The Perennial Seller: Making Marketing Last by Ryan Holiday

In an era that worships instant stardom, the value of a piece of art, a product or a book with popularity outlasting the decades is often lost in the race for fame.

Why is “Star Wars” still a classic decades after its release? How is Iron Maiden still performing to sellout crowds without any radio or TV exposure more than 40 years after the band was formed? How is it possible that The 48 Laws of Power didn’t make it to the bestseller lists for more than a decade but still sold over a million copies?

There is something that every lasting creation has, something that makes it withstand the tests of time and fashion, something that makes it a perennial seller. Drawing on timeless works of art and people whose imprint lasts for generations, author Ryan Holiday sets out to explore what makes some art sell forever.

While The Perennial Seller chiefly addresses artists, the ideas discussed within apply equally to those selling a song, a book or a product.

This book won’t teach you much of the hows of marketing, but it will dig deeply into the whys: Why does something sell? Why are some products so popular? Why are some ideas embedded in our minds for eternity?

Holiday first makes it clear that marketing isn’t magic – it needs to represent a solid product. If you’re selling a dud, the best marketing campaign can’t change that. To this end, Holiday spends the first half of his book discussing ways to produce that incredible product.

One point he repeatedly stresses is that it’s going to take hard work – and you’re going to have to do it on your own. No one will care about your product as much as you do. No one is going to work on cultivating your fans or networking for you; it’s up to you.

In the second half of the book, Holiday explores ways to make a product perennial.

First, you need to know the “why” behind your creation or project. Why are you working on this? Are you trying to make a statement? To bring your company up a notch? What’s your goal?

If you have that powerful vision in mind, you can handle step two, which is the “how” of making your dream into a reality. With your goal driving your actions, you’ll be able to get through anything – even late nights that stretch into early mornings, working weekends and facing skeptics or other obstacles.

To make your creation endure, you’ll need to capture a universal emotion or experience. Frodo Baggins is memorable because every overworked employee can identify with the challenge of endless hardship. If you’re producing a marketing video and you hope it will net thousands of views, make sure it expresses a feeling or an experience that most people can identify with.

Critics of the book claim it’s replete with too many cliches, like: “Be your own CEO,” and “An unaimed arrow rarely hits its target.” Others say it’s a disappointment for those seeking a quick marketing fix.

Will The Perennial Seller become a perennial seller? That remains to be seen. But most agree it contains enough marketing wisdom to make it a worthwhile read.

Your Turn: Did you have a marketing campaign that enjoyed long popularity? Share the details with us in the comments!


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