The New York skyline appears in a long shot. The camera pans and then zooms—it may even do a fly over. When it finally settles, the camera focuses on the Times Square—a modern day Cannery Row. With apologies to Steinbeck, a casual observer would find it filled with angels, artists and good samaritans and another would see beggars, peddlers of counterfeit goods and whores and both would be right. Despite the milling crowds the camera would find that one hobo, wearing a sandwich board that proclaims in capital letters “REPENT—THE END IS NEAR".

The End of Marketing As We Know It by Sergio Zyman HarperBusiness.

Given that businesses inhabit, for most part, the same world that the rest of us live in, they are prone to their share of doomsaying, which largely seem to be titled “The End of ______ As We Know It." The blank could just as easily be advertising, brand building, customer service, marketing, sales or any functional area of a business. The more creative copy writers tend to title these “The New ______" to lend a more positive spin to the change, than the seemingly naysaying “The End of ____" copywriters.

Yet like the fax machine, pagers, cassette tapes, horse buggies and writing quills there are actually times that things do come to an end. Those businesses and people who adapt to the impending changes thrive while those who don’t and even those who do, but do so late, flounder, flail and eventually fail. While the failure of photographic giant Kodak is only the most recent and large example of an end arriving, a quick look around India shows that such endings or worse yet slow endings are all too common.

Dasaprakash and Woodlands are two venerable south Indian hotel and restaurant brands that once dominated both mind and market share. Their failure to see the beginning of many changes in consumers and the end of others in the marketplace has rendered them shadows of the brands they once were. Agarwals and Brilliant Tutorials similarly conceded the market for IIT and other competitive entrance exam prep to newer upstarts when they failed to recognize the changing market landscape.

Unlike the helpful hobo with his sandwich board in the Times Square or Hollywood’s much touted 2012—when the Mayans predicted the end of the world—business and market changes, especially endings, rarely come with prior notice. So it is much safer to assume that endings, gentle or otherwise, are a given and will appear inevitably as do quarter endings, pricing pressure and withholding tax, only a little less predictably. Truly successful businesses don’t just plan for these endings, but actively work towards making them happen themselves. Apple with its finite product life cycles, not to mention its irreplaceable batteries is only the most famous and recent example of such planned obsolescence that Intel and Microsoft have practised for decades now.

The End of Marketing As We Know It by Sergio Zyman, despite its unimaginative title, is a book well worth reading. It builds on the lessons Zyman’s learnt from marketing Coca Cola, which has thrived for over a century despite much external change and the occasional misstep. More importantly, by placing the business’ goals front and centre, it’s a refreshing call to return to the basics, rather than a mere cookbook for better marketing. A quick read, it will improve your camera work as you try to create your own movie of the upcoming “End of ______."

K. Srikrishna is the executive director of the National Entrepreneurship Network. He writes about issues that business leaders and managers face and books that could help.

Comments are welcome at views@livemint.com

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