Phil Dusenberry, an advertising luminary, wrote a book that, by all accounts, was well-written, insightful, and full of fascinating industry scuttlebutt. It should have been a big hit. But first the book had to be titled. And, after a long series of negotiations and compromises, the parties involved decided to name the book “Then We Set His Hair On Fire.” And they used an illustration on the cover that looked like a cartoonish version of the top half of George W. Bush’s head.

This is cleverness that isn’t core. “Finding the core” is something we obsess about in the Simple chapter of our book. The title of a book is a great example of a message that should be core (i.e., it should be symbolic of the most important message the author wanted to communicate). An opaque title can kill interest in a good book.

So what do you do when you get an idea wrong the first time? You fix it. The happy ending: In the paperback version, the publisher nixed the Bush-esque illustration and renamed the book, “One Great Insight Is Worth a Thousand Good Ideas.” Which book do you want to read?

Here’s John Moore’s take on the before & after. Don’t forget to read his Money Quotes.

P.S. It was called “Then We Set His Hair On Fire” because of the Michael Jackson – Pepsi incident. No doubt you already made that connection. Ahem. And the graying white man on the cover may or may not be Phil Dusenberry, but either way, it seems weird, because unless you’ve made the Michael Jackson link, you kind of expect Phil’s hair to be on fire.

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