’t been translated and published in different language editions. Instead it was up to numerous Finns to translate it into English for free and provide it on an as is basis.

Had Nokia’s fall had been so complete that it literally fell out of interest for non-Finns?

What becomes apparent is a story more nuanced than the press coverage would allow. Elop comes out of it a flawed tragic figure – a one-trick pony; rather than a skilful trojan horse.

Nokia’s feature phone line up where surprisingly a hero of the piece contributing positively to the business for longer than I would have expected and slowing down the business collapse precipitated in the smartphone business.

Nokia’s board of directors and former management come out of it much worse.

Nokia’s strengths had become its weakness.

  • Smartphone manufacturing processes weren’t ready for mass adoption
  • MeeGo had been unfairly assessed
  • It blew its marketing budget on a bet on the North American market, ignoring other countries
  • The marketing budget was spent too early and all at once, by my reckoning it was roughly $100 per phone sold during the launch of the Lumia range in the US
  • Windows Phone software and cheap Android phones were key issues
  • Chip technology parter issues from its relationship with Qualcomm to it

The more pertinent question would be is there any circumstances where Nokia stood a chance of staying on top in the mobile phone marketplace?

Oprah time: The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by Scott Galloway

Galloway is known as the founder of L2 and as a perceptive commentator on the digital economy (well as perceptive as anyone is with a bank of researchers behind them). He admits freely in his book that his fame was due to years of effort, advertising spend, researchers, script writers, video editors and studio time.

The Four

The Four is Scott Galloway channelling Malcolm Gladwell; explaining for the average man:

  • How Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple make their money?
  • How the digital economy is affecting the overall economy?
  • What are the negative aspects of their effect on the digital economy?

Galloway does a really good job of surfing the media and policy wonk groundswell against Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple.

As a digital marketer the book won’t tell you won’t know already know.  I found it a bit disappointing given the role that Galloway and L2 play in the industry.  Secondly, Galloway has already covered all the territory repeatedly in his media appearances and opinion editorials over the past year. He has left little unsaid that would be considered an exclusive for the book

As a digital marketer, if you want your family and loved ones to understand what you do for the living and the major issues that are shaping your job Galloway’s book is a good option.

Oprah time: The art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye | 书评 | 서평

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Sonny Liew’s autobiography of a fictional comic book creator Charlie Chan Hock Chye is an illuminating history of Singapore and a clever exercise in multilayered storytelling.

Charlie’s story takes you through his family’s history, growing up in a shop house run by his parents and his own life that largely stands still as an unknown comic writer.  It covers his disappointments in comic publishing and the decline in ‘pavement libraries’ as TV became an important form of information and entertainment. One of Chan’s comic book superheroes is a ‘night soil man’ who gets bitten by a cockroach and develops super strength and abilities. Until the necessary infrastructure was built out Singaporeans used to dispose of their toilet contents manually. They would be collected by a night soil man and driven for disposal in a lorry.

Various life events of Chan are outlined; his parents selling the shop to pay for his father’s unsuccessful medical treatment in Singapore. The love of his life marrying a business man and an unsuccessful visit to ComicCon. All of this tangentially addresses changes in Singaporean society in terms of public housing, medical care and economic improvements. Chan’s failure reflects on what they author felt Singapore lost by not having this kind of critique.

Through Chan’s comic stories we see a post-war Singapore lose respect for the British following their defeat by Japan and the path toward a post colonial future. The book takes an oblique but cutting tilt at the legacy of the People’s Action Party and Lee Kuan Yew and asks at the end what if things had turned out differently.

Beyond the storytelling and the historic analysis of Singapore, the book is a homage to the greats of the comic book world:

  • Osamu Tezuka
  • Walt Disney
  • Will Eisner
  • Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Despite being relatively oblique in its critique of Singaporean history, the Singapore National Arts Council withdrew a grant $8,000 for the book. Citing “sensitive content” and its potential to “undermine the authority and legitimacy” of the government. Just a few decades earlier Liew could have received a stronger reaction to his work from the state.

It leaves some interesting questions, Singapore has been a success growing from a post-war where much of the infrastructure was destroyed to an economic power house unlike any other country in South East Asia. Admittedly, it did much of this prior to the opening up of China; but it also didn’t enjoy the natural resources of its neighbours either.  Had Singapore missed out in this dash to economic success?

The post-war change of sentiment towards fallible British rulers raises questions about whether a post-Brexit freebooting global Britain open for trade will be successful in the face of 7 decades of diminished responsibility and respect around the world?