The Lure of Nothing

Jon Agees childrens book is about nothing.

Jon Agee's children's book is about nothing.

Everyone working in public relations, marketing or social media should read the children’s book “Nothing” by Jon Agee. Not only is it an amusing story with beautiful illustrations (your kids will love it), it’s also a cautionary tale for our times — about the lure of hype.

“Nothing” chronicles the story of a tipping point (alert Malcolm Gladwell!) and how hype can rocket through populations and make them react in downright silly ways.

The story centers on an antiques storeowner named Otis, who has just finished a very good day of sales. So good, in fact, that his store is empty. As he sweeps the floor at closing time, the richest lady in town, Suzie Gump, waltzes in (wearing a flowered jumpsuit no less).

“Goody, goody!” she says. “Now what’s for sale?”

Otis tells her the truth: “Nothing.”

Suzie is intrigued. “I have a lot of things, but I’ve never had nothing. I’ll pay you three hundred dollars!”

The honest Otis tries to talk her out of it, but to no avail. Suzie comes back the next day and wants more nothing. The storeowners next door think Otis is a genius. Suddenly, they are selling nothing as well.

Nothing becomes hot. Everyone wants nothing. Stores are selling nothing like crazy. People start throwing away everything in order to have room for nothing.

Agee puts it perfectly: “Nothing sold like nothing before!”

Otis, feeling guilty about selling nothing to Suzie, opts out of the nothing craze. He begins to collect everything that is being thrown away for his antiques store. There are no buyers for everything, of course, because consumers want nothing.

That is until Suzy Grump tires of having nothing. When she wants something, the only store selling it is – yep – Otis.

And she buys everything in the store – leaving Otis with… nothing.

“Nothing” is a delight. I highly recommend it for the children in your life. But it might be a good idea to keep a copy on your own shelf – as a reminder.

Hype is hype and eventually it dissipates. If you deal in hype you might end up with nothing. Otis, remember, opted out of the nothing craze so he could focus on real things. In the end, he came out ahead. Keeping your PR and marketing strategies real – and honest and open – is the smart way of conducting business.

Now there’s “nothing” wrong with catching a ride on a wave of hype — if you can deliver, but make sure its based on reality

Just ask Otis.

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