Didn’t See It Coming traces the implosion of “Mad Men” advertising complacency, the rise of sustainability and social media as global marketing trends, and the general chaos and disruption that seem to be a fact of life for modern marketers.
That said, Didn’t See It Coming isn’t a business book. You won’t find “Ten Steps For Success” lists, or important-looking charts. In fact, there’s no marketing lingo to be found. It’s simply a story of self-discovery, set against the upheaval of a post-911 world.
If you’re a marketer (and perhaps wondering why), Didn’t See It Coming is a critical eye-opener, and possibly one of the best business books you’ll read this year.
Get a quick preview of what’s inside in this 4 min video.
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I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to read this book, let alone enjoy it. I can’t bring myself to read about advertising, brands or branding anymore but the cover got me. (If there is a better book cover design anywhere, I’d like to see it.) Then Stoiber’s writing got me and I couldn’t put it down. There are lessons in here that you might find valuable but I was hooked by the author’s story and his deft telling of it. There’s a rare honesty to this work that I can’t articulate but you’ll know what I mean when you read it. Any book written by an adman (recovering or otherwise) is going to get your BS detector up – mine was – but it didn’t last. Well done.
This may be the great North American hash (in the best possible and breakfast sense) of marketing books – there’s a bit of everything packed into a very easy, accessible and mostly entertaining read.
It’s part history, part tell-all, part confessional, part how-to-and-not-to and plenty insightful — it may not be “marketing: warts and all” but Stoiber certainly shows you some of the sector’s mild skin rash and its saving graces. Stoiber has a talent for self-deprecating promotion, oxymoronic as that may sound, and while he intended just to get people thinking and considering “what’s next” I think readers will get a great deal more, especially those who live to sell their respective brands.
Stoiber poses some provocative questions that business leaders need to grapple with. Didn’t See It Coming will draw inevitable comparisons with Simon Sinek and George Lois but Didn’t See It Coming adds a more personal dimension. Stoiber writes from a very personal POV highlighting his own journey from excitement to increasing disillusionment with how marketing, and business in general, has lost its direction and lost its soul. Ultimately that disillusionment leads to soul-searching and a powerful re-imagining of how to think of business. A way ground in making a positive contribution to the planet. Where the book is infinitely better is as a yardstick for how we all need to think differently about business – and what we’re doing to make it better.
It’s rare to see a business book that doesn’t overwhelm you with to-do lists, best practices, or discoveries Guaranteed to Make You A Winner. Didn’t See It Coming is more of a happy ramble through the monumental disruptions of the last 20 years, as seen through the eyes of someone in the marketing trenches. That is, great stories from a gifted storyteller. As Stoiber writes in his preamble: “This isn’t a book for marketers. It’s a book for smart people who happen to be in marketing, and wondering why.” A bit self-effacing, but a breath of fresh air in a category that desperately needs it. Frankly, I didn’t see that coming.
Founding partner of Rethink
I’m the kind of person who never reads forewords. You’re obviously the kind of person who does.
So let me do my best to fulfill what I suspect is the mission of a proper foreword: To confirm that you made a wise decision in buying this book, and that you will indeed benefit from reading its contents. As well as giving you a bit of a flavour of what’s to come, and of the character of the author.
I first met Marc Stoiber in 1995 when he landed in Vancouver after stints at ad agencies in several exotic lands. He was very young and very energetic and very tall. Today he is still two of those things.
He was also very innocent and idealistic in many ways. Over a surprisingly short period of time we created some great work together, turning an agency that was best known for its three-martini lunch into Canada’s Agency of the Year three years in a row. Marc was a key part of this transformation, which taught him his first big lesson in creating brands: Start with your own.
After four years of success in Vancouver, Marc was ready for the big leagues. So I talked him into running the creative department at our newest office, moving his young family to the Big Show in marketing in Canada: Toronto.
That’s where the trouble began. As you’ll read in the chapters ahead, Marc’s idealism ran smack dab into the realities of marketing in the post-911 era: Useless products sold by overly analytical people using media models that were obviously on their last legs.
Over the course of the next few years Marc lost his innocence, but gained something far more valuable: Real insight into what is wrong with modern marketing and some interesting hunches on how to change things for the better.
They were more than hunches, really. In fact, they were the catalyst for the creation of a new kind of marketing agency, which Marc created against some very tough odds, during the height of the Great Recession.
Since our paths diverged in the early 2000s, Marc and I continued to collaborate on the odd project. And I started a company called Rethink, which sought to answer some of the very same questions Marc was so pointedly asking. Our journeys have been different, but our goal has been the same: To find a more human way to talk to people about products and services that can enrich their lives.
I think you’ll find Marc’s journey fascinating, and his conclusions thought-provoking – dare I say even useful. If you’re like me, you’ll steal some of his best ideas and pass them off as your own.
Some of these ideas are Marc’s, learned the hard way, through trial and error. Others come from some very smart people he’s met along the way. Still others come from interesting case studies Marc has sleuthed out from innovative companies around the world.
All of his conclusions share a few common traits: They’re based on common sense. They’re rooted in positive values. And they’re dead simple. With not a hint of marketing jargon to be seen.
By the end of this book I think you’ll feel entertained, enlightened and maybe even a little bit inspired.
You also just might feel a little better about the future of marketing and your own role within it. Yes, there are many things wrong with this business. But with the right attitude and a few simple principles, it is possible to be an Ad Man and feel good about how you’re spending your life.
Over to you, Marc.