Fanning’s take on two marketing books

John Fanning reviews two recently published books on marketing communications – Contemporary Issues in Marketing and Consumer Behaviour by Elizabeth Parsons, Pauline Maclaran, Andreas Chatzidakis, Rachel Ashman and Advertising Account Planning by Larry D Kelley, Sarah Turnbull, Donald W Jugenheimer, both of which are published by Routledge.


Does anyone read books on marketing communications anymore?

I don’t hear many people in the business talking about books in the same way they do about podcasts, but I agree with Financial Times star columnist Janan Ganesh when he wrote recently that although podcasts provide useful background material “they wash over me and leave no mental residue”. Read these two books and you will be rewarded with plenty of “mental residue” on some of the latest thinking on marketing and account planning.

It’s worth pointing out that both have stood the test of time; the account planning book is now in its fourth edition and the contemporary issues is in its third. Both include new material, more recent case histories and commentary in new emerging issues in the field. The Contemporary Issues book will keep you abreast with the increasing number of societal trends that must be taken into account when considering how to communicate with today’s audiences.

Younger age cohorts in particular are much better informed on broader sociological and cultural topics because of their continuous exposure to social media platforms and, as the authors point out, sustainability, equity, inclusivity and diversity. But the list of topics that are admirably covered in this book is daunting from the structures of marketing and markets being now more central to the problems of planetary and human welfare to the more specific issues of feminism, intersectionality along with critical theory, race theory and queer theory; remember where you read this first!


There is a good section on the increasingly important area of ethics in marketing, making the point that in the context of the current deepening global environment crisis marketing is under increased scrutiny in its role as the engine of continuing economic growth at the expense of the world’s resources. In this connection there is an illuminating discussion on the differences between cultivated growth, the type we’ve been used to with no restraints, sustainable growth, and degrowth.

Marketers can no longer brush aside these questions on the grounds that they are merely trying to increase the market share of their brand of baked beans; we are living in an interdependent world where all of our actions have implications outside our little marketing patch. This book will not only help keep you informed about these implications but will provide valuable insights into new product development and marketing communications strategies.

We’re all familiar with how digital technology has transformed so many aspects of the business, and it appears there will be even more to follow with the convergence of our digital and physical selves where we will share our immersive experiences – “the metaverse  represents the top level hierarchy of persistent virtual spaces  that may also interpolate in real life, so that social, commercial and personal experience emerge through web 3.0 technologies – where consumers will no longer be a target for marketing communications but rather will be immersed into joint value creation, where companies and consumers intra-act emerging together without limits on their form or materialities”.

So there ye are now!

There’s also an interesting section on the problems of dealing with ‘influencers’, the new kids on the block characterised by an extraordinary high level of self-confidence and an alarmingly low level of self-awareness. The authors advise looking out for the following when contemplating using them; under-hand endorsement, over endorsement, over-emphasis, over-saturation and over-indulgence.


The book on account planning is an updated version of a highly successful series on this important subject. If you haven’t read any of the earlier editions you should read this one, everything you need to know on the subject is here, and there are some updated sections to take account of the dramatic changes taking place in the business. The chapter that caught my eye is the final chapter; ‘Future Thoughts on Account Planning’.

The authors make the point that the subject has expanded to include user experience specialists, information architecture, trend analysis, social media specialists and anthropologists. But the most important point to emerge here is the potential for account planning to play a greater role in broader business strategic issues and in particular in the “upstream process of overall business strategy which is largely occupied by the management consulting industry”.

Good account planners should be better qualified to fulfil this function than the often-stale mechanical over-priced solutions offered by the global management consultants. Now is the time to strike because they are coming under increasing pressure. Two recent books, When McKinsey’s Come to Town and the appropriately titled, The Big Con, excoriate the global consultancies for their dubious advice and overall poor service.

There are a number of great new novels just out from Irish writers Colm Toibin, Colin Barrett and Kevin Barry, and the books I’ve recommended here may not exactly qualify as ‘beach ready’, but a close reading of both will make you ‘strategically ready’ to face into a new business year.

John Fanning lectures on branding and marketing communications at the UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School;


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