Mar 23

“The Grapes of Wrath” 2.0

A College of Charleston student asked me yesterday what books she should be reading. I GrapesOfWrath
immediately suggested anything by Malcolm Gladwell, Christopher Buckley, Colin Dexter, Bill Bryson and David McCullough.

Then, it occurred to me that more and more marketers are taking a look back at their predecessors in the Great Depression in order to glean how brands succeeded in that particularly heinous period. I know, for example, that Jazz at Lincoln Center is positioning jazz as THE ideal antidote to the fears and anxieties of today's 'new normal'. Interestingly, jazz, and its fraternal twin, swing music, became a mainstream medium as a direct result of The Great Depression. Americans turned to jazz, along with movies and radio programming, to take their minds off their collective misery.

So, it makes sense for marketers to examine what worked then and juxtapose it against the realities of today's social media, global interconnectedness and ravenous 24×7 news cycle. They might discover some very interesting, and highly relevant, solutions.

That said, as soon as I finished answering the student's question, I quickly added John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" to my recommended reading list. It has to be the quintessential Depression-era book. And what job seeker wouldn't totally impress in any interview by noting, “By the way, I'm reading “The Grapes of Wrath” because I want to learn what lessons from the 1930s might be applicable to your company's marketing efforts.” Talk about differentiating oneself from the crowd.