I’m putting down some thoughts on the books I was reading in the run up to this Christmas past. So far, I’ve covered The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and Made To Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. In this post, I’m looking at The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.
I’ve been a reader of Chris Brogan’s blog and a subscriber to his email newsletters for some years and bought and read – and enjoyed – his book Trust Agents (co-authored, as is The Impact Equation, with Julien Smith) when it came out in 2009.
The new book, unfortunately, is a disappointment. This could be a matter of my own unreasonable expectations and I would be more than foolish if I expected every book from authors I respect to live up to my idea of what they should be.
But in this case, The Impact Equation feels manufactured from start to finish. By that, I mean from idea to execution. In fact, on reading it, I felt like Brogan and Smith had come up with a good name for a book – The Impact Equation – and then set about finding some content that would justify the title.
That meant, of course, finding an equation. With impact, I suppose. And they found one. This is it:
Impact = C x (R+E+A+T+E)
You can see that the way they gave it impact was to include the word ‘impact’ in the equation. My maths is not great but I think I would prefer my impact to be more along the lines of C + (RxExAxTxE). But you can fiddle with operators without getting any real sense of how it really fits into an equation.
So let’s just accept that this is a bit of fun and delve a little deeper into the substance behind those operands themselves. Here’s what each big bold letter stands for:
- C – contrast
- R – reach
- E – exposure
- A – articulation
- T – trust
- E – echo
Now, one look at that list tells you that those are words that didn’t just spring to mind. I bet there was quite a bit of thesaurus stroking before they came up with articulation. What they started with was probably clarity but realised that another C meant all sorts of hellish contortions. And although articulation fits in nicely at number four in the acronym, it is actually the second topic covered in the book. This makes sense because clarity is fairly fundamental but it does underscore how artificial the acronym is. Surely one of the benefits of a useful acronym is that it also reminds you of the order of things.
The other thing I expect of an acronym is that the words that back up the letters in the acronym itself will be memorable and obviously meaningful. Here we have ‘echo’. Mmm. And ‘reach’, which I might confuse with exposure but ‘exposure’ is also there.
If you look back to the acronym that forms the spine of the ideas running through Made To Stick, they are clear, memorable, and unambiguous, each and every one. Here, we have words that betray how they have been beaten and twisted to give the semblance of a coherent idea.
None of this would matter, I suppose, if the book’s content was both entertaining and uniquely informative. Unfortunately, even here, things don’t quite gel. There are some good case studies and business stories (I especially enjoyed learning about Dollar Shave Club) but this is very much par for the course in such books. It’s part of building up credibility (or is that ‘trust’?) in the thesis, after all.
However, the stories also seem to have been distributed almost at random and could be used to higlight many if not all of our CREATE theme. This gives the book a problem in that it never seems to be building to a climax. It feels more like a buffet of individual tapas portions rather than a menu for a full-scale dinner.
I’m being hard on the book because I think Chris Brogan is better than this. I can prove it: read his blog. And if you read his blog and subscribe to his newsletter, you’ll get much more valuable information – regularly – and be stimulated to think better thoughts and ask better questions of your marketing than you’ll get from this book.
Next time, I’m talking about Writing That Works by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson.