Footnotes by Kenneth Cole
 I read business books. I like reading business books. I especially like reading business books that make me think hard and give me new perspectives on strategy & marketing. And if you know me, I'm always looking for any
opportunity to learn from a source my competition is probably not even
aware of.

Sure, I read the flavor-of-the-month books. You've got to, so you know what everybody else is going to be doing, so you don't do it and end up looking and acting like everyone else. (Make sense?) I DON'T read those books that reach #1 on Amazon because the author gamed the system.

What I really like to read are those unusual discoveries that aren't on most "Best Business Books To Read" lists. It's amazing how often you can find a book that has great information and insight into strategic thinking and marketing that almost no one knows about. (I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, though, what with the gazillion number of books published every year. I suppose SOME of the good ones have to fall through the cracks.)

So I'm going to periodically share some of these with you. My first one is "Footnotes," by Kenneth Cole. Yep, that Kenneth Cole.

Cole recounts his entrepreneurial beginnings, some interesting company adventures, as well as the story of how and why he came see a link between the business of fashion and social responsibility. It's a coffee table-size book (with a shoelace bookmark), complete with personal photos and reprints of well-known (and often controversial) Kenneth Cole ads. It's interesting reading just for the ads.

I like Cole's pragmatic perspective on business. In the first chapter he writes:

"I spend a major part of my waking (i.e. working) hours making things that no one needs, but fortunately for me, many think they do. I've come to realize that my job is to inspire the customer to proceed from desire to purchase–to make a customer want to buy his twenty-fifth tie, because this new one is a little wider; or her eighth white shirt, because of its fit; or, I hope, a thirty-sixth pair of shoes, because the heel is the right height, and because there is nothing like a new pair of shoes. Nonetheless, I kno perfectly well that if every show store in America closed its doors tomorrow, hardly an American would go barefoot for at least eleven years."

"Footnotes" is filled with stories and examples we can all learn from, ex: how Cole came to love business as a kid selling peanuts at Shea Stadium. One of my favorite told how Kenneth Cole Productions (with no publicity budget for the big Shoe Show) under the pretense of being window washers got permits from the New York City buildings department to suspend scaffolding from the roof of the office building directly across the street from the show. They hung a twenty-foot banner promoting the business. The fact it was illegal didn't stop Cole. He found out the inspector who ruled on such matters didn't work on weekends, so the banners went up Friday afternoon and came down Monday–which, conveniently, was when the Shoe Show took place.

Cole talks at length about his advertising strategy–getting the right message to the perfect place at the ideal time. Wow, sounds like he read Two Hat Marketing! Oh wait, he it said before I did. 

At 207 pages, including all the full-page photos, "Footnotes" is an easy read. It might be out-of-print now, but I know there are several vendors on Amazon who have it. Just be sure to keep your highlighter and notepad nearby. You'll need them.