Every Wednesday, London Strategy Unit's Matt Boffey reads one of the most influential books from the world of innovation, marketing or creativity so you don't have to. This week's tome is 2013's The Brand Gap: How to bridge the distance between business strategy and design, by Marty Neumeier.
Why have we chosen this book?
Because brands are no longer reducible to logos or products – they’re sprawling and nebulous and only partly shaped by the companies that own them. The Brand Gap asserts that brands are simply the net sum of countless interactions that produce a ‘gut feeling’ in consumers. This new definition of brand requires a new approach to marketing, which is exactly what Neumeier attempts to set out.
What’s the original thought or argument?
In The Brand Gap, Neumeier explains five practical rules that marketers should build into their thinking in order to create powerful brands in a digital age. They are:
1) Differentiate: create ‘tribes’ of diehard supporters and don’t be afraid to offend.
2) Collaborate: don’t be precious about your brand – be on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate with other interesting brands and people.
3) Innovate: keep your eyes open for the next space that your brand could expand into - test the water with small-scale experiments to assess their future potential.
4) Validate: instead of navigating by focus groups, use real-life user data to guide your brand and product decisions.
5) Cultivate: identify every point where your brand interacts with consumers and make sure you’re communicating your brand in the right way each time.
If you want to look smart, just read
Neumeier’s introduction: ‘What a brand isn’t’. Here, he argues that people don’t buy products in the same way they used to. Instead of making decisions based on comparing product features, they instinctively lean towards brands they can trust.
You might want to skip
Chapter three, where Neumeier debates the merits of brand naming conventions – particularly the difference between names derived from Anglo-Saxon roots rather than Greek or Latin. This rather dry debate cuts against the central gist of the book: that what you do with a brand is more important than what it is.
Why trust this author?
An influential thinker in the worlds of design and branding, Neumeier has played an instrumental role in shaping numerous tech brands in the early years of Silicon Valley. He’s translated the lessons he learnt with Apple, Adobe and HP in the early eighties into seven bestselling books on branding.
Once you’ve read this you don’t need to read
John Grant’s The Brand Innovation Manifesto. The Brand Gap covers similar ground to Grant’s book, but is a quicker and more informative read much more suited to dipping in and dipping out of on the go.
Why should this stay on your bookshelf?
Because your brand is your greatest asset. Neumeier cites numerous studies that place a dollar value on a brand, as a percent of their marketing capitalization. With an estimated value of $70bn (in 2002), Coca-Cola’s brand alone accounted for over 60 per cent of their market capitalization at the time.
What’s the one thing you should do differently after reading this book?
Build your brand teams using what Neumeier terms ‘the Hollywood model’. That means assembling top-notch teams of specialists to work on a specific problem then disbanding and reconfiguring that team for future projects. Rather than a top-down approach where the same team undertakes every major project, this keeps teams fresh and populated with talent and insight specific to the project at hand.
Best quote in the whole book?
“A brand is not a logo. A brand is not a corporate identity system. It’s a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. Because it depends on others for its existence, it must become a guarantee of trustworthy behaviour.”
Matt Boffey is the founder of London Strategy Unit, which you can follow on Twitter @LSUsocial