Book review: Growing a healthy business with Future Demand

Future Demand, James Hurman’s recent addition to the canon of marketing texts extolling the benefits, indeed the necessity, of investing in brand marketing, is a revelation. 

Much work has been done talking to the marketing community about the need to balance investment in sales activation (the short of it), with investment in brand (the long). We are strong advocates of this work at the Comms Council and have recently updated Peter Field’s excellent Why aren’t we doing this?[1].  James Hurman adds to this work in Future Demand[2], introducing a small, but incredibly useful, semantic shift. ‘Brand’ is still a term that suffers from its past. It is met in some quarters with scepticism. It’s ambiguous, hard to define, possibly superfluous. The shift at the heart of Hurman’s work is to talk not of activation and brand, but instead to distinguish between harvesting existing demand and creating future demand.

This distinction is easy to grasp; we can all imagine how marketing and advertising that intends to capture and convert those customers currently in the market might differ from activity intended to build awareness and connection with those not yet in the market. Equally, our expectations of effect – the metrics by which we measure success – are also managed by the temporal labelling. Future demand will not show up in today’s dashboard. 

Future Demand is written specifically for founders and leaders of start-up and scale-up businesses. This is an audience particularly prone to favour swift harvesting of current demand. Indeed, their future depends upon it. Explosive growth demonstrates momentum and builds confidence among investors. It’s the trademark PR story of the tech world. And of course it is important. However, Hurman points out that all start-ups face, at some point in their trajectory, a slow-down in growth; it becomes harder and more expensive to find new customers. In a bull market, where no one is looking too closely at costs, this can be solved by pumping more money in. In a bear market, the fragilities shine bright. The difference between those companies that fall from the sky and those that continue to climb lies in the deliberate creation of future demand. Brand marketing. 

While Future Demand is written for a start-up audience, it has resonance for businesses at any stage of maturity. After all, every company was once a start-up. Hurman provides guidance on how brand marketing needs to evolve along that company life stage. It is, therefore, a book for anyone responsible for a business’s future health. It doesn’t just present the problems; it provides solutions that are easy to grasp and hard to argue. The book itself knows its audience. Each chapter comes with a TL;DR summary, it’s full of relatable examples – New Zealand businesses and brands alongside global reference points – and it is design-pretty. 

Future Demand is a worthy addition to the global thought leadership that has been developed to help marketers do their best work. Essential reading. 

Buy a physical copy of the book here: https://www.previously.co/product/future-demand and the eBook via Amazon here:

[1] Why aren’t we doing this? By Peter Field is available at commscouncil.nz

[2] Future Demand, by James Hurman, is available at previously.co/product/future-demand

About Author

Simon Lendrum is Chief Executive Officer of the Commercial Communications Council.