Love Is the Killer App: A book review by Bob Morris

Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends
Tim Sanders
Crown Business (2003)

Note: Here is a review of a book I read when it was first published in 2003. I recently re-read it prior to reading and reviewing Sanders’ latest, Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence.

Frankly, I did not know quite what to expect as I began to read this book. Previously, I had read and then reviewed Larry Downes and Chunka Mui’s Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance in which they define a “killer application” as “a new good or service that establishes an entirely new category and, by being first, dominates it, returning several hundred percent on the initial investment.” The primary forces at work in spawning today’s “killer apps” are both technological and economic in nature. “The technology we are concerned with is the transformation of information into digital form, where it can be manipulated by computers and transmitted by networks.” Digital strategies are needed to achieve market dominance.

What Sanders has in mind combines some of these core concepts with what Emanuel Rosen explains so brilliantly in The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited: Real-life lessons in Word-of-Mouth Marketing. In the Foreword to that book, Everett M. Rogers observes, “New products and services spread among the consumer public through interpersonal communication networks. These networks are for the most part invisible. They often operate in mysterious ways. Thus we are largely blind to this very powerful marketing process. No wonder that we fail so often in our efforts to diffuse innovations.”

As I understand what Sanders is about, he wants to convince as many people as possible that love (like a new good or service) can be a decisive, indeed dominant force in human relationships. Moreover, within a business context, it can return “several hundred percent on the initial investment.” Agreeing with Rosen, Sanders also asserts that after people become what he calls a “lovecat” by completing a three-step process, they can then involve others through “interpersonal communication networks.[that] are for the most part invisible. They often operate in mysterious ways. Thus we are largely blind to this very powerful marketing process. No wonder that we fail so often in our efforts to diffuse innovations.”

Do not conclude (incorrectly) that Sanders is hopelessly naive, romantic, idealistic, etc. When explaining the three-step process to become a “lovecat”, he reveals a rock-solid grasp of what are generally referred as the “harsh realities” of a ferociously competitive business world, one in which change is the only constant, where it’s dog eat dog, blah blah blah. Sanders understands all that. Indeed, such descriptives help to suggest precisely why love can have so much “potency” when shared strategically but (key point) unconditionally. Consider this brief excerpt from the Afterword: “Being a lovecat is not about being nice. There’s no point in playing by these rules if you’re not smart, too. Because if you’re not, it won’t scale, and all you’ll have to show for it is good intentions rather than good business relationships. To quote the movie This Is Spinal Tap, `There’s a fine line between stupid and clever'” Sanders then recalls a sign he once saw hanging on a wall which said “Business education without execution is just entertainment.”

This really is a book about business. More specifically, it is about prospering in business. Even more specifically, it is about prospering in business by doing everything humanly possible to help others (yes, including competitors) to prosper. Sanders’ observations are anchored in a wealth of real-world experience. His explanation of the three-step process to lovecathood is crystal clear. His recommendations are sensible, indeed eminently practical. His faith in the power of love is contagious.

My guess is that, after reading these brief remarks, those who are least interested in experiencing (not just reading) this book are the same people who are in greatest need of what it shares. You know who you are. Why not discover who you can become and also how you can help others to fulfill their own potential for compassion? Sanders is eager to help you to complete that exciting journey.

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