Friday, November 24, 2023

FALL BACK TO READING SERIES – Featuring Gregory Kennedy

This year, as the seasons change and we enjoy fall, I’ve launched my FALL BACK TO READING SERIES. The series will feature two dozen leadership and marketing experts, who will share their inspiration in both fiction and nonfiction, and hopefully, provide the impetus to read more. To quote New York Times Bestselling author Kristin Harmel, “If you give a person a book, you give him the world.” For today’s post, I’d like to introduce Gregory Kennedy.

Gregory Kennedy has an impressive track record with over two decades of expertise in spearheading global marketing, content, brand, and communication strategies for leading high-tech firms, such as, InMobi, AdRoll, and Sojern. A former creative director and a two-time head of marketing, his specialty is helping to take startups from zero to scale. He now works as a Fractional CMO and marketing consultant with his agency BrandZen, where he advises early-stage companies on their go-to-market strategy, empowering them to thrive in a competitive environment.

QUESTION: Which three business books have made the biggest impact on your career?
GREGORY KENNEDY: I love this question, here are my top three most impactful books.

(3) Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove:
Andy Grove led Intel to become an incredible force in Silicon Valley and built that company into a legendary firm helping to define Silicon Valley along the way. This book is quite well-known and is frequently listed on many business and leadership reading lists. His concept of pollyannas versus Cassandras is my favorite takeaway. We are supposed to be optimistic, but Andy Grove advises us to listen to those pointing out the danger we may face.

(2) Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy:
The creator of the legendary agency that still uses his name today, this is the best book on advertising ever written. While technology, formats, and media channels have changed significantly, human psychology has not. What constitutes a great ad and motivates people to buy are universal truths that Ogilvy does a fantastic job describing for readers. His system of components, what makes up an ad, a visual, a caption, a headline, copy, and a signature, is still relevant and in use today.

(1) Art of War by Sun Tzu:
This has been my favorite book since I first read it 25 years ago. Nearly 5,000 years old, the book's timeless concepts are just as relevant today as they were when they were written. It continues to find an audience as each new generation discovers it. It’s a short book, under 10,000 words, and can be read in a single sitting. It is filled with short-form advice and passages like, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles," which seem like they were written for social media.

SHARE THIS: David Ogilvy's system of components, what makes up an ad, a visual, a caption, a headline, copy, and a signature, is still relevant and in use today. ~George Kennedy #Advertising #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Who is your favorite author, and why?

GREGORY KENNEDY: Such a tough question. If I can only pick one, it must be Mark Twain. I think it’s fair to say that he will always be remembered as the greatest literary figure that the United States ever produced. Even though much of his writing is old, the humor, wit, themes, insights, and narratives all continue to stand up. I would call him the "American Shakespeare."

QUESTION: What book did you read in high school or college that, to this day, you still remember vividly, and why?

GREGORY KENNEDY: I read a lot of books when I was a kid. Two or three a week, so picking one is a challenge. I loved the science fiction author William Gibson, who is credited with inventing terms like cyberpunk and cyberspace.

I remember when his book, The Difference Engine, was first published. The premise was that a massive technology revolution happened in the 19th century, because they perfected mechanical computers called difference engines. The book started the steampunk movement and inspired a popular aesthetic most widely adopted at Burning Man.

Difference engines are real devices. They were never built in the 19th century, but detailed drawings exist. A working replica is at the Computer Museum in Silicon Valley, proving that the devices would have worked if one had ever been built back then.

William Gibson’s novels described much of what the Internet would become before its popularization. This had a profound influence on me and my decision to make a career in the new and exciting world of the Internet.

QUESTION: Do you intersperse fiction with your business reading? If yes, what was the last work of fiction that you read, and what caught your attention about it?
GREGORY KENNEDY: No. I don’t read fiction at all anymore. I enjoyed it when I was young, but once I took to reading business publications like The Economist and business books, I stopped. In the early 2000's, before social media, I was obsessed with The Economist and read every issue cover to cover. I would send them emails, and the writers would write me back. It all seems so quaint now.

Today, sites like LinkedIn, make it easy to talk to any writer or author you want. It’s nothing special. But at the time, you had to be dedicated to getting a response.

QUESTION: If you created a nonprofit organization to promote reading to children and young adults, what would you name it, and why?
GREGORY KENNEDY: I am so removed from youth culture these days. I have no idea what is cool to them.

But if I were in charge of this initiative, I would hire some Tik Tok agencies and make them compete for the business. They would need to develop viral challenges that excited young people about the power of narrative and the written word. I would want something that catches on like the McDonald’s Grimace shake challenge. Some of those videos were amazing.

On the surface, videos make no sense, but I grew up with Sesame Street, which helped me learn to read and write. This new generation of kids is on their phones, and they need something that is cool and has a positive message.

As for the name, let’s give it a working title like TikTokBookReport.

My gratitude to Gregory for participating in this year’s fall back to reading series and for sharing his inspiring recommendations!

Image Credit: Ogilvy.

Connect with Gregory at these links:

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