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Book Review: Renegade Marketing

Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, by Drew Neisser, offers CMOs a collection of thoughtful, practical insights into what it really takes to succeed in marketing a corporate brand. Neisser, an experienced marketing consultant and “Chief Marketing Renegade” at Renegade, the marketing firm he founded, has a lot of valuable ideas to share.

This book resonated with me for a number of reasons. I have previously run marketing for B2B tech brands, so I can relate the pressure that CMOs face. I also wrote a book on a related topic, so I appreciate, perhaps more than most, how business-to-business (B2B) marketing is distinct from consumer marketing. Many marketing books conflate the two, which is irritating. No, marketing Coca Cola is not the same as marketing an enterprise storage array.

Neisser also leads off with a simple but profound bit of advice: If you want to cut through the clutter and differentiate your offering in the marketplace, you must first cut the clutter in your own head. As he aptly notes, today’s CMO’s are deluged with data and distractions. “Stand out!” say many marketing advisors, who then shove a thousand migraine-inducing factoids your way to help you achieve focus that of course never materializes. Instead, as Neisser, suggests, take time to work on your own personal focus.

In a great example of what he’s talking about, I will admit that it took me several days to notice Neisser’s clever business card. When I got the book, the neurons on my fingertips registered that the card was not typical. I put it aside without looking at it. Only after reading the book did I see that Neisser’s card has a laser cutout of a saw—to “cut away” all that does not enable you to stand out.

From there, Neisser goes into depth on subjects like the art of ideation and execution. He reveals how to make the most of standard B2B marketing processes that can yield less than optimal results if they are not approached with some imagination. For example, he explains how a messaging exercise is meant to stimulate thinking about a B2B message, not create one. The sort of jumbled, kitchen sink messages that you get after doing these exercises should never be used in actual marketing materials. (Though, as we know, they often are, with poor results.)

His suggestion is to get your message down to eight words or fewer. In his case, it’s two: “Cut through.” This is harder than it looks, but Neisser gives the reader some ideas on how to realize this useful goal.

Throughout, Neisser provides great real-life examples based on his years in the marketing field. He once arranged for a Hummer to drive over a laptop on live television to demonstrate how tough it was. As a colleague of mine might have said, that took some serious stones. But, that’s what it takes to stand out.

I recommend this book for anyone involved in B2B marketing.